Does having an European HQ nonetheless matter in a ‘distant’ world? Completely

Practically each firm has needed to modify to a distributed working mannequin because the pandemic hit, with staff now dispersed to a variety of places and time zones.

One surprising advantage of this large paradigm shift is that startups at this time are higher ready than earlier than to adapt to the calls for of turning into a worldwide group, together with people who I make investments into as a Normal Accomplice at Frontline X, a growth-stage fund for US firms increasing to Europe.

However on the journey to constructing a worldwide firm, there are numerous choices, and a handful has an outsized impression in your development trajectory. Deciding on your European headquarters is certainly one of these choices, and it’s extraordinarily painful to unwind in the event you get it unsuitable.

As a pacesetter on Google’s preliminary touchdown staff in Europe, I noticed this play out first hand at our headquarters in Dublin as we scaled from a couple of dozen folks to over 2,000.

Nonetheless, many firms at the moment are asking themselves: in our new world of distant working and distributed groups, is selecting a headquarters in Europe nonetheless related?

Quick reply? Sure.

Let me present you why.

The trail to go world runs by Europe

At $28.7 trillion, EMEA represents roughly 30{6fe526db6ef7b559514f2f4990546fdf37a35b93c5ba9b68aa72eaf397bd16d6} of the world’s GDP and is the biggest addressable market outdoors of America. Europe itself is the world’s second-largest B2B software program market, and for greater than 20 years has been the situation of selection when US firms look past their very own borders.

With the democratization of software program distribution, it’s now frequent for firms to find 10-12{6fe526db6ef7b559514f2f4990546fdf37a35b93c5ba9b68aa72eaf397bd16d6} of their enterprise comes from Europe organically, and by IPO these identical firms common 30{6fe526db6ef7b559514f2f4990546fdf37a35b93c5ba9b68aa72eaf397bd16d6} of their income from Europe. Merely put, the trail for any enterprise to develop into a worldwide class chief runs by Europe.

Nonetheless the area is much from homogeneous, and CEOs should consider it as a group of many fragmented markets, every with its personal distinctive dynamics.

There may be usually an influence legislation distribution to the scale of those markets, with the 2 largest nations, the UK and Germany, commanding 40{6fe526db6ef7b559514f2f4990546fdf37a35b93c5ba9b68aa72eaf397bd16d6} of the addressable European marketplace for most SaaS firms.

The biggest cities dominate the financial exercise, resulting in a powerful focus of consumers and expertise in a couple of of those places.

Even in case you are presently working as a distributed staff and haven’t any plans to spend money on a bodily workplace immediately, you continue to want to consider the place your prospects are, the place the expertise you want is concentrated, and the place you may greatest entry markets and alternatives for long run development.

Subsequently, choosing the fitting European headquarters is simply as necessary as ever.

It’s important to maneuver shortly as nicely. The European startup ecosystem is flourishing, with almost $60 billion in enterprise capital invested into Europe within the first half of 2021, up threefold from 2020, and native rivals being created day by day, notably throughout B2B SaaS.

As soon as your organization has a repeatable gross sales course of, is seeing European buyer demand, and has the fitting management staff in place, it’s time to spend money on enlargement.

A easy framework for selecting your HQ

It’s simple to fall into certainly one of a number of completely different traps when choosing an HQ. Firms are sometimes overwhelmed by the choice, overanalyzing all of the elements and prospects. It’s additionally frequent to over-index on value or company construction concerns.

Others rush the choice, following a buyer to a selected location, making piecemeal hires in Europe, or copying what one other firm they know has completed.

To keep away from these and different pitfalls, there’s a easy framework, based mostly on 4 standards — prospects, expertise, value, and enterprise atmosphere, that CEOs can observe to tell their decision-making course of.

Asking the place your present and future prospects are, what market segments you might be concentrating on, whether or not your GTM movement is self-serve or sales-led, and what language or regulatory necessities does your product has, ought to come first.

For expertise, CEOs should ask themselves what trade or role-specific expertise do they require, at what degree of seniority, with which language abilities, and the way do the employment legal guidelines and norms differ?

When evaluating value, asking your self questions in regards to the supreme company and tax construction, what FDI funding incentives can be found, what future actual property prices is likely to be, and what’s your expertise funds is essential.

Lastly, gauging the enterprise atmosphere needs to be based mostly on how simple it’s to do enterprise throughout Europe out of your location, how very important is synchronous working in your staff, and understanding how and if geopolitical items like GDPR and Brexit matter to your small business.

Whereas all of those standards are necessary, each enterprise is completely different and my staff’s latest report reveals choices round choosing the proper location for you might be nuanced, and errors might be expensive.

How these elements are weighted will differ for every firm however specializing in prospects and staff earlier than prices is all the time our suggestion to construct a profitable and sustainable enterprise.

I regularly inform CEOs who’re evaluating places for his or her HQ that having a low tax price on a small income quantity does you no good. Prices stay a consideration after all, nevertheless that shouldn’t be the first driver.

The place to land if you broaden?

20 years in the past value was a major driver of the choice course of for choosing a European headquarters. The tech ecosystem and enterprise capital markets had been far much less mature, and only a few software program firms had reached the dimensions to maneuver internationally.

Consequently, the related expertise swimming pools had been way more nascent and nobody location carried a lot of a bonus over one other.

Right now, whereas value continues to be necessary to decision-making, proximity to prospects and expertise have develop into crucial drivers for selecting an HQ location.

Proximity to your buyer base is all the time a bonus, nevertheless it’s notably important for US firms promoting into European markets, particularly for B2B software program firms concentrating on the mid-market and enterprise segments. Because of this most tech firms have situated close to their prospects and expertise swimming pools, making a cycle that reinforces these geographies.

As software program firms exploded and grew internationally, clear hubs began to emerge, notably round Dublin, London and Amsterdam. There are extraordinarily wealthy tech ecosystems in these three cities, every with strengths in sure areas.

Different cities similar to Berlin and Paris even have sturdy rising know-how and startup ecosystems, nevertheless, the reinforcing dynamics which have concentrated prospects and expertise across the prime three cities proceed to make London, Dublin, and Amsterdam your almost certainly shortlist.


Though decision-making has develop into more and more decentralized, choosing the fitting location for a European headquarters stays a important step on the journey to turning into a worldwide enterprise.

Success is all the time predicated on being near your prospects, discovering the perfect expertise to compete, and scaling your operations in a cheap method.

London, Dublin, and Amsterdam every present a powerful basis throughout these dimensions — which is why nearly all of US firms find yourself in certainly one of these three cities.

Above all else, spend the time to make a considerate resolution. Do your analysis, correctly consider your choices and get recommendation from skilled leaders who’ve gone earlier than.

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