Stowe gives feedback on his More Europe project: The More Europe Project: Two Weeks In Europe
I think it has to do more with the small number of social application start-ups in Europe than anything else. Yes, I know all about Last.fm and Plazes — in fact I saw Felix Petersen of Plazes in Lisbon a few weeks back — but aside from those two (and of course openBC!) there doesnt seem to be much going on, really. (Oh, I am using Fred Oliviera’s Goplan, a Basecamp competitor. and he is based in Portugal, now. Shouldn’t forget that.) On the other hand, I was in San Francisco the other day for Office 2.0, and I saw no less that 25 companies demoing their applications. I had invitations from companies in Mexico, Canada and Israel for meetings, but nothing in Europe.
I think that Europe is sort of a black hole for social application development. For some reason, there is just not much happening. Are there other stealth startups that I just don’t know about? Is it Graham’s hypothesis? Have all the inventive Europeans already departed for San Francisco? Is it lack of VCs? Surely not education; is it a cultural issue? People in Europe being less likely to quit their day jobs?
Sadly, I think Stowe is right on with his assessment.
I’ve been thinking about this, too, for the past 18 months or so (ever since I moved to sizzling Silicon Valley in May 2005). I think it’s a combination of cultural issues (Germans being a little too risk-averse all the time combined with a common disdain for failure) as well as lack of infrastructure (mainly, the aforementionend technology hubs and an ecosystem for funding).
I see small pockets of resistance, though.
Web Monday, the event I started almost a year ago, is aimed at addressing the cultural issues in that it gives people who not only have ideas but also want to do something about them a chance to present to their peers in an overall nourishing environment (that’s what Wiki Wednesday is to me). The recent Barcamp Berlin also helped bring people together (a mini-hub, if you will, though only for a weekend) who share the same passion about people and technology. And judging by what these people had to say afterwards, it will not have been the last barcamp in or around Germany.
A handful of successful internet entrepreneurs have begun to serve as angel investors: Lukasz Gadowski of Spreadshirt (who may join us for the upcoming Web Monday Silicon Valley, November 6) and Axel Schmiegelow of Denkwerk (who has invested in Qype, who will join us over the web and do a presentation from their Hamburg, Germany headquarters) come to mind. That’s only two, you may ask, but it’s a start.
The recent decision by the German government to pursue more of a hub approach with regard to their funding of universities is also a move in the right direction, in my view.
All this will take a while to really take root. In the meantime, if you’re the young and aspiring entrepreneur out there in the German hinterland, please do us all a big favor: Don’t think you need anyone’s permission. Don’t let the risk of failure overwhelm you. There are enough people who will gladly help you (even in Germany). Don’t wait until you have a perfect plan.
Just do it!