A recent flurry of acquisitions led some in the IT community to murmur that a new monster might be lurking across the horizon: a quiet giant with a long mercantile history and a penchant for wooden footwear. Some American companies recently swallowed by this wave from the Netherlands are the Silicon Valley Group, bought out in April by Veldhoven-based ASM Lithography Holding, and Macola Software, acquired by Delft-based Exact Holding in February. It’s happening to overseas companies as well. Supply chain management company TNT Post Group, headquartered in Amsterdam, acquired French logistics company Barlatier in July and Italian logistics company ALS in May.
Could your company be next? When asked if the world should brace itself for Dutch IT hegemony, Simon Bragg, European research director in the London office of ARC Advisory Group, responds, “No, not at all.”
Phew! But why not?
Innovation clearly is not lacking in Europe (Linux was founded in Finland, MP3 in Germany and the World Wide Web by a Brit in Switzerland), but marketing of innovations proves to be most inhibiting. “Commercialization of technology has been a tricky feat in all of Europe due to the region’s fragmented marketplace, language barriers and cultural disparities,” Bragg points out, although the strengthening European Union may change that. The United States still dominates, he suggests, with commercialization a major ingredient in its leading status because of Americans’ greater willingness to risk failure and to spend money. “For example, the U.S. spends twice the percentage of GNP [on application software] that the Europeans do,” Bragg says. “A U.S. [decision] failure will not necessarily cost the CIO their job; a European failure will.”
The spate of acquisitions by Netherlands-based companies then appears to be just a result of the sporadic distribution of such things throughout the market, which sometimes pile up to look like a trend. So you can sleep easy for the time being, because a new era of Dutch world colonization has not yet arrived. But then again, with its multilingual society, broad cultural tolerance and social elasticity, the Netherlands could be in the best position to make such a move.