Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Where Are Europe’s Ubers and Airbnbs?

 

The differences between American and European high-impact startup culture — with very different results — are always of great interest to me. I love these Wall Street Journal graphics comparing the EU vs. US:

uber1-e1480949497144

uber2

Here is an interesting bit of self analysis from a Croatian member of the European Parliament. It starts with an anecdote about an entrepreneur frustrated by the slow funding process from an EU investment committee:

It was interesting to hear the question asked by a young innovator who cannot understand why the project approval process lasts so long. It took almost two years from the moment he came up with his idea until the moment when funds for realization of the project were approved from Horizon 2020. The Commission, of course, has the answer ready – European citizens’ money is concerned and before the funds are approved the project must go through the evaluation and approval process, and that takes time, but no more than 90 days. 90 days for each step and so until the idea begins to realize in Europe, somewhere on the other side of the world (in the Silicon Valley, for example) someone has already started production although he came up with the idea only a few months before.

When we look at the example of the Silicon Valley we ask ourselves: Why is everyone there? What makes it a special ecosystem which attracts innovations and start-ups? The answers are to be found in the following: 1. People – talents who want to succeed in technology; 2. Knowledge: the best universities: Stanford, Berkeley, UCSF; 3. State institutions encouraging innovation: NASA, DARPA, National Institute of Health; 4. Corporate innovation centres; 5. Availability of venture capital; 6. Open access to the broad market (USA); 7. Competition and intensive cooperation through knowledge and ideas; 8. Self-confidence (somewhat arrogant) – the attitude that there is no problem which a small group of smart people cannot solve; 9. Intellectual curiosity; and 10. The wish to share ideas in order to come up with new ones.

This is then followed by some hugger-mugger about how Europe needs to find its own path via lots of “contentedness” and “investment.” Not much about removing barriers, or cultural differences — all things mentioned by many other, non-governmental observers.

There are 8 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    Here is to American arrogance (#8)!

    • #1
    • December 5, 2016, at 10:27 AM PST
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  2. Old Bathos Member

    The Euro hyper-regulatory mindset thinks of itself as the embodiment of the cooperative ideal as opposed to the supposed West West outlook of Americans. In point of fact, the hyper-regulators have it backwards. What happens in Silicon Valley is the rapid formation of highly cooperative voluntary undertakings involving talent, innovation and capital. The hyper-regulators interpose themselves between the innovator and the cooperative process and thus restrict, delay and inhibit the cooperative ethos they claim to protect.

    • #2
    • December 5, 2016, at 10:37 AM PST
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  3. Ford Penney Inactive

    As has been discussed here several times… in a hyper regulated socialist society the goal is to maintain general economic stability and technological breakthroughs are anathema to government control and stability.

    The only reason these countries even have 21st century tech is because they allow others to take all the risks so they can only use the benefits.

    • #3
    • December 5, 2016, at 11:42 AM PST
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  4. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Not so minor quibble: Europe does have AirBNB and Uber. The Germans at least are starting to wise up about this. The current generation is rediscovering its pre-World War II history and finding out that they used to be an innovation powerhouse on par with the US. They are also realising why they aren’t so much any more and have been taking minor steps, at the local and state levels mostly, in restoring the freedom to innovate here.

    • #4
    • December 5, 2016, at 12:03 PM PST
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  5. erazoner Coolidge

    Hartmann von Aue:Not so minor quibble: Europe does have AirBNB and Uber.

    Yes, but their genesis was outside Europe. I think James was referring to equivalent Euro startups.

    On a recent visit to Bavaria, our local host recited a list of the many great and venerable Bavarian manufacturers that we Americans are so familiar with (BMW, Bosch, Siemens, Adidas, etc.) and it occurred to me that all of these companies have been around for generations. I was left with an impression of much constancy and stability, but not much dynamism. On the plus side, these companies weathered the recession of ’09 without massive layoffs, keeping idled workers on the payroll until recovery returned.

    • #5
    • December 5, 2016, at 1:28 PM PST
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  6. John Park Member

    Europe does have SkyUber, which the FAA won’t allow. The FAA will allow general aviation pilots who will carry passengers on a cost-sharing baisis to put up notes on bulletin boards.https://www.skyuber.com/

    • #6
    • December 5, 2016, at 2:03 PM PST
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  7. Hartmann von Aue Member

    erazoner:

    Hartmann von Aue:Not so minor quibble: Europe does have AirBNB and Uber.

    Yes, but their genesis was outside Europe. I think James was referring to equivalent Euro startups.

    On a recent visit to Bavaria, our local host recited a list of the many great and venerable Bavarian manufacturers that we Americans are so familiar with (BMW, Bosch, Siemens, Adidas, etc.) and it occurred to me that all of these companies have been around for generations. I was left with an impression of much constancy and stability, but not much dynamism. On the plus side, these companies weathered the recession of ’09 without massive layoffs, keeping idled workers on the payroll until recovery returned.

    True. However, the point I should have made more directly is that the regulatory agencies could have strangled the German branches of Uber and AirBNB in the cradle here and they didn’t.

    • #7
    • December 6, 2016, at 12:18 AM PST
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  8. Profile Photo Member

    This is of much debate over here, thanks for raising the topic James. One side of this is the view that, looking at economic history, any kind of super-state is in its nature detrimental to innovation (Matt Ridley explores this in the Times this weerk, it should be on his blog in a week or so). So another potential benefit for Brexit, who knew?

    I assure you we’re not all merrily sitting on our backsides waiting to exploit other people’s ideas. I also suspect bureaucracy and political interests hindering innovation are not exclusively our problems. The real view may also be skewed by the wailing of losers in the relentless funding battlegrounds. Ending on a positive:

    http://www.wired.co.uk/article/europes-100-hottest-startups-2016

    (intriguingly includes Tel Aviv and Istanbul, there’s positive EU thinking for you)

    • #8
    • December 6, 2016, at 2:54 AM PST
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