Silicon Valley not the only place for tech success: ARM

Europe might not have the big brand names like Apple, Microsoft or Google but according to the co-founder and chief technology officer of one of the region's leading tech firms, ARM Holdings, we can compete with the U.S. tech hub, Silicon Valley with a "Silicon Fen" near the U.K. university city of Cambridge.

"In some senses we are (a Silicon Valley) and if you look at ARM, we started in a region that's become known as Silicon Fen but for us it was all about creating a global company right from the beginning," Mike Muller, co-founder and chief technology officer of ARM, told CNBC.

ARM Holdings might have its roots in the English countryside but it is a global heavyweight in terms of technology, designing the chips that drive some of the world's most widely-used technology, including much of Apple's and Samsung's product range. Last year, ARM processor designs were in 12 billion chips, a 37 percent market share, with half of those chips went into mobile devices..


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"In some ways it was an advantage that we're in Cambridge, which was nowhere in particular, and in those days all our customers in those days were in Japan and America and it was a question of us having great talent here and the engineering base was here but our customers were elsewhere."

"In some ways it's good being in Europe, culturally, we're between the east and the west and our focus was on our customer base, not on our home region," Muller added, although he expressed frustration that more of ARM's customers were not based in Europe.

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"The standout, breakthrough successes, the big brand names haven't typically come out of Europe and that is a frustration but if you go one level below that, there's a whole raft of technology companies that are being successful."

Location, location, location

Muller said one of the things that held Europe back was the disparate nature of the tech regions – while Silicon Valley in the States had a high density of tech know-how in one area, in Europe, those regions were spread out with each country having their own tech hubs.

Many tech startups look to Silicon Valley in the States for funding, but home-grown talented firms can find money in Europe and the U.K., Muller said.

He sits on the board of Cambridge Innovation Capital, a venture capital fund that looks to invest in tech startups coming out of the region. He said that while there's no doubt that finding funding in the U.S. tends to be easier than in Europe, "it's not impossible to do it here for quality companies," Muller said.

In addition to the different funding outlooks for U.S. and European tech companies, Muller said there was a distinct difference in marketing style too, with European companies tending towards a more discreet approach.

"People say that the Americans are a lot bolder and brasher but…our business model (in Europe) is based on collaboration and partnership, we are more quiet and discreet – it's not what we do to shout about what we do, but I think in those consumer products, when you are trying to grab consumer attention, then you do need to be all-out in people's faces."

- Written by CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt. Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld