Why does Europe suck at entrepreneurship? - brnd.ws
Yesterday I attended The Founder Conference, where Piictu was invited to pitch (which is the main reason for my silence but more on that tomorrow). I met a good bunch of fellow European entrepreneurs and they all complained about how hard it is to start a company in Europe. I met people from Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Iceland, Serbia, Spain, France, and although this is not a representative sample of European entrepreneurs, it is a pretty damn good one and they are saying loud and clear that Europe sucks at entrepreneurship.
Why is that? I recently wrote a post about how we can change but I keep thinking why are we not changing? Let me start saying that the pain point has been identified. For more than 10 years, the European Union has been making efforts to promote entrepreneurship but I already explained why that will not work. Likewise, Europe doesn’t lack entrepreneurs and creative minds, although you have to wonder if some of the brightest aren’t getting tired and making the move to the US.
So again, why is this happening?
It’s easy to blame the “system” – the VC industry is inexistent or ineffective, the legal system is too bureaucratic, the stock market is not active enough, etc. All these are real issues and produce huge amounts of friction, but there is a bigger issue – the entrepreneur.
Too many entrepreneurs in Europe think about their markets as if we were in the old economy – I’m starting a business in Switzerland for the German-speaking market, or even worse, I’m starting a business in Portugal for the 10 million people that live in my country. Damn! That’s roughly the size of the Bay Area, how can you compete with that? I can spend $100 in stickers and get more buzz in a week that you can get in a year!
I’m building a company that from day 1 (pre-launch) has been getting sign-up requests from all over the world, a lot of them from Europe. I don’t think about my company as being US-based or focused on the US West Coast market. Entrepreneurs in Europe have to think like that. If language is a barrier, default to English. If PR is a barrier, ask for help to understand who is who in the media industry and who to target – people are willing to help, including me. If financing is the problem, build a great product for the global market, get some traction, and then look for those VCs (in the US if you have to) that invest in companies around the world – they exist.
It’s easy to blame the system. There’s nothing you can do about the system but you can change the way you think and break the chicken and egg problem. If more entrepreneurs in Europe build successful businesses and get consistently funded by VCs around the world, the VC industry in Europe will have to change. That’s the beauty of globalization and I do believe in it.
P.S. I will sure get angry reactions from those who don’t review themselves in this portrait of the European entrepreneur – but look around and check if you’re not the exception.