The British are coming!
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Good old American ingenuity? Not quite; the Europeans might just be eating our technological lunch.
Actually, it's all of Europe that's coming, not just my U.K. friends. There's a tidal wave of activity across the pond these days and, for a change, the Europeans are leading the way in a lot of areas.
First, let's look at why it's suddenly attractive to be in Belgium opening a tech company when previously the only reason to be there was your fetish for beer made by monks. The exit money in tech startups has only really been on our shores--mostly in the NASDAQ. The fact that the market tanked and venture capitalists had to get second jobs at the local retail store meant there was no real inherent value the U.S. brought to entrepreneurs other than perhaps a larger talent pool to pull from. That excuse has drawn to a close with the Europeans spending huge amounts of money teaching their young how to acquire the skills necessary to compete in the technology world. They slowly began offering U.S. companies outsourced manufacturing services a few years ago--for example, Ireland gave U.S. companies tax-free status if they manufactured over there--and in the meantime provided valuable jobs to a whole lot of folks. Numerous other countries followed suit. In a way, what the U.S. did for the European Union in the technology space is just what we did for the Japanese in the auto industry--we showed them how to beat us at our own game and then became their best consumer.
Better yet, the Europeans aren't content to just create the next Silicon Valley (Vallée du Silicium, Silikontal, Valle del Silicio, etc.); they're leading the business advancements of IT as well. Compliance issues aren't new to the Europeans. They're way out in front of most of the world when it comes to dealing with privacy issues, operational risk management, IT service management (ITIL) and even the green initiatives (ROHS). We think Yanks invented the power/packaging/ cooling issues that are so hot (literally) today, but anyone with a data center operation at Canary Wharf knows exactly how to measure metrics from performance to TCO based on one square meter of data center space. Oil crisis? We didn't see it coming in 1972 and we didn't see it coming last year. Did you know it now costs more to have your PC sit and run idly for three years than it does to buy it? The Europeans do.
Hermes SoftLab is in Slovenia (it developed OpenView OmniBack, which is Hewlett-Packard's data protection software). Clearpace, CopperEye, Njini and Xyratex all have offices in the U.K. Caringo (the guys who started FilePool, which became EMC's Centera) is in Belgium. Fujitsu Siemens Computers sells approximately $800 million worth of stuff every year, but most of us have never heard of them; these guys are in the super-hot virtual tape library market with a unified mainframe and open-systems product called CentricStor that has some of the largest European shops almost crying with glee. Kaspersky Lab is a Russian security player. I don't know about you, but when I hear someone say "Russian security," I figure "How can it get any better than that?"
So it's time to open up your minds and look to the east if you want to get a feel for what the next big thing is going to be. Oh, and I hope you like cheese with that disk array.