This Easter weekend proved what Milo Yiannopoulos has been suspecting for some time: compared to the Americans, European start-ups are indolent wretches.
Are you enjoying your Easter weekend? Oh, you are? Well, shame on you. No, I mean it. London start-ups haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory this weekend. There I am at 4 p.m. last Thursday in one of London’s premier co-working spaces, and what do I hear? “Thanks mate, yeah, have a good weekend, see you on Tuesday.” Tuesday?!
Now, look. I get a lot of turds through my letterbox about being overly negative when it comes to the European start-up ecosystem. I’m not. Or rather, I am, but only in the sense that one is overly critical of the things one loves most. The co-working space in question is a graveyard today. As I look around, I am… mystified. And this, from a Catholic who really has better things to do on Easter weekend. I mean, I ate fish on Friday and everything.
So I’m going to call you guys out on this one. Taking four days off over a bank holiday does not speak well about your levels of ambition. It just doesn’t. I mean, can you name me a Valley chief executive who’d write off four days to go to the countryside and get fed up by mom? No. And one of the reasons I know you can’t is I called eight of them this weekend. You know, just to make sure I wasn’t being a complete fantasist.
Not a single of my friends who run companies in the Valley had “gone home for Easter”. In fact, the only people I could find in San Francisco who took that much time off were… Brits. The work-shy European culture they have taken with them has proven impossible to shake off.
It’s not just me. Some of your peers are equally as dispirited by the lax attitude to work on the continent. I had breakfast this morning with a well-known social software entrepreneur. His words? “I’m pretty disgusted by Europe. I can’t wait to move to America.” (This is what you have done to your best and brightest.) He agreed that for a small island with so many competitive disadvantages, it seems insane to take so much time off.
I mean, sure, across Europe we probably take the fewest days off work annually. But my God, if you want to use fucking France as the yardstick then we might as well all pack up now and capitulate the internet industry to California and the Samwers (who, incidentally, are among the few Europeans who are not burdened by virtue and indolence).
Those ignorant of the demands of building a world-beating company sometimes say that if you can’t take four days off without the business imploding something is wrong. They miss the point utterly. In a start-up, there are no finite goals: no boxes to be ticked. There is no path; no final destination. The limit of what can be achieved is dictated only by the level of ambition and sweat you put in.
It’s true that there’s only so much you can do in a week. That much of your progress is dependent on others. That what you can achieve is limited by your physical health and circumscribed by the risk of burn-out. But I see too many European entrepreneurs not pushing themselves nearly hard enough, yet whining that their products fail to get traction or that “getting investment is really difficult”.
European venture capitalists are – with some justification – mocked for their cautiousness and lack of vision. But it’s getting harder and harder to escape the conclusion that European entrepreneurs are lazier and less competent than their American counterparts as well. In the case of the entrepreneurs, that need not be so, but what looks to a European founder like hard work would make most Valley chief executives snort with derision.
If you don’t believe me, consider the following: the hours Jack Dorsey works, splitting his time between Twitter and Square. Or how Mark Pincus or Andrew Mason would respond to the suggestion that they should take four days off for a public holiday. And then, just for fun, imagine how hard the Chinese are laughing right now… at all of us.