Europe's new entrepreneurialism

I had breakfast at the "Europe's new entrepreneurialism" roundtable this morning, and we turned out to have a really great discussion. Among the participants were Martin Varsavsky, Tariq Krim, Loïc le Meur and Alexander Straub - and it was moderated by Christiane zu Salm.

The discussion took off from the "classical" Europe vs. Silicon Valley perspective. The room was full of people who are handling this differently today: Loïc who moved to SF before he started Seesmic, Tariq who early on chose to start an office in SF, while always keeping the development in Paris, Alexander who has had different models along the way, and Martin who still runs Fon from Spain.

Everyone seemed to agree that Silicon Valley has a lot of advantages, that really helps when you are running a startup:
  • Access to capital. Both angels and later-stage investments are easier to land in the US than in Europe - and the amount of invested VC funding is roughly five times larger in the US. This is a huge opportunity for European VC:s, who hopefully will use it. But a lot of it is still due to attitude: "European VCs never dare to invest in greater or crazy ideas like Fon", Martin says.

  • Ambitions: Too many European entrepreneurs get stuck with more or less unconsciously limiting their ambitions to the local market to where they come from. "You feel very lonely when you're working from there", said Loïc, and "You can really feel how you are raising your ambitions as soon as you're flying in over the US", said Alex.

  • Management: In Europe, it is harder to find good management that can take companies on from successful startups to multi-million dollar operations.
On the other hand, it is easier to find skilled people that want to work for a different start-up in Europe. And most seem to think that the quality of living is higher.

I couldn't agree more with the quality of living. For me, I have a hard time imagining a better place to live in, and for my kids to grow up in, than Vaxholm where I live. But on the other hand: the know and the flow around Internet applications in the Valley is extraordinary. Hopefully we'll find ways to combine the two.

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