23 Dec

US and European Entrepreneurs – More Than an Ocean Divides Them

You have to watch this video to get an idea of the gulf in attitudes between American and European entrepreneurs.  The world may be flattening, but not everyone in Silicon Valley has heard the news.

It’s a panel discussion that took place at a Paris Web conference called LeWeb.  As a panel discussion it’s a complete train wreck — unscripted and out of control with boorish people patronizing the mostly European audience.  At around the 14 minute mark is when things heat up, and at one point one of the speakers was jeered.


But what’s revealing is the attitudes of the Americans and Europeans about startups. 

The Americans say:  “You Europeans are lazy, take 2-hour lunches, and don’t work hard enough to be successful entrepreneurs, like we Americans do.  No wonder there are no big tech companies over in Europe.”

The Europeans say:  “You are arrogant, self-absorbed and have a terrible quality of life.  We Europeans have successful companies, but you Americans just don’t pay attention to them.”

And if want to see starker differences between European and American entrepreneurs, see this post with the background story, where nearly 500 comments continue the debate between Europe and America (with Asia kicked around now and then like a ball, from both sides). 

Like I said, unintentionally revealing in many ways.

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  1. Amanda said on December 23rd, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Very interesting. It pains me how arrogant Americans can be. We have a bad habit of thinking our ways are ALWAYS right and insulting people who don’t think like us. I think both sides have great points and we all could learn from each other if only Americans could open their minds and accept that another country may know better about a certain topic.

  2. Mary Grace Ignacio said on December 23rd, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Wow! I am very surprised of how the attitude of two “giants” are revealed! But I no longer wonder that there is really a wall dividing both US and Europe but I am just surprised because I wasn’t expecting it as big as this!

  3. Martin Lindeskog said on December 24th, 2008 at 8:22 am

    I have plenty of things to say about this. For a background, read my post, The Small Business Climate in Different Countries. I will come back with more thoughts later on. As a member of the EU stated in the passport, but as an American in spirit, I have an answer to the culture differences: Learn more about cross-cultural behavior!

  4. Rose Anderson said on December 28th, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    Learn more about cross-cultural behavior! – This sounds interesting, Martin! I’ll read your post!

  5. Chris said on December 29th, 2008 at 10:24 am

    This was quite interesting. And as I see it, both sides are making valid points. And I think the gist of the two hour lunch comment was that — American’s may to too “let’s get right down to business” and not quite as personable as one might like to see.

    I have to agree with his comment that American’s want to move too fast. Its true, we do. I see what he’s saying there. We want everything instanly these days – and EXPECT it instantly. If we can’t have something right away, we walk away. We devour information, we “consume” everything we can get our hands on. See it, possess it, gobble it up immediately. Consume, consume, consume. You have to admit . . it is a hectic pace. Its possible that slowing down a tad on your way to the finish line may do us all a bit of good. We may notice things we’ve never noticed before on the way there which could lead to bigger and better opportunities. But Americans tend to race from goal to goal as if on a critical mission.

    In America, if you don’t work, work, work you tend to be viewed poorly. If you stop and smell the roses, your lazy. It is quite the conundrum and I will agree that Americans value people more by their goals and accomplishments rather than their individual personalities. In America, if you took two hour lunches. . . you’d be pegged as lazy, unambitious and someone whose simply satisfied with “getting by.” You may be ambitious at heart, but if you stop to smell the roses here in America – and are not working at a ridiculously fast, life consuming pace . . .your simply viewed as less somehow.

    I don’t think its about the benefits of eating for two hours as much as its about personability and building real relationships. Personal and business relationships. It sounds like they’d like to make friends as well as business partners and associates . . . and Americans may only be interested in doing business. We look like we’re not in business to make friends 🙂

    I see both sides of the fence here and who knows. . .maybe making friends while doing business could end up being a nice work-life balance 🙂 Americans may be the leaders of industry right now . . . but the real question is, “Are they the happiest?”

  6. Martin Lindeskog said on January 1st, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Rose Anderson: Please send me an email and I will you give a book tip and we continue to discuss this matter.

    Chris: As I have stated before, I am an American in spirit. I have studied and worked both in Europe and America and I can see differences and similarities. In the long-run, it is the result that is important. Do you achieve your goals? One thing is the different perspective of time. Is it linear or circular?

    I am happy to discuss this more and detail and I could put it in a project management model.

  7. Rose Anderson said on January 2nd, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Hi Martin,

    I don’t have your email.

  8. Martin Lindeskog said on January 3rd, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Rose: My email address is: “My first name” @ “My surname” .name

    Or find it on my website.

  9. A Cultural Generalization Out Of Context said on January 8th, 2009 at 4:13 am

    […] US and European Entrepreneurs – More Than an Ocean Divides Them […]

  10. A Communication Disconnect Between Two Cultures said on January 8th, 2009 at 5:47 am

    […] video you see on Anita’s post makes it clear that this is a “friendly” wrap up […]

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