Nokia VC: European startups will struggle to invade the US unless they relocate their CEO

Huddle CEO Alastair MitchellHuddleAndy Mitchell relocated to San Francisco when he was CEO of Huddle.

European tech startups will struggle to gain traction in the US unless they send their CEO to the country, according to an investor at Nokia.

Bo Ilsoe, general partner at venture capital firm Nokia Growth Partners, which has more than $1 billion to invest in growth stage companies, argued on Wednesday that European tech startups are setting themselves up for failure if they try and hire a US country manager against companies like Google and Facebook.

Instead they need to relocate their leader, or at the very least, a strong cofounder. “That’s when it starts working and when they start transferring the culture,” said Ilsoe during a venture capital panel at the Noah Berlin tech conference.

European tech companies that expand to the US typically need to form partnerships with large American companies if they are going to be successful, added Ilsoe. “They [US corporates] don’t want to see some unempowered US person for lack of a better word,” he said.

The US technology market is one of the biggest in the world and European tech startups can significantly boost their revenues if they get the expansion right.

In 2014, Huddle, a UK-founded enterprise collaboration software company, relocated its CEO (Alastair Mitchell) from London to San Francisco. The company went on to secure a significant venture capital investment, win several large US customers, and compete with companies like Box and DropBox.

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