Skype founder browses globe for next tech earner

Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:59am EST
 
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By Lorraine Turner and Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - Niklas Zennstrom, co-founder of internet phone service Skype, believes the next hot tech business will just as likely spring from Istanbul or Sao Paolo as from Silicon Valley or the coolest districts of London.

And he is prepared to fly around the world to find it.

"Talent can pop up anywhere in the world, it's not just one city block," the Swedish entrepreneur and venture capitalist said at the headquarters of his Atomico fund, based on upmarket New Bond Street in central London.

Zennstrom, who retains faint traces of a Swedish accent despite his years of globetrotting, is looking for start-ups ready to shift up a gear into new markets and has the experience, gained from growing Skype into a service used by millions around the world, to help them.

Skype was sold to eBay Inc in 2005 for roughly $3 billion, before being bought back by a consortium including Zennstrom in 2009 and then two years later sold on to Microsoft Corp for $8.5 billion, leaving him a multi-millionaire.

"If you have a product that works it's important to scale (up) the business as quickly as possible," said Zennstrom, named by Time Magazine in 2006 as one of its 100 most influential people. "As entrepreneurs, usually you may not have that experience; how does Asia work? Europe? Latin America?"

Atomico, founded by Zennstrom in 2006, has invested in companies in northern Europe including Finland-based Rovio, developer of Angry Birds, and Hailo, a London-based startup that has developed an app that connects passengers with taxi drivers and has raised $20 million so far.

It also led a $105 million funding round for U.S. online retailer Fab in July.   Continued...

 
A page from the Skype website is seen in Singapore May 10, 2011. REUTERS/David Loh