Start-ups in Europe

At the xtech conference in Amsterdam, Paul Graham has given a key note on: How American are Start-ups? Some notes and a critical comment, to allow discussion at the conference.

Yes, the big players in the Internet world, such as Google, Yahoo with eBay or Apple with iTunes have all grown in Calitfornia or in cities like Boston. Europe is good at financing software (SAP) or mobile phone infrastructure (Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens), but seems not to be able to catch up with the Internet era, and seems to be sleeping with the current Web 2.0 hype. So where are the start-ups and which factors need to be achieved?

The speech was an outstanding example of how Americans look at the rest of the world. The perspective is narrow, with the simple dish-washer business model in mind: making very few smart people rich when they are selling their idea after a three years development phase. Well, how many of them who try fail and remain dish-washer (plus a second McJob) forever?. The European society has other models for feeling rich: in wisdom, social responsibility or equal access to education.

Here are the uncommented key-notes from the key-note:

Silicon Valley has neirds & rich people. It is about people, not about buildings. Reproduce 2-3 guys, sitting around a table, deciding to found a company. It is not important, that Apple or Google are close by. But you should have a university nearby. What attracts professors is the quality of the faculty. It should be a place, where investors want to live and also the entrepreneurs. Neirds like bookshops, hiking, not dancing or noisy places. Town needs intact centers, young people do not want to live in suburbs. Young people want to move by train, bike and walking.

The ten key factors, according to Paul Graham: 1. US allows immigration - half the people speak an accent in silicon valley - you need to set up a mekka. 2. US is not a poor country. 3. US is (not yet) a policy state (compared to china who can get efficiency, but not imagination). 4. American universities are good (Europe: only Cambridge is known outside). 5. Bureaucracy for hiring/firing people is low in the US. 6. In the US work is less identified with employment, more with entrepreneurship. 7. America is not so fuzzy, regarding the working laws. 8. America has a big domestic market with one/two languages. 9. America has venture capital from individual investors. 10. America has dynamic carriers - start up people do not plan their carrier, they follow their intuition.

After this key-note, I am not so sure, if any European region or city really wants to have a copy of silicon valley. I believe, we have different concepts, creating wealth. And many key factors are fulfilled: we are a mekka of cultures, we have less cars, and we also can issue simpler contracts for hiring. Anf last but not least, Europa has an inspiring culture!


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