December 10, 2015
Startups are the gold mines of the 21st century. Around 150 years ago, people flocked in huge numbers to California, to become prospectors and risk it all on searching for the precious yellow metal. Today, people are flocking towards California once again, but this time it’s to make it in the United States’, and the world’s, tech Mecca – the Silicon Valley. Even with so much competition from the likes of Colorado, New York and others, Silicon Valley is where the decisions are made.
Europe, on the other hand, didn’t have a gold rush. There were no prospectors running to the Alps in search for gold. Today, Europe’s tech companies and startups – which are a requirement for the tech industry to flourish – are few and far between on the Old Continent, at least when compared to the booming startup culture in the United States.
By no means does this mean that Europe doesn’t have a startup culture. It does, and it had a couple of very noticeable members. Skype, Spotify, SoundCloud and Shazam among others all made their baby steps in European cities. But compared to the United States, Europe is still lagging behind. Some of the culprits might be found in European startup culture. So, if you’re one of the Americans wanting to broaden their entrepreneurial horizons and try their luck on the other side of the Atlantic, put a hold on that order for new business cards in Danish, Swedish, or Spanish, and read about the five ways European startup culture might be different from your own.
Failure Is Not the Way
The first thing that should be noticed about the European startup culture, or more precisely the European business culture in general, is the aversion towards risk-taking. Europeans like to play it safe. After all, we’re talking about a continent which had the majority of the world’s welfare states. One of the causes that are usually cited when trying to explain this situation is the fact that, in general, Europeans are not taught to try and fail and try again. It’s not okay to fail in Europe; it’s much better to do everything right and succeed from the first try. That might be one of the things that hinder the development of a startup culture in Europe.
Europe Is Not a Single State
Even with the European Union gathering most of the European countries under a single roof, it’s still far from being a single state. There are cultural differences, language barriers, and legal differences. Traditional businesses have found a way to lobby for changes that make doing business easier, but startups in Europe are still not strong enough to lobby for regulations that will affect them specifically. Especially regulations related to the Internet. So, no matter how much the online world might be international, European startup cultures are still somewhat national and insufficiently interconnected. Add to that non EU member states and you’ll get a mess that’s going to take a lot of time to fix.
Europe Doesn’t Have Its Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is not the only spot for creating startups in the United States. New York has its fair share of startups, as does Boston. But Silicon Valley deserves to be called the Mecca of tech for a very good reason – it’s where all the startups want to end up being. It’s the place to go, the place to revere. However, the European startup culture doesn’t have such a place, or the mythology that’s built around it. Europe has several smaller hubs of entrepreneurship, usually in the capitals of countries like UK’s London, Sweden’s Stockholm, or Germany’s Berlin, each with its own startup scene and no place to turn their gaze towards.
Love of Co-working Spaces
If there’s one thing that’s common to all the fragmented European startup scenes, it would have to be the love of co-working spaces. They provide the sense of community, they are the places where ideas can be exchanged, and they are popping up around the whole continent, from Moscow to Barcelona and from Belgrade to London.
It’s Powered by the Young, So Change Is Imminent
The most important takeaway from the European startup culture is the fact that it is powered by the young people who are willing to explore beyond the traditional. Even with some drawbacks, the culture is growing, people are getting bolder, they are becoming more connected, and less afraid to just try things. And that alone would make Europe an exciting place for developing a startup.
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