Posted by Tom Foremski - January 20, 2011
The UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph is running a series of articles about startups and has commissioned several columns. Wendy Tan White is the founder and CMO of Moonfruit, a successful UK based startup that offers hosted websites. She wrote a column answering the question "Are European startups lazy?"
Certainly, we don't have a homegrown Google or Apple - yet - but European start-ups are definitely not lazy, as some people seem to think and as TechCrunch's Mike Arrington once said. In fact, there's a whole generation of hungry and talented entrepreneurs building amazing companies.
So what's the problem? Why don't we have as many successful companies we can point to?
She says it is due to several factors.
Many start-ups in Europe exit earlier, selling at an early opportunity to bigger - often American - companies, as opposed to holding their nerve and going on to scale and grow as stand-alone businesses.
And that European venture capitalists like to play safer than those in the US.
She argues that there is nothing wrong with small exits and that it's the number of exits that's important because that fuels a larger startup economy. It allows founders to have several modest successes before finding a larger one.
For example, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, had three prior ventures before Twitter hit it big.
She also writes that European entrepreneurs need to take more lessons from Silicon Valley.
It's also important for entrepreneurs to expand their horizons and bring some of the experience of the Valley to Europe, to create a corridor of dialogue with San Francisco. So we need more Web Missions, Digital Missons and NY-LONs. Let's take the best from start-up programmes in the US like Y Combinator, Betaworks, TechStars and 500 Startups, which encourage investment and the sharing of experience through mentors, and feed them into what we're doing.
And networking is very important...a trip last year to the South By SouthWest Interactive conference in Texas, helped Moonfruit change the course of its business and raise $2.25 million in new funding.
As Europeans, we need more self-belief. We are not lazy, but we do need to shrug off our fears of failure and of other people's opinions. If we can do that, Europe won't just produce mid-exits, but home runs too.
Ms Tan-White makes some excellent points. It's tough for other startup communities to behave in the same way Silicon Valley builds startups. Silicon Valley's culture of risk taking and investing took decades to build. And culture cannot be exported.
Since culture is locked to a region, the best way to tap into it is to go there, either through regular visits or by moving part of your startup to Silicon Valley, as many have done and continue to do.
Here is a response from leylandrichard: