There has been plenty written about the differences between the entrepreneurial culture in Europe and the culture in the US. The recent NESTA organised Silicon Valley comes to the UK generated more great debate amongst the differences between the two cultures.
So what's the view from London? One of the reasons I've been quiet on this blog of late is that I've been focussed on the Live Talkback business - which has reached a stage where we are actively working to raise VC. So I've been spending lots of time on fund raising. (If you are a VC reading this blog and are interested in backing the next big thing - then just drop me a mail as millarm [at] livetalkback.com and we'll talk)
So what have I seen so far?
Fund raising is hard - ask 10 people what the "right" way to pitch a VC is and you'll get 10 different answers. Look for example "pitch" decks and you'll get 10 different examples. What's important is that entrepreneurs can talk to multiple mentors, hear their advice and experience and integrate that into their own pitch plans - and ultimately end up with the pitch that is right for their business. This needs a community of helpful peer level mentors - something that the valley has in every coffee shop, but is much harder to find in London. Having worked with great people in the valley in my past corporate lives I'm lucky - I've got the contacts there, so have been able to persuade as many people on the west coast to help me out as people in London.
The critical VC question
European VCs and angels tend to ask very early "what is the business model?" - seeking to understand how the company will make money.
Valley VCs tend to ask "what is your plan to grow users?" - seeking to understand how the company will get adoption, then deal with monetizing later
While these are generalisations (I've met with european VC's that take a Valley approach and Valley VC's that take a european approach) it does tend to integrate into the overall community feedback - if you meet with 5 people who ask "what's the business model" the entrepreneur is influenced to put more time and effort into answering that question (so that they can move on to "how do we grow users") than answering the how do we grow users question. Successful businesses will of course be able to answer all of these - but the european culture tends to value the "how do you make money" over the "how do you get millions of users" - and this does hinder entrepreneurs who's ambition is to own a massive share of a new global market - so when asking the question "can europe create the next Google/Facebook/Twitter" we should ask "will europe be proud of a massive global success that isn't yet making money"? The culture in europe tends towards the view that you haven't yet proven yourselves unless you are profitable.
Silicon Valley clearly has some key advantages that act as accelerators for businesses - and it has a lead and a community that make that self sustaining - however the core elements that are needed to create globally successful businesses clearly exist in London (Skype and Betfair are great examples here) - the difference is that as an entrepreneur you do need to be more persistent and focussed on what you want in London - but what is an entrepreneur if not persistent and focussed. I'll continue looking for the right partner to fund Live Talkback - I'll be interested to see if they are based in London, or outside.