Europe, Silicon Valley: Here we go again
Boy do I wish I was at LeWeb. Not because the conference was any good - I've heard different opinions - but because I'd love to have been there for the Live Gillmor Gang that at one point turned into a discussion about Silicon Valley vs Europe.
Reading about it, particularly the posts on Techcrunch1 and Loic Lemeur's blog, reminds me of the kind of thing I was thinking about 3 years ago 2. I've been doing some thinking about this again recently, so here's a few thoughts on the matter.
Are europeans just lazy?
Different cultures: Anyone who has a brain cell can likely answer this question. It's not the europeans nature to be lazy, but if you are to compare Silicon Valley to Europe 3, you will find deep cultural diferences that may lead you to believe that is the case. Plus, I don't believe you can compare a continent with a stretch of land that happens to have a huge concentration of entrepreneurs. In fact, it's been proven in the past that the environment in Silicon Valley is replicated at a smaller scale in Ireland, London, bits of Germany or Israel. But at the continent level, Europe engulfs so many different cultures that is a doomed comparison from the start.
Different exposure: The idea that you can concievably cover (in equal terms) startups in the valley and startups in Europe is crazy. Mike suggested on the Gillmor Gang that he has 3 full-time writers covering Europe. Want to take stabs at how many people he has covering the valley today - live, and on the scene right now? I believe most of this issue is a matter of scale.
The facts and figures
Here's where it hurts: there's not as much innovation per capita out here in Europe as there is in the valley (or the US as a whole). There is the culture of working for large corporations, making your buck and not sleeping over it - there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, it's just not my MO. If you're in the valley, you're likely to be an entrepreneur. In europe, that's not the case. In Silicon Valley you can take a 5 minute drive and talk to the people you'll be doing business with. In Europe, you have to fly over.
Silicon Valley has Sand Hill Road. Europe has much less capital to invest in information technology startups. It is proven that if you want to live the entrepreneur life you're better off in California than you are in a random place in Europe 4. It's just the cold hard facts. And keep in mind this is coming from a person who's spoken in conferences in the past about the irrelevance of geography when it comes to great ideas - boy have I (quite unfortunately, I'll add) changed.
It's not that people are any lazier out here. Culturally we're different, and the landscape is different as well. Deep down, I believe entrepreneurs in Europe should strive to do whatever they can to succeed in their own city or country. But I can't help but to say that and get a bitter taste in my mouth - much because I've seen the other side of the coin and now how sweet it really is.