Controversy at Le Web? Sacre Bleu!
I had to skip this year's Le Web conference, and I have to say, as much as I enjoyed it last year, on Monday I was so happy not to be jet lagged (again) and cold. (Well, colder than it is in my non-heated house. Brrrrrrr!)
Of course, when I travel to conferences I never get the posh treatment of Michael Arrington, who has apparently picked a fight with Loic about American vs. European entrepreneurs. Loic answers back here. As someone who has gone on four trips to Europe in the last year and has met with hundreds of entrepreneurs, here are my thoughts.
First, Loic is right when he says at the end of the post that this is no longer an interesting or meaningful debate. That said, like it or not, we'll keep having it because of the stark and honest reality that Michael describes:
"...the joy of life is great, but all these two hour lunches over a bottle or two of great wine and general unwillingness to do whatever it takes to compete and win is the reason why all the big public Internet companies are U.S. based. And those European startups that do manage to break through cultural and tax hurdles and find success are quickly gobbled up by those U.S. companies. Skype (acquired by eBay) and MySQL (acquired by Sun) are recent examples.
The crowd jeered but the stark reality of it all is unavoidable. And the fact that the panelists on stage, all either American or living in America, suggested that you can somehow succeed with a startup while maintaining a healthy work-life balance is unfortunate. Too many people choose to be entrepreneurs as a lifestyle, without realizing that it takes everything you have and more to win. And if you aren’t in it to win, why not just take that nice job down the street that gives you five weeks of vacation."
I couldn't agree with Michael more. I think we're going to see entrepreneurship explode globally over the next decade; but as of now, there are very, very, very few examples of startups that have become billion dollar, stand-alone companies that are not at least headquartered in the Valley. So as a result, sharp entrepreneurs around the world who I've met want to know what the Valley does well. And what the Valley does well is tireless work. During several of my book tour stops in the Midwest and the South I was asked if you could have a family and be an entrepreneur. You can. But not if you are trying to build the next Google or Facebook. There is no work life balance at that level. Again, know the game you are playing.
That said, I am not sure what Silicon Valley Loic is living in when he writes this:
"There is a huge difference between being lazy and taking time to know each other. It is one of the main cultural differences I feel everyday as I moved to Silicon Valley: every minute, every coffee, every phone call must have a point. When you call someone in Silicon Valley for anything you will likely get "why are you calling me?" ...
...Don't even think about starting a conversation in Silicon Valley by "how was your week-end" or "how are your kids", they all want you to go straight to the point and no time to lose. I never thought inviting someone I really liked to know better to dinner would get me an email from his assistant "why would you like to invite him to dinner?". I do not think europeans are lazy taking the time to know each other and build deep long term friendships that are not limited to business and I do not think this hurts Europe in any way. On the contrary."
As hard as we all work, this is in no way my experience. Everyday I IM, email or have calls with people that all start out with us chatting about our personal lives. In fact, my favorite conference, the Lobby, is entirely centered around that, which is a big reason most of the attendees bring their families. Several times a week I have long meandering dinners with entrepreneurs and investors where we talk about everything from entrepreneurship to family life to politics to tech and, yes, business. This is why I love living in the Valley. I'm rarely bored in a conversation.
The most extreme example was the research for my book. Incredibly busy entrepreneurs at the most crucial stages of building their companies took hours at a time to talk to me about life and work, repeatedly over more than a year's time. I was never asked what they'd be getting out of it. In fact, a lot of people have asked me why they gave up so much time, and I never have a great answer, because I never once had to have that conversation. So I asked Max Levchin that at the Churchill Club event we did. He looked a little stumped, as though he'd never really thought about it that way either, and said that he just thought telling the whole story of the Internet from the bust through this generation of companies and doing it right was somehow important.
Perhaps Loic just needs new friends in the Valley? ;)
[PHOTOS: Me interviewing Kevin Rose on stage at Le Web last year by Adam Tinworth. Me laughing it up with Le Web's incredibly talented content creator Cathy Brooks after one of those amazing French dinners. Doc Searls took a zillion photos that night of Mr. Lacy and me, Evan and Sara Williams, Jason Calacanis, Jeff Pulver, Pistachio and others chilling in the hotel lobby. If Loic was right...would all those people have flown to Paris just to hang out?]
An unforgettable portrait of the emerging world's entrepreneurial dynamos Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky is the story about that top 1% of people who do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can. This new breed of self-starter is taking local turmoil and turning it into opportunities, making millions, creating thousands of jobs and changing the face of modern entrepreneurship at the same time. To tell this story, Lacy spent forty weeks traveling through Asia, South America and Africa hunting down the most impressive up-and-comers the developed world has never heard of....yet.
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