Facebook’s ex-CTO said he’d be ‘very surprised’ if consumer internet companies succeeded in Europe

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Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo.
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YouTube/Tech Open Air

Adam D’Angelo, Facebook’s former chief technology officer (CTO) and the founder of Q&A site Quora, is skeptical about Europe’s chances of creating a consumer internet company on the same scale as Google, Amazon, or Facebook.

Interviewed at the Tech Open Air conference in Berlin last Wednesday, D’Angelo, who joined Facebook when it had around 20 staff, said he’d be “very surprised” if a consumer internet company “succeeded” in Europe.

Europe is yet to create one of the tech megacorporations that have spawned out of the US and Asia over the last few decades. The continent’s most valuable company is a German-based enterprise software business called SAP, which has a market cap of $111.7 billion (£85.5 billion). But it’s tiny compared to tech giants on other continents.

However, things are starting to change, as the cofounders of successful European tech companies like Skype, Bebo, and Autonomy start to invest the hundreds of millions they made from exiting their companies to the US giants into new European startups.

“I’d be very surprised if consumer internet companies succeeded in Europe but it could be that there’s some other … maybe like cryptocurrency companies or pure AI research companies,” D’Angelo told Business Insider in Berlin, while touting the fact that Quora is now available in five languages, with German being the most recent addition. “If things are different enough, then huge companies could be created here.”

Asked why Silicon Valley has the edge over Europe and the world when it comes to consumer internet businesses, D’Angelo said: “It’s just everyone is there. It’s very hard to break out of that.”

He added: “If you’re applying machine learning to consumer internet, there’s no way that that is going to work in London. No one is there.”

One of Europe’s best-known consumer internet companies is music streaming service SoundCloud, which laid off 40% of its staff earlier this month as it looks to raise additional funding.

Europe stands to benefit from soaring living costs in Silicon Valley and the fact that immigration is getting harder in the US under President Donald Trump, D’Angelo said.