Why Europe is no land of brilliant start-ups
According to Andrew Keen, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs want success more than their European counterparts. But passion, organization, resolve, and luck also come into the picture.
American tech entrepreneurs would rather answer e-mails in the middle of the night than have sex. It is the reverse for Europeans.
At least that seems to be the conclusion of a very stimulating post by the splendidly populist Andrew Keen.
Mr. Keen, who, I am led to understand by the excellent Owen Thomas of Valleywag, is rather enthusiastic for the poor not to have Internet access, relayed a very interesting discussion between Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and Loic LeMeur, the CEO of Seesmic, a video social-networking company.
Apparently, there is a general lamentation in Europe that it has originated no equivalents of eBay, Google, or Facebook. (Of course, those three sites are quite popular in Europe.)
Reasons suggested by Mr. Arrington and Mr. LeMeur include the relative difficulty of creating start-ups in those allegedly socialist lands of foie gras, fish, chips, and bratwurst--and the fact that business is still seen as, in Mr. Keen's depiction, "grubby."
Naturally, they are both right. Yet perhaps it is an insufficient explanation when America seems rather keen on wearing suits that are anything other than American-made and, dare one mention it, driving cars that are anything other than Detroit-originated.
Is it vaguely, remotely, strangely possible that great tech companies haven't come out of Europe because great tech ideas haven't come out of Europe?
Imagine for a brief moment that Europeans had all these wonderful ideas for tech companies but couldn't get them off the ground because of that slippery, people-centric, Obama-like socialism they practice over there.
Wouldn't Europeans, like Hollywood screenwriters, actors, and remarkably mundane reality show producers, simply take those ideas over to the United States and bring them to fruition in the land where apparently anything (business-wise, of course, not sexually) goes?
Mr. Keen relates the story of the marketing consultant, Seth Godin, who, while on holiday in Jamaica, delighted in waking up at 4 a.m. to check his e-mails. This, in Mr. Godin's cranium, was a manifestation of his passion. Mr. Keen suggests that the equivalent European would rather have plunged himself into a somewhat more basic passion at 4 a.m.
I am a little more skeptical. And this has nothing to do with Mr. Godin's lack of immediate resemblance to Brad Pitt or the fact that some Europeans don't actually like having sex at 4 in the morning.
As Philip Delves Broughton suggested in his depiction of life at Harvard Business School, Ahead of the Curve, passion is a much-abused term, when it comes to business success.
Making a business great often relies on that elusive ability to get things done, to organize, to show resolve, and to be lucky enough to work with the right people at the right time.
It might just be that Europeans have not been quite so good at some, or even all, of these elements. Or it might be that they have come to believe far too much in their own lack of self-belief.