U.S. vs. European Entrepreneurial Thinking

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Kristof De Spiegeleer, CEO of Incubaid, a Belgian incubator argues that Silicon Valley startups are prone to a superficial approach because of the cultural and market forces in play in America.

While it’s true that U.S. ventures tend to seek the “low-hanging fruit” to survive because of the intense competition, what De Spiegeleer is really addressing is the unipolar nature of the U.S. market vs. Europe’s multipolar markets. It’s easier to roll out products and services to a single, large U.S. market compared to a variety of European markets. Thus, European companies must find commonalities at a deeper level to bridge the cultural, language and economic gaps. But a multipolar approach is not necessarily better; it’s just an appropriate approach to a multifaceted European market. Fast, incremental innovation is more appropriate for the hyper-competitive, unipolar U.S. market.  But even in the U.S., marketers need to tailor their brand when selling to the fast-growing Hispanic and Asian Americans markets, so even the U.S. market is becoming more multipolar due to strong immigration.

In Silicon Valley,”Be fast or dead.” Most ventures die for lack of momentum and drive, not deeply-conceived technology. Pursuing a slower European approach might work in Europe, but in Silicon Valley that venture would be passed by fast-moving competitors. Google faced 47 search engine competitors, but it marketed itself much more aggressively.

One company that has learned how to market effectively is Rovio, the creator of the popular Angry Birds game. Started in Finland, it’s now growing fast in the U.S.. Rovio shows that European startups can start as “deep” companies (Rovio developed Angry Birds by studying its previous games) and grow fast in the U.S. by adopting a “superficial” (horizontal) U.S. marketing and development approach.  Thus, Rovio demonstrates that neither approach is better than the other. They’re just different adaptations to different markets or, as the saying goes, “Evolve or die!”.


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