Google explains how to build billion dollar firms in Europe

“Money is now a commodity, we all need talent” – Tony Kypreos at

Google is trying to invest $100 million a year in other companies, its Swiss VC guy said here this morning.  It will invest between a few hundred thousand of dollars and companies worth tens of millions. Google has made 100 investments and made 26 of those in 2010 and 21 this year. Yves Cornaz said his division is a very active group. The majority of investments are proven technology and products that have shown market adoption, such as Doubleclick and Youtube. The third category are self contained, such as Android. Google didn’t really know a few years ago or where it was going to go, said Cornaz. Google is looking for great entrepeneurs that can thrive within its structure. Google has a flat structure and doesn’t try to control individuals that come along with a buy.

Google takes over companies 100 percent but that means the entrepreneurs stop being entrepeneurs, said Hubert Deitmers, from Van den Ende & Deitmers. Taking a smaller stake lets entreprenurs recognise their dreams. Google buys companies to help complete its plots, said Cornaz. Most of the people who were CEOs of the company it bought have stuck with Google, he said.

Bernard Gander, from Logitech said that he had stayed out last night very late and he is from the German speaking bit of Switzerland. Logitech sells 10 products every second. It has sold two billion pointing devices (mouses).  Over the last 15 years Logitech hasn’t acquired companies above $100 million in sales – it has drastically leveraged its entrepreneurs. It has invested over three quarters of a billion during the last 15 years.  It invests in companies with proven market traction, said Gander. Logitech demands a three year business plan from companies trying to flog themselves to it. Four out of six the acquisitions it made have been very successful.

Tom Henriksson, from Open Ocean Capital, said he had only ever been part of selling one billion dollar firm. There are 10 plus billion dollar companies that haven’t yet exited. OOC would like to find companies that have a community model, that is to say customers who engage with firms and that help generate sale leads, he said. He is an Open Source guy, of course – think MySQL. He is good at coping with unusual CEOs and can fit square pegs into round holes, if you get what he means.

Hubert Deitmers from Van den Ende & Deitmers, said his company wants at least 30 percent of a company it invests in. That seems quite a small percentage but his company doesn’t work with other VCs. It only wants three or less shareholders in a company, not six or seven, because that causes politics to happen.

Deitmers at least tried to stir the pot a bit. This, to be frank, was a very dull panel and only sixty or seventy people bothered to get up early enough to be sent back to the land of Nod. Ryan Gallagher from Iovox was an exception. He said he wasn’t ready to take orders from VCs – investing was all very good and well but money shouldn’t talk too much. Successful companies come out of nowhere.