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Innovation Differences - Silicon Valley Versus Europe
While Silicon Valley creates new billion dollar companies every year, Europe lags behind. What are the approaches on innovation, creativity, and new ideas in Europe and Silicon Valley that lead to these drastic differences?
This slide deck examines 17 differences compiled from countless discussions with startup founders, investors, corporate people, and my experience of living in both Europe and Silicon Valley for many years.
http://www.wired.com/2014/11/be-mean-online/ Teresa M. Amabile: Brilliant but cruel: Perceptions of negative evaluators; Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 19, Issue 2, March 1983, Pages 146–156 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0022103183900343
Naiveté vs. Knowing
Creative playfulness and naivité
needs to be present. This opens the
mind and often brings surprising
Asking naïve questions
“Why does the apple fall down?”
can lead to new ideas.
Every meeting and gathering is a
status meeting. Proposing silly
ideas endangers your status. So
This often prevents from building
on new ideas, and from doing, as
“past experiences” tell you that
this cannot work.
Creative people tend to be
smart, yet also naive at the
Innovation needs Passion
Believe in their ideas and are
able to make others interested
Don’t appear too enthusiastic,
as this will be interpreted as
naïve, insincere, or a scheme,
and the innovator as lacking in
If you are not passionate
about your idea, who is?
Teresa M. Amabile; Brilliant but cruel: Perceptions of negative evaluators; Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, March 1983
Share Your Idea
Share the idea
Share the idea with anyone who
wants to listen. This guarantees
feedback and better understanding
of an idea. It also allows to pivot
faster before wasting too much
time and resources on an idea with
no market and interest.
The NDA trap
Somebody can steal your idea!
Better not talk about it to
Let everyone sign an NDA before
you share your idea! Or better:
work in secrecy until it’s done.
Ideas are abundant,
execution is scarce!
In Stanford every student either
has a startup, a startup idea, or
wants to work for a startup.
Google or Facebook are already
considered “old economy“
In Europe students want security
and work for big companies.
They don’t even have the idea
that they could do a startup.
They are told “Take risks, but be
very, very careful!” (see
interview with EU Neelie Kroes)
US students create Facebook,
European students sue it.
Facebook sued by law student Max Schrems for privacy violations - http://tinyurl.com/kp72sk4
European Entrepreneurs Must Screw Their Courage To The Sticking Place, Says Neelie Kroes - http://tinyurl.com/on4dw6x
No meetup about a topic that I
am interested? Nobody takes on
this injustice or social cause?
Good that there is me who will
take charge and organize!
Society, the state, the
government, the EU, the
Americans should do something!
Why aren’t they doing that? I am
paying taxes so that somebody
can do something, right?
Somebody should do
something or call somebody.
Can vs. Cannot
Everything is possible and
problems will be solved while
we are going.
First reactions are that
something cannot be done. A lot
of energy is spent finding
excuses why something cannot
Can vs. cannot
Break the rules
Youtube, AirBnB, Uber, Tesla
break and bend the rules.
The time it takes for regulators
to look at them, often the new
reality shows that the rules
need to be changed.
Follow the rules
Better safe than sorry and
follow the rules.
Europeans often don’t even
have the idea to question the
rules and forget that rules need
to be reconsidered and can be
Breaking or following
Making a dent in the universe
Making a dent
SV founders are on a mission to
improve the world, to make a
dent in the universe, to build
something larger than man.
That’s why they often do
business in non-traditional ways
and run everyone else over.
No larger mission. They call
Americans to be megalomaniacs,
world improvers (and this not in
a positive way).
They just do business like they
have done before.
Innovation as a Craft
Americans see Creativity and
Innovation as a craft that can be
Design Thinking, Multiplication
Method, Task Unification…
Europeans think that someone needs
to be born as a genius to be creative.
They same is considered true for
movie directors, actors, authors,
Creativity is a skill that can
be taught and learned.
Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Ballantine Books, 2007
People are hardwired to
understand and remember stories.
Stories encourage empathy, the
understanding of another human
being’s pain and problems.
The most important thing are
technical details and facts. There is
no need to tell a story, this just
detracts from the awesome
engineering. Don’t forget to go into
every details and bore your audience
One good story sells better
than thousand great facts.
Americans have 20 years head
start with pitching. Children have
to present and demo their
favorite toys already in daycare
during sharing days.
Small talk, networking, being
social are all important aspects of
making a startup successful.
Europeans think that the idea and
product speak for themselves.
Every VC will certainly just kneel
down thanking the European
entrepreneur for finally solving that
problem. “Take my money!”
Soft skills get little
respect but will make or
break your startup.
Fear & Opportunity
Creative people take an idea and
build on top of them. They look
for ways to use them better or
find additional uses.
This gives them an opportunity to
find even better ideas.
Europeans look first for risks,
dangers, and limitations. Is data
privacy, labor laws, harm to body
and mind, my lifestyle etc. an issue?
This attitude prevents them from
playing with the idea.
Opportunity presents itself
only for the prepared
willing to take the risk.
In Silicon Valley people connect
you with their own networks. If I
know somebody that could be
useful for you, I’ll get you in
touch with them.
Ultimately, I will profit as well,
because people pay it forward.
Europeans keep their networks
closed. They fear that they’ll lose
their contacts and opportunity to the
other person, or that the other
person may not be deemed “worthy”
enough to enter that circle.
I am important, because I have a
network, and I don’t let anyone in.
Pay it forward.
People are generally supportive of
you trying to change the world.
They are polite, even if they think
it’s a bad idea. But they will give
you the benefit of believing in you
and telling you so.
Reach for the stars! Go for it!
Too many people asking these
questions drain a lot of energy.
Instead of talking about ideas and
executing, too much time is wasted
with justifying them.
When you turned your back, they
will talk about you and your crazy
ideas in a dismissive and negative
Is this your task?
Are you even qualified?
Why don’t you get a real job?
People who are successful are
seen as lightning rod that one can
If they can make it, I can also
Europeans think when you succeed,
it is more a sign of somebody’s luck
than hard work. Therefore, you
don’t deserve it.
And they are even happier, when you
failed. Because they told you so.
Praise can be bought.
Envy needs to be earned.
TechShop, co-working spaces,
maker faire, burning man are all
places where people can go, do,
and get their hands dirty.
Many Kickstarter funded projects
get their start at TechShop.
You talk for such a long time about
what you would do or somebody
should do, if you or they had the
means that by the time you may
have the means you forgot that you
wanted to do something.
Be a maker not a talker!
The list of advisors at SV
universities such as Stanford reads
like a Who’s who of successful
Most consultants from McKinsey,
PwC, BCG - you name it - didn’t
learn entrepreneurship by starting
their own companies. They studied
entrepreneurship from universities
that don’t teach it in the first place.
second hand experience.
Innovation = Invention + execution.
With a quick proof that the market
There is a high degree of
collaboration between universities
Invention & Papers
Universities think they are innovators.
They are not. They are far behind the
trends. Their incentive system is
based on publishing papers. Applied
science is disrespected, collaboration
with companies seen as sellout.
Public institutions still give them lot
of money, because professors, you
The myth of universities
as hotspots of innovation.
Angels & VCs
Investors do not only provide money,
they also connect, coach, and
provide other resources. They are
willing to take risks.
Angels are also former entre-
preneurs, who understand and
empathize with the startups.
Grants are cheap money handed out
by bureaucrats, who tend to be risk-
averse. Don’t waste tax-payer
Grants come with no other support.
Grants artificially extend a startups
life, when it should have died
Angels help startup founders
Austrian Angel Investors Association: Coaching Investors to Become Angels; http://www.aaia.at/
Seed to Exit
Liquidity is available in all stages
and in high volumes. This enables
rapid growth and expansion.
Seed to Stop
Available funds are often limited to
early stages, and nearly disappear
completely. The startup’s growth
slows or even stops much earlier.
Wasting energy on finding
tax-loopholes instead of
investing in startups.
Iterate & Pivot
Build – Test - Build
The lean startup approach
requires to prototype and test
with customers rapidly. Quick
feedback lets startups iterate or
pivot on their ideas.
Build – Build – Damn
The engineering driven culture of
Europe makes startups believe that
they know best what the customers
want without actually talking to
them. Spending months on building a
product before finally testing it
often leads to unpleasant surprises.
Not the customer is too
stupid to “get it,”
it’s the startup founders.
First adopters are willing to spend
money and provide crucial
feedback. This gives startups much
needed cash flow, ensures investors
that there is a market for the
product/service, and provides
feedback for product improve-
ments. First adopters are also
advocates for the product/service.
Lets rather wait until the product is
perfect. We all know that first
versions are full of flaws.
First adopters are willing
to risk the pain and look
Speed of closing deals and signing
contracts is counted in days or
Months and years go by before deals
are closed. In the meantime a
startup will run out of cash. Of
course this confirms the suspicion of
the customer that making a contract
with a startup is too risky.
Tuesday is not good.
How about never?
Is never good?
You failed? What did you learn?
Failure is a natural part of learning.
If you learn from it, you will not
make the same mistake again and
can teach others.
That’s why I trust you. Now try
9 out of 10 startups will fail!
When you fail, you must be the
biggest loser and should be punished
forever. Never trust a person who
Officials think that by planning
properly and with help 9 out of 10
startups must succeed!
If you’ve never failed, you
didn’t take enough risks.
There may be a patent in it, but
why waste time when we don’t yet
know if this works and if the
market needs it?
First file a patent
Let’s minimize the risk that
somebody steals the idea and focus
on patenting it. Then we do business
development and talk to customers.
We need to get the patent through,
before we can tell you more. We’ll
come back to you in a few months.
The patenting frenzy.
I write about many
Engaging people by
letting them have fun