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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Brewing Controversy : The Valley & The Europe

Michael Arrington, joins issue with Loic about American vs. European entrepreneurs, the controversy picked up at the Le Web conference. Loic responds back . As someone who has gone around the world many times and has met with hundreds of entrepreneurs, here are my thoughts.
Michael points out :

"...the joy of life is great, but all these two hour lunches over a bottle or two of great wine and general unwillingness to do whatever it takes to compete and win is the reason why all the big public Internet companies are U.S. based. And those European startups that do manage to break through cultural and tax hurdles and find success are quickly gobbled up by those U.S. companies. Skype (acquired by eBay ) and MySQL (acquired by Sun ) are recent examples.
The crowd jeered but the stark reality of it all is unavoidable. And the fact that the panelists on stage, all either American or living in America, suggested that you can somehow succeed with a startup while maintaining a healthy work-life balance is unfortunate. Too many people choose to be entrepreneurs as a lifestyle, without realizing that it takes everything you have and more to win. And if you aren’t in it to win, why not just take that nice job down the street that gives you five weeks of vacation."

In my view, Mike is spot on. Entrepreneurship is going to be more global and demanding and the fact remains that in the internet age, the valley has consistently provided/sustained large scale enterprises. I can’t even recall a single european startup name that looks significant enough to challenge the valley players in the internet age. The valley is the poster child for tech entrepreneurs around the world and that is clearly not going to change!
Loic is somewhat right when he says that iIt is the McDonalds fast culture against the highest rare quality possible talking about Guy Savoy but he completely misses the difference when he writes:

"There is a huge difference between being lazy and taking time to know each other. It is one of the main cultural differences I feel everyday as I moved to Silicon Valley: every minute, every coffee, every phone call must have a point. When you call someone in Silicon Valley for anything you will likely get "why are you calling me?" ...
...Don't even think about starting a conversation in Silicon Valley by "how was your week-end" or "how are your kids", they all want you to go straight to the point and no time to lose. I never thought inviting someone I really liked to know better to dinner would get me an email from his assistant "why would you like to invite him to dinner?". I do not think europeans are lazy taking the time to know each other and build deep long term friendships that are not limited to business and I do not think this hurts Europe in any way. On the contrary."
One will have to differ with you Loic! Mike is mostly right if not spot on!

Update : Zoho's Sridhar Vembu writes on worklife in Japan - a very neat description indeed. I have seen identical things happening in Japan for several years.

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