Googler Eze Vidra profile

(Credit: Facebook)

Eze Vidra, Google’s Head of Campus London, will be visiting Singapore to connect with the community. 

With the Southeast Asian startup ecosystem heating up, the region is drawing more attention from entrepreneurs and investors based in other parts of the world. Foreign venture capital funds, such as GREE Ventures, with their US$25 million fund, and Global Brain of Japan, are seeing the potential of the region and are coming in to find investment opportunities.

Next week, Singapore will be visited by Eze Vidra who comes from an interesting mix of corporate and startup background. Eze is based in London and heads Campus London, a seven-storey workspace for startups. He also covers the Israeli startup scene intensively and co-founded his own startup in 2003.

Eze will be in Singapore for the week of 3rd September and e27 will be holding a casual meetup during the week. Stay tuned while we confirm the dates. In the mean time, find out more about Eze as e27 managed to grab an email interview with him.

Tell us more about yourself.

I’ve been an entrepreneur, worked for startups and mentored startups for the last 10 years. Before I joined Google, I’ve spent a few years in product management – leading new products and creating  new revenue streams. I’ve done that with Gerson Lehrman Group in New York, in San Francisco, and AOL in Europe, managing a team of senior product managers. Then I finished my MBA at London Business School and decided that it’s time to get some hands on business development experience, so I joined Google’s strategic partnerships team and spearheaded a lot of the company’s commerce initiatives in EMEA. In all this time, I’ve been passionate about helping startups grow – through my “labor of love” ,VC Cafe, and by mentoring startups pro bono in several accelerator programs, hackathons and MBA courses. My current role at Google as the Head of Campus is really where my passion is, and it combines a lot of the work I’ve been doing so far, as a product expert, business developer and startup evangelist.

Share with us more about Campus London and how this joined initiative is helping to grow London’s top startups.

Campus gives London startups access to three crucial components: workspace, mentorship opportunities and community. On the workspace front, we provide entrepreneurs with affordable co-working space through our partnership with TechHub, or a free space to work from the Central Working Cafe with high speed Internet, plenty of electricity outlets and great coffee!

The community at Campus is really kicking a**. In July alone, Campus hosted 72 events – most of them were organized by the startup community and the range has been incredible – anything from community meetups to hackathons over the weekend, where people actually slept at Campus. One current example of how the community is coming together at Campus is Techbikers, a startup charity cycle ride from Paris to London. The London startup community really stepped up – we sold out the 40 slots in less than five days, received commitment from Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, to join us for the last leg with and already organized several events for fundraising.

We also provide startups with mentorship opportunities – hosting weekly Google office hours where startups can meet one on one with expert Googlers on specific topics. So far we hosted sessions on Android, Cloud, Partnerships, video, etc and the feedback we get from starups is that’s extremely helpful. We also bring top speakers to Campus from Google and outside and give startup teams the opportunity to engage with thought leaders like Eric Schmidt, Patrick Pichette (Google CFO), and Brad Horowitz (head of social products at Google).

But above all this, one of the major things that Campus provides to the London startup community is Density of Network. The critical mass of startups, developers, mentors, backers etc can really increase the chances of good things to happen!

How did Campus London come about and do you see Google looking to start more of this joined initiative coworking spaces in other regions like Asia?

The idea for Campus came from Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt. He has seen the momentum in the growth of tech startups in London and wanted Google to stand behind it and contribute the local startup community some of what has made Google successful. It’s been only five months since we’ve launched Campus, so it’s a bit early to say whether there will be others – but so far, we’re really pleased with how it’s going and I’d love to see the Campus format grow.

You cover the Israeli tech startup scene with your tech blog VC Cafe, tell us more about the major trends and how startups there overcome their main challenges.

Since I started VC Cafe in 2005, I’ve covered hundreds of startups, fundraising rounds and industry shifts. It’s important to mention the unique confluence of circumstances that helped propell the Israeli success story. The technologies coming out of the army (e.g. computer programming skills), the NASDAQ IPOs in the 1980s, the huge influx of immigrants in the 1990s, and supportive government policies (particularly Yozma, the government’s fund of VC fund which kickstarted the Israeli VC industry, and effectively linked it with international investors (particularly American investors) from the outset. These forces together helped transform Israel from being an exporter of oranges into an R&D powerful and a high-tech centric economy. Israel now has more companies listed on NASDAQ than any country outside of the US, and more venture capital invested per capita than anywhere in the world. So in context, Israel is a really young, but rapidly growing startup industry.

While it’s hard to generalize, I’d say that Israeli startups made their mark (and money) originally in telecoms and enterprise, but they are now trying to win in consumer products, both web and mobile. It’s a bit of a shift, as there previously hasn’t been great consumer companies coming out of Israel. The parallels to Singapore is that both countries have very small domestic markets, strong education systems and access to capital. They are forced to look outside for growth, and as a result, think big from day one. Israelis look to the US, while Singapore looks at Greater China, and Asia more broadly, as markets for growth.

Do share with us your purpose for this visit and who you’ll be interested to meet up with. 

The purpose of my visit is both personal and business. My wife is a Phd student at LSE (London School of Economics) and is spending two months in NUS (National University of Singapore) to complete the field research on government Venture Capital policies in Asia (specifically Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam). I’ve came to visit her, but also meet with some colleagues in the Google office in Singapore and learn more about the local startup community. I have a few exciting meetings planned already, and hope to meet many of you in an informal gathering.

Featured Image Credits: Eze Vidra