Better in America?

Tech-entrepreneurialism in Europe vs the US

Published on Lunch over IP, by guest blogger Andreas Göldi, February 16, 2007 (but maybe still worth).

But first a good link, still worth today: Social Entrepreneurship driven by the web 2.0, Febr. 20, 2007.

The World Wide Web, MP3, Skype (peer-to-peer VoIP), Linux:

These four key innovations have one common characteristic: They were all invented in Europe, but were leveraged into profitable products and services primarily by American companies, typically by relatively young ones such as Microsoft, Google, eBay, Amazon and Yahoo. Which would seem to confirm the old stereotype that Europeans are often the best researchers, while clearly Americans are better entrepreneurs.

Why is it so? I’ve spent now some eight months in Boston at MIT, one of the centers of American tech-entrepreneurialism.

Based on the insights I could gather here and on my previous experiences as a co-founder of an Internet company in Europe, I would like to offer a few reasons why things are different in America for people that want to start a company. And what Europeans could possibly learn: …

… (follows a list of five items why it is so) …


… There are certainly many more points to be made, but some of those often mentioned – such as the Americans’ higher willingness to take risks, or the larger availability of venture capital – are in my opinion just results of the factors discussed above. But clearly they can’t be easily replicated.

Still, Europe actually has many advantages vs the US. I even believe that the current trends speak in favor of Europe: the US is becoming more closed, while Europe is opening up (although more slowly that one may wish). London will probably soon pass NY as the largest financial center of the world, while the American venture-capital sector currently seems to be somewhat confused about its own future. Creative companies and business ideas from Europe (like Skype, FON, Plazes, MySQL, Netvibes, Trolltech) inspire potential young entrepreneurs, because they are more original than most of the stuff currently coming out of Silicon Valley.

If the dynamics in Europe continue to develop this way and Europeans lose some of their reserve and start selling their ideas with some more self-confidence, then there’s an interesting phase for tech-entrepreneurship ahead.

UPDATE 19 Feb 2007 – A few interesting things left in the comments (thank you!) and definitely worth reading: Dimitar has a subjective (but very detailed) comparison of Germany and the US; Gabor asks why startups “don’t condense in Europe”; Paul has worked out some macro-economics statistics about the European startup landscape. (full text).

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