Entrepreneurship Styles: USA vs Europe - The Gillmor Gang At LeWeb '08
What does it take to make it as a startup in the web 2.0 world? Does it matter whether you are a European company or a Silicon Valley one? Are the chances and opportunities the same?
Just a month ago at LeWeb08, the two-day Paris event was concluded by a great live session with the Gillmor Gang, a small group of high caliber media technologists and entrepreneurs who, back in 2005 launched a podcast based on a conference call among them to discuss whatever felt hot at the moment.
From this unique and memorable live session of the Gillmor Gang, in which LeWeb organizer Loic LeMeur participates actively, I have extracted this delicious 11 minutes of conversation focusing on the differences, the pros and cons, the prejudices and myths, the stereotypes and untold truths about how the real and imagined differences between entrepreneurship on this and that side of the ocean.
Steve Gillmor, Hugh McLeod, Marc Canter, Loic LeMeur, Michael Arrington and Loren Feldman give life to a hot and fascinating discussion about the differences between USA and Europe when it comes to launching your own Internet company.
Check it out. I found it both enjoyable and insightful. Here is the video with its text transcription:
Entrepreneurship Styles: USA vs Europe - The Gillmor Gang At LeWeb '08
English Text Transcription
Entrepreneurs in America Just Have to Play the Game
The tech conferences in Europe, this is my first tech conference in Europe... they seem different.
American events tend to be a lot more elevator pitches, it's kind of people coming to you and talking like a robot: "Hi, I got this little startup, here's what I do".
The European ones... they don't do that so much, but they're very understated... and it's like, to work, to get really pumped up about something takes a lot more work. That's my observation.
Marc Canter, you spent a lot of time in Europe, what do you think about the differences between conferences the Valley and Europe.
But here in Europe you don't have a game like that! You got to go out there and hassle on your own, with your own company, with your own ideas, maybe you don't even speak English as your first language...
Yeah, which is insane right?
Yes, it's fucked up! But here's the thing... In one sense an European entrepreneur is more pure entrepreneur. Because he can't play the game. So, he, or she, has to stand on their own, whereas Americans, you go sleep with somebody, whatever...
That is a bunch of horseshit, ok? Real horseshit. [...] I find it offensive.
Is Silicon Valley an Insiders' Game?
I want to finish. Loic, you moved to San Francisco, you live up a 101 or 280, you go hang out on Sand Hill Road. That is an insiders' game, you got an insiders' track, you have a much greater likelyhood success.
It's not an insiders' game, that's a loser attitude!
It is a loser attitude. Marc, calling Silicon valley an insiders' game is...
...you're not the loser, you've made some incredible things in life, but people who tend to that, tend to be losers.
It's not that... people who say "I've been unsuccessful in Silicon Valley", which is probably the most merit-based society in the world, it is to say: "I just wasn't successful so somebody caused failure".
I would actually like to hear Loic talk about the differences because he's been an entrepreneur in both continents, and I think he's going to disagree with you.
In Europe You Have Time for Lunch
You don't know how to take time and have lunch.
Here, especially here in Paris, we take like two or three hours to have lunch. Because you want to know people, and "there" I feel that it's something which is like you want to go so fast, and there's always a point.
Like if I'd call you Michael, you'd be like: "Why are you calling me?"
By default it's like "what's the point?", "why are you calling me?" I invited someone out to a dinner and he said: "Why?". "Why?" Why should we have dinner? It's like always why. Why, what's the purpose. Always.
...and here we just have a lunch for two hours and we have fun and there's no why.
That's one (difference).
Is it the two-hour lunches and the constant pleasantries? And all the wine drinking? That's the reason why Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay, are all American companies? Why Skype was sold to an American company? Why Europe constantly looks to United States for leadership and technology? It's because you spend your days...
(The crowd boos)
Go ahead and cheer, but the point is: look how many American speakers did Loic brought to this conference to come and talk on stage. Why isn't it the other way around?
I can answer that.
I can already feel the shit I'm going to get for getting so many Americans here at the last session.
But I think it's very good that you take the time and come here, because we can understand better why. And I still don't know exactly the answer, but one of the answers is obviously that you're all at the same place.
Silicon Valley Is The Center of the Business World
So, Silicon Valley is fantastic and that's one of the reasons why I moved there, even tough I really love here up in France, is that: you want to do a deal with FriendFeed, you drive around the corner and what I love, now that I gave you some shit about the lunch, is the deal with Bret Taylor was...
Let me tell you the story: when I wanted to integrate my company with FriendFeed, I e-mailed on a Sunday at midnight Bret, the founder of FriendFeed. Midnight. I got a mail in ten minutes, back: "Hey sure, that's interesting. Let's talk."
Another cultural difference, now to your advantage, is in Europe you tend to say: "Ok, alright, for an appointment we'll see, we'll plan", and it's already a little complicated. Bret, he just said: "Yeah, just come by". I said: "When?" "Well, just come by", so that's something you need to learn. And I took my car and I went there, on Wednesday, three days after, we were integrated with FriendFeed.
That is the part of Silicon Valley which I really really love, is that everything is centered. Here you have to fly, you have to fly to UK, you have to fly to Germany, you have to fly to all around, and that's one of the reasons why I started this. At least for two days we're in the same room.
Another Difference between American and European Entrepreneurship Styles
I want to say something, ok?
Europe! You can be more efficient, you can integrate features in three days.
America! enjoy your meals.
Do you know what I'm saying? Both are kind of wrong.
We need the joie de vivre, we have to enjoy life, you only have one life, you know? Silicon Valley, they don't have lives. All they do is work, alright? But see how efficient it is.
So, Loic, he gets some work done. So I say to Europe, please work more efficiently,
But you'd be surprised how much joy you get out of winning. It's important.
If you're going to put the effort into creating a startup, but you're only going to be half-assed about it, because you need to balance your life out, you're going to lose, because you have to compete with people... I mean, in the United States, we're starting to get our ass kicked by Asia, because they work harder than us.
And the problem is Europe's rich and people like working 35 to 40 hours a week, and so if you're an entrepreneur, and you work 50, 60 hours a week you think you're really put (I know, I'm just talking out of my house right now), but there are reasons...
I'll tell you, the other reason why is the tax structure. The tax structure here is just ridiculous.
If you have a startup, and you make it big here, here in Paris... Are you looked down on for being successful? Are you looked down on for making money?
The Vente-Privee Example
It's more complicated than that Michael.
Have you heard of Vente-Privee? Michael? Have you heard of a company, a startup called Vente-privee? (Loic LeMeur asks other panelists).
I'm sorry, but it isn't a matter of we don't know the company. I don't understand what the hell you're saying. I don't understand the words that you're saying.
I'm trying to make a point here.
This startup you've never heard of is doing 600.000.000 euros in revenue.
And the point is none of you have heard of it.
Because you don't care. You don't give a shit.
That's bullshit. I'm sorry, but that's bullshit.
You don't think that in a worldwide depression we're not interested in somebody who's is making 600.000.000 euros? Come on! It's bad PR, it's what it is.
Loic, what the hell is your point?
I've three full-time writers covering Europe by the way. I didn't know what company you said because I didn't understand what you said. It's great that they're making 600.000.000 euros in revenue, but what's your point? That there's a company here doing well that most of us haven't heard of?
Yes, that's the point.
American Startups Have More News Coverage
And somehow that proves that European entrepreneurs are as good as American entrepreneurs?
You don't get the same coverage, we've been hugely...
So start blogs! Start a blog, and...
I know that and you're covering Europe and that' great, but the point is: it's very very tough for hugely successful companies to get above national borders.
Like Vent-Privee is very very well-known here and honestly doesn't really care of being on TechCrunch. And it's just super successful. I didn't mean it in any bad way, but my point is that if you're a startup in Germany and you're extremely successful, before you're known globally it takes a lot more time than if you were in Silicon Valley.
And how do we fix this? By having TechCrunch France, and UK, and by having Robert come here, and so I think it's great you're here, now that I have said that, but it's also in both sides.
It's us trying to connect more with you guys there, but it's also you trying to understand more what's happening here...
Watch the full video of the Gillmor Gang session at LeWeb08.
(note: in the transcription, I have left out a couple of comments made by Robert Scoble, not to censor him, but because I personally didn't find them very relevant to what was being discussed - Scoble's words are left intact in the video but have been edited out in the text transcription in order to make the text of the whole discussion easier to understand for who cannot see the video)
Originally broadcasted by Ustream during LeWeb '08 and first published on January 12th 2009 as "Entrepreneurship Styles: USA vs Europe - The Gillmor Gang At LeWeb '08".
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