LONDON - Reuters
Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom (2nd R) is seen with Turkey’s European Union Minister Egemen Bağış during a sector meeting in Istanbul. DHA photo
Niklas Zennstrom, co-founder of internet phone service Skype, believes the next hot tech business will just as likely spring from Istanbul or Sao Paolo as from Silicon Valley or the coolest districts of London.
“Talent can pop up anywhere in the world, it’s not just one city block,” the Swedish entrepreneur and venture capitalist said at the headquarters of his Atomico fund, based on upmarket New Bond Street in central London. Zennstrom is looking for start-ups ready to shift up a gear into new markets and has the experience, gained from growing Skype into a service used by millions around the world, to help them.
Skype was sold to eBay Inc in 2005 for roughly $3 billion, before being bought back by a consortium including Zennstrom in 2009 and then two years later sold on to Microsoft Corp for $8.5 billion, leaving him a multi-millionaire.
“If you have a product that works it’s important to scale (up) the business as quickly as possible,” said Zennstrom, named by Time Magazine in 2006 as one of its 100 most influential people. “As entrepreneurs, usually you may not have that experience; how does Asia work? Europe? Latin America?”
Atomico, founded by Zennstrom in 2006, has invested in companies in northern Europe
including Finland-based Rovio, developer of Angry Birds, and Hailo, a London-based startup that has developed an app that connects passengers with taxi drivers and has raised $20 million so far.
It also led a $105 million funding round for U.S. online retailer Fab in July.
The investment fund, whose London office reception is decked out with simple designer furniture and modern art pieces, has opened offices in Turkey and Brazil, emerging markets with growing middle classes eager to shop online and buy internet services.
Zennstrom wants to make these markets a large part of Atomico’s portfolio in future.
Atomico is not necessarily looking for the latest gizmo or internet trend, but savvy businesses with talented leaders who can take advantage of growth in nascent sectors such as e-commerce.
“It’s a much more of an entrepreneurial spirit [in Turkey and Brazil] compared to southern European where it’s a depressed mindset,” Zennstrom said.