On Sunday we had a brainstorming session about Global Enterprise Week and it's relation to Young Entrepreneurs of Europe goals to prepare for the World Entrepreneurship Congress for GEW Hosts in Kansas City next week. In the first minutes of our discussion we found we had a problem... It was a problem to define if intra-EU entrepreneurship should be considered international or domestic. I'll give you some examples: A company based in France sells goods to a company in Germany, is this international or domestic trade? A services company based in Italy opens a new office in Spain, has this company expanded internationally? If we were in US, selling from New York to California would be domestic. But in Europe it's different. Ideally it shouldn't be any different... Intra-EU trade should be considered domestic.
Of course, the problem is not the wording. We could use a word like "inter-state" that would resolve the problem. But the problem is that Europeans do not understand EU as one country. If they did, they would understand it's power and that EU ranks first at the list of countries by GDP... Yes, USA is in second place, didn't you know that?
I wonder if EU will ever manage to become one country not just in papers, but in reality. Especially now, that some members act as if they promote the interests of foreign countries and not EU's interests. I'm sure that the current financial crisis will act as a catalyst, but I don't know in which direction. I hope it will help EU-States unite and not separate...
After two days at Athens Startup Weekend (#asw) and a few hours before presenting, it is time to launch the website, www.mobcommerce.com . These two days we went from idea to fully working prototype, we created a business plan and had many interesting discussions with other teams and professionals who visited Microsoft Innovation Center, the building that hosts the event. Today we were not very productive as yesterday we did 80% of all the work we wanted to get done... Very good experience so far that proves that in Athens a lot of creative people can sacrifice a weekend to try to build a startup!
UK's Northern Rock, failed and nationalised in February, is now very popular among worried savers who want to take advantage of a government guarantee on their deposits. Actually it's so popular that had to remove a number of savings products as it might reach its deposit limit soon and stop taking money from new customers. How much things can change...
On one hand there is this super event that happens once a year at the city you love and you don't want to miss it for any reason. On the other hand the last months you're travelling very often for business and your girlfriend is not very happy as she stays alone at your apartment for long periods. You think of a solution that looks perfect: you'll go to the event and take your girlfriend with you. Of course, she is not interested at all in the event you'll join, but you think she can go shopping and sightseeing in the morning until the afternoon and spend the rest of the day together.
What sounded like a perfect plan turns out to be a disaster. Why? Well, at the event you met people with common interests with whom you had a lot to share. And the best time and place for networking was at the bar while drinking a beer with your new friends. You also got invitations for meetups that took place during the event and you also needed some time for meetings to discuss possible business opportunities. You had to say "no" a lot, so that you could spend time with your girlfriend as you had planned and like. But there were some networking opportunities that you just couldn't reject, so you did not spent all afternoons and nights with your girlfriend. You're also a cool guy, so your new friends want more of your time. You explained her and she said she understood. That doesn't mean that she was happy with it. And there is more. She also asked you not to attend the event from early morning so that you could have normal breakfast together or go together to a shop to give her your opinion on whatever she was thinking to buy. You're as passionate with your girlfriend as you are with your business and there is a morning you don't want to wake up and you are late to a meeting you had. Again you have to explain.
As an entrepreneur, you're by nature a creative guy. This time, no matter how much energy you had spent to figure out how to get the most out of your trip, you returned home unfulfilled. You feel that you have missed a lot from the event, at least you didn't enjoy it as much as the previous years, when you were fully living the event. Your girlfriend tells you this monument was full of couples and you know she is indirectly complaining for being neglected. And you didn't even think to write to your blog or run a people search for your new friends when you were returning to your hotel at night. So, you brought extra work home and the worst of all is that you learn from other blogs what happened at the event and you're wondering: where was I? You also find your relationship strangely is worse than before the trip.
After some thinking you conclude: "Next time I'll go alone! And when I'm back, or before, I'll travel somewhere else with my girl."
It's nice to be in the same room with like-minded people who love startups and it's amazing what the Greek OpenCoffee has accomplished, but that's what everyone talks about and you might have already read on other blogs.
What I'd like to contribute is my feeling when I left the room. I've attended many official and unofficial business meetings abroad and I remember how excited and full of energy I was after they were over. I would visualize this feeling as a strong desire to run to my hotel and do any task that would help my project succeed, no matter how boring the task is.
Yesterday it was not the same. I left the room with lower energy than I entered. Well, maybe I was disappointed from the presentations. I don't mean that the presentations were bad. It's just that I thought wadja was doing much better and learned that it's not. Or that Stefanos Karagos, an experienced publisher and entrepreneur, advised talented people to leave Greece. Maybe I already know most of the people and don't have the motive to get to know everyone as at the first OpenCoffee meetup. Maybe I don't like to listen to people who project their limiting beliefs to others and try to transform them to "excusers" as well. You know the most popular excuses: "I cannot have access to money", "it's difficult to start a company here", "I know nothing of programming", "I'm still analyzing my idea because I don't want to fail", "I need another master degree before I begin", e.t.c.
I would prefer to listen to people who say "there is plenty of opportunity out there and I act as fast as I can", "I don't have a solid business plan, but I'm in a good team and we're flexible", "I deal with business and marketing issues during the morning and I'm programming during the night", "I'm doing whatever it takes to get to my goal", e.t.c. And I believe that this is what we will listen to more, if we invite really successful IT serial entrepreneurs from other small European countries or non-IT but innovative entrepreneurs from Greece. I have some people in mind and I'll invite them. It's so nice this is an open event by nature and I don't have to get anyone's permission.
Anyway, OpenCoffee is still the best place to be in Athens the first Tuesday of each month!!
Just because you have size 2 jeans in your closet, does that mean that you are size 2?
Being an entrepreneur is much different than being a business owner, an investor, a manager or a freelancer!
The entrepreneur wants to be in control of his future, has a vision and will do anything it takes to succeed. The entrepreneur is a risk taker, he is confident that he can succeed, he is flexible and he is creative in acquiring the resources he needs often thinking outside the box...
We've all heard people saying "I'd like to be an entrepreneur, but I don't have the money...". What an oxymoron! Capital is just one of the resources the entrepreneur will need to serve his vision and it's his responsibility to gain access to it.
Since the 2nd day of LeWeb3 the hottest discussion topic is how French politicians, invited by Loic, hijacked the conference. I see that over 9 out of 10 attendees didn't like that.
So, what did we do?
First of all, what should we have done?
Simply LEAVE THE ROOM!
During French politicians speeches the room was half empty when it should have been 90% empty... How is it possible the top technologists to be unable to communicate, when they have all the communication tools available?
- Most of the participants had their laptops with them and the Wi-Fi was working quite well the second day, so they were online.
- There was a backstage irc channel.
- There was a wiki.
- There was a google group.
- There was the blogosphere.
- Instant messengers and emails could also have been used.
And there was plenty of time to communicate such a message between the visits of the two politicians. Isn't it a paradox?
The best think that happened at LeWeb3 gets a 10, the worst gets a 1. Let's go:
10) The unique chance to meet 1000 like-minded people from 37 countries in one place
9) The conversations that took place at the coffee breaks, lunch breaks, dinners and meetups
The constructive feedback we got from angel investors and venture capitalists about our new project
7) The presentation of Hans Rosling
6) The live comments at the IRC backstage channel that worked the second day.
5) The 40 minutes we had to wait to get our coats after the party.
4) The boring presentations and panels
3) Mike Arrington did not come and nobody explained us why
2) The Wi-Fi was not working the first day
Overall it was a GREAT way to begin my week and I'm glad I was there!
We're on the second day of Leweb3 here in Paris. Since the warm-up meetups on Sunday, one of the hottest discussions is the comparison of being a startup company in Silicon Valley and Europe.
I've heard some negative comments for Europe like "Americans view Europe as a small market without innovation and they can always acquire if needed".
On the other hand, I've heard very positive comments about Europe like "If we're accused of not working hard and we still perform better than others, it means that we work smarter" or like "We have many examples of tech companies that made it big, stop discussing if we can compete with Silicon Valley or not and let's do it. In Silicon Valley nobody discusses if they can compete against Europe...
One thing everyone agrees is that one of the big advantages of Silicon Valley is that a whole innovative community is concentrated in a one hour drive radius. Smart entrepreneurs, developers, angels, VCs, universities and tech journalists. As you go to Hollywood to make movies, as you go to New York or London for stocks, you go to Silicon Valley to make innovative software. I believe that this is by far the most important advantage of Silicon Valley compared to Europe.
I've met smart guys from both sides of the Atlantic. I don't see any signs that Americans are smarter than Europeans. They might be more entrepreneurial, but Europeans have other qualities. For example they speak at least 2-3 languages and better understand the international aspect of the web. Especially those of us who don't come from Germany, UK or France, but from a small market, we're forced to look abroad right from the beginning if we want to do something significant.
Well, if we all agree, why not to build the European Silicon Valley? And I don't mean to expect from EU bureaucrats to build one for us, because it will take a century... If this project was ever to become reality and I had a chance to propose a place, that would be in Mediterranean of course, and specifically Crete Island in Greece.
I was at the European Parliament the previous week for the annual summit of European young entrepreneurs (YES for Europe). I found the most interesting presentation to be Mr Horst Soboll's, Chairman of the European Research Advisory Board of the European Commission. The strongest point he made was that Europe has serious problems transforming knowledge successfully into commercial viable products and services. Europe's share of world scientific publications is 38.3% compared to 31.1% of US. On the other hand, Europe's share of world triadic patents is 31.5% compared to 34.3% of US. And Europe's share of world high tech exports is 16.7% compared to 20.0% of US. What's happening? We haveÂ a paradox here. It seems that in Europe we're more interested in acquiring more knowledge than transforming it to products. Well, maybe this paradox has its roots in schools, where teachers ask students to go find information rather than try to use the information. What's the meaning of asking students to collect information about a subject? Wake up! Students know how to use internet better than teachers to find any information. It's how to use the information that is important.