Global or Nothing? How Unicorns Can Develop in Small Countries
What does it take to turn a local startup into a global success story? In this DLD Munich session, founders Philippe Sahli (Yokoy, Switzerland) and Philipp Werr (COPA-DATA, Austria) share insights with investor Simona Huebl (i5invest) and moderator Nikolaus Pelinka (Kobza Media Group).
“If you start a company in a very small country, your perspective gets global from day one”, Sahli says. His fintech Yokoy, a spend management platform, recently raised $80 million in a funding round led by Silicon Valley star investmentor Sequoia Capital.
This kind of money is crucial to quickly scaling the business internationally, Sahli points out. “If you really want to grow 400 percent year over year, you really need to start expanding very, very early.”
International success doesn’t come easy when you start in a smaller country, Sahli and Werr agree.
“Entering each market again is like a ladder, like a little founding experience”, Werr says. The reward is learning how to succeed in other cultures. Werr’s industry automation firm COPA-DATA is now present in countries around the world. “You train harder in the beginning”, he says, “but you develop some competencies, that pay off later.”
More and more startups in Europe seem to master the art of succeeding internationally, as a recent report by i5invest shows.
“In Europe, a total 85 new tech unicorns were created last year”, Simona Huebl says – more than in the United States.
What’s still missing in many cases is a “culture of failure”, she notes: accepting that many founders will need more than one try to succeed.
Phillip Werr is CMO/COO and member of the Executive Board at COPA-DATA, a leader in industrial automation software, driving the digital transformation in manufacturing and renewable energy.
Philippe Sahli is the CEO of Yokoy, a Swiss company that automates spend management for medium and large enterprises with artificial intelligence. Before founding Yokoy, Sahli held management positions at Credit Suisse and UBS.
Kobza Media Group
Nikolaus Pelinka is an entrepreneur and serves as Managing Director of Kobza Media Group, Austria’s leading communication-group. He is co-founder of numerous communication- and digital-companies such as KTHE, alpha Z, Darwin’s Lab and diego5 studios.
Simona Huebl has been working with technology startups ever since she started her professional career. Dividing her time between the U.S. and Europe, she is currently a board member of i5invest, supporting extraordinary tech companies in scaling globally.