Tighten the Synapse to the Global Edge

22 10 2012

I had forgotten about this one – was reminded of it the other day – from 18 mos ago:


In short, if Europeans want to play at the global level, they can, but they have to play… at the global level… I think I entitled it Execute at Win Speed.

FT Article

19 09 2011

Well, definitely a big picture…

Admittedly, I actually find experienced angels with great relevant experience to be the very best to get by far – but the quotes spun on the risk ones. Also, in Europe at least, we simply need more.

FT110917 Article on Angels

New Venture Economics – Vid from TheNextWeb

21 06 2011

Here’s a little spiel the fine folk at TheNextWeb invited me to deliver about the changes in the nature of investment funds and the implications on entrepreneurs, angels and funds in Europe. Funny to note that even end-April, the IPO window was still not a given. Lots of info, probably better in 10 min than 15, but there ya go. Go Rocky!

Reuters piece by Matt Cowan on Tech in London

21 06 2011

Nice piece – some of our stars, Michael Acton Smith (Mindcandy), Iain Dodsworth (Tweetdeck), Alicia Navarro (Skimlinks) and a few observations from yours truly.



12 10 2010

Good review of ‘Why Seedcamp?’ and by virtue of its role, the steady, eclectic evolution of the Euro-Ecosystem by Saul Klein, who came up with and galvanised the concept… Speaking of some of the valid comments about international looking beyond Europe, I’m forward to Seedcamp Mumbai in December…

Valley v Europe… or Lon Francisco

12 10 2010

Great guy and pal Basti interviewed on Tech Crunch TV by Paul Carr and Sarah Lacy and has generated some good chatter – I thought I’d put one of my excerpts on the blog. In exciting news (to me), it actually inspired me to re-instate my domain forwarding and is my first post in about 1.3 years. Ok, mebbe I’m back. Mebbe not. In any case:

Original Video: http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/11/euro-entrepreneurs-either-come-to-the-valley-or-stay-home-and-play-with-the-losers/

And my email / post:

Basti, Baby,

Being double-teamed by two of the better minds in the business on one of your first TV interviews is definitely a great rite of passage.

And, guess what, even bringing the debate of Silicon Valley v London (Not Europe, Hon) is a fine thing.

How-evah, a few thoughts:

 – What is your company / model?: Basti’s co definitely has a super-charged factor by being closer to the centre of the Twittosphere

 – 80:20… ROW > USA: I love Sarah’s point about traffic coming from outside of the US; The reason I decided to plant the proverbial flag in London in 2008 was that I felt that international is key – If I look at why GoIndustry beat out 8 competitors funded w/ $1B it was because the international aspect of our particular business mattered and once we got the international model nailed, the US was just one more country (admittedly, with an American founder team).  You can’t miss that FB, LI, Twitter, Zynga are all moving East to London and Dublin and kicking butt, but even better is having multi-national in your DNA… Including USA

 – Just like in high school, being cool is fun… But dangerous: Anyone who wants to make in dance should do a stint in NYC; In start-ups, making sure that you ‘measure up’ to the Valley crew is key.  But I think that Sarah makes a(nother) great point about whether it is whether we get caught up in being ‘down with the cool kids’ that are ‘cool’ (in a geek kinda way) because they are Valley-known / echo-chamber approved / ‘backed by the right angel’ versus ones who identify a need, build a great product, and execute like a mother f**ker

So, why London?

I gotta admit, what I saw in London in early 2008 was tough – expensive devs, high rent, no product people, no cash, no experienced angels, conservative VCs, small market.  However,

I’d now say
 > Frankly, in 2010 (helped by the demise of the ‘City’ and it’s endless contractor pools of devs, it is easier and better to get a fantastic dev and product team in London than the Valley (where they’re always going to be drawn to the next or to the GOOG) and cost-competitive to India… But you can dip in and get more, from Romania, Ukraine, Estonia.  Endless supplies.  H1 Visa issues?   Bite me, it’s EU.

 > High rent: Still a pain, but well-managed, seek the buildings doomed for the wrecking ball (Slicon Soho, TransWorld House, more – I’m in – it’s simple arbitrage)

 > No Product People: Not enough, but better (shout to Janna / ProductCamp)

 > No Cash, no experienced angels, conservative VCs: Yup.  That’s a bitch.  But getting better. And a) nigh eliminates the ‘limp-alongs’ cited by Sarah, b) angels are increasing, if slowly, c) VCs got pummeled and are licking the wounds of ‘99, ‘02 and even ‘06 … But they’re getting more aggressive today.  Really, today. And, guess what?  US VCs are learning how to use IBANs and those crazy ‘+’ signs on their phones.  Have you seen the influx of talent from the Valley.  Mark my words, they’ll be crampin’ my style in 18 months.
> Echo chamber? Artificial social valuations vs. real traction?  Sure.  But so much less so than the Valley.  I (unsurprisingly) believe in the benefit of an experienced set of investors / advisors.  But there’s too much glam around ‘this was backed by xxx’ – What really matters is getting real traction and getting s**t done.  

 > Defense, baby.  One great thing about being Euro is that it is easy to get native German, French, Spanish and other peeps here.  The US can definitely assail the UK.  A quick look at top sites confirms it.  But if you think European, you can build your ‘fortress’.  

 > Don’t confuse a good defense with no offense: Get on the goddamn plane.  Get to know the Valley crew.  Build the bridges.  Impress them.  Do the deals.  Biz dev is easier in the US – we Americans are straight shooters, consumate networkers, and do deals quickly – and the US has bigger firms / networks / publishers. Compare your speed, agility, talent, ambition to the brightest.  But if you think about trying to compete for dev talent w/ Google, Facebook and 200 misguided VCs versus the best missile command system designers from the Eastern Bloc and their spawn, I’d say that there is a rationale for here.  It’s not easy to span both, but world conquest has it’s cost in jetlag…

 > Govt support: It’s not perfect, but the Technology credits and loan guarantees are ok, and there should be more coming down the pipe.  It doesn’t make up for smart money, but most money isn’t really that smart after all anyway.

 > Ecosystem: The Valley is exciting because everyone is in tech.  But sometimes it’s nice to be in the minority, working together on the great conspiracy.  ( Faction. Noun. “A minority group working within, and in opposition to, a majority group.” ) Supporting one another and helping one another grow.  But only if we make each other better.  And I’ll say that I believe we can, we will and it’s a little more fun that way.  

 > So, the answer?  Both.  That’s why I ultimately picked here.  I’m fortunate, I’ve got years in the Valley and childhood friends there. But you don’t have to. We’ve got a collective network over there. If you are good, compete w/ the Valley – But there are reasons why having a European HQ is not loser-ville.  Just make sure you are seamless.  It used to be NY-LON – Maybe it’s more Lon Francisco these days.

At Google Zeitgeist, UK Government Fails the “Get It” Test: Mandelson Harkens Back To When Govt Media Relations Was About Speaking, Not Listening

18 05 2009

zeitgeist badge

Ok, caveats.

> There is no doubt in my mind – if only because their global impact was greater, that the George W Bush administration was worse than this Brown Labour government. In many ways, more competent, but guiding their nation in dangerous directions and out of touch. But, at last, they are gone.
> I am not yet able to vote in the UK and while in the US I have always been of the Democrat persuasion – and further have sympathy for the principles of New Labour

However, watching this Labour government is, as the phrase goes, ‘car crash TV.’ One reason manifested itself today here at Google’s legendary Zeitgeist – the retreat of the good and the great in technology plus a dash of TED-esque thought leadership.

Lord Mandelson, the much-lauded New Labour spin doctor, put on a brave face by coming in to such a large and influential audience in the eye of the MP expense storm and in fact handled it well. He used charm and even addressed some points on that topical item without being prompted.

His primary speech also underscored a lot of pro-free trade commentary and pro-competition beliefs that make the UK’s left stand out in Europe and will be the underpinnings of why the UK will come out of this crisis ahead of the Old World of the continent, whenever that should be. I am convinced that the British propensity to openness to competition and migration will serve it well in these years (says the Yank).

However, one telling answer to a question showed why this Labour has struggled to understand what people of the the UK think – note that this is the most advanced nation in the takeup of online media in the world. He was asked what he thinks of the digitisation of media by Nancy Cruickshank, the Exec Director charged with digital development at the Telegraph (currently the UK’s leading online newspaper w/ 26M uniques) .

He harkened back to the ‘good old days’ of media when they only had to get one-ish press release out a day to drive the media cycle. He admitted that it was pointless to wish away this new world where millions are part of the media and the message, not just a handful of state-owned TV stations and a few newspapers. But he clearly was wistful and he indicated that it was ‘getting in the way of him doing his job.’

Run that by me again? The fact that he can, without pricey pollsters and biased, variably-talented civil servants, have free access to both what people think and maybe, just maybe, even leverage ideas that did not come from within the hallowed sanctum of Whitehall doesn’t seem to be a possible advantage? The potential to generate not just a controlled message, but get feedback and improve couldn’t be an opportunity?

That is precisely why Brown-Darling-Mandelson have been blind to see the receptiveness of last-minute, secret decisions like the 10pct tax shift and more. They make decisions in a vacuum. And consider the public – their masters – as people to be kept at arms length and at bay. Just like any country, just – dare I say it – like Obama, one does not expect a government to react hourly, minutely, to every comment by every citizen. And I am a big believer in the concept that popularity does not necessarily equal good policy (I think Bill Clinton got away with a lot due to some bouyant times). Elected representatives have an obligation do make hard decisions that may not be popular sometimes. But they should not be blind to obvious sentiment.

Ironically, Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler, on what he dubbed the ‘dinosaur panel,’ was refreshingly in tune with the idea of listening to to users for product design and even leveraging the opensource community for technology development.

I do wish I felt that the Etonian clubbies in the Conservative party were more of the ilk of the down-to-earth, Blackberry-wielding man in the White House, but even so, I’m amonst those who are ready for change.


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