Where are the great European Internet companies – the Euro Google, EBay or Facebook? They are out to lunch. That’s the view, at least, of Michael Arrington, the Silicon Valley based founder and CEO of the leading technology blog Techcrunch. Earlier this month in
Arrington was actually responding to remarks by Loic Le Meur, a leading French entrepreneur and the organizer of the Le Web ‘08 event. According to Le Meur, who is also the CEO of the social networking video start-up Seesmic, the big difference between the new media culture in Europe and America is that American entrepreneurs “don’t know how to take time and have lunch.” Europeans, he told Arrington, “want to know people” and don’t judge all work relationships in strictly utilitarian business terms.
This highly controversial and much publicized exchange at Le Web ‘08 between Le Meur and Arrington has, of course, been grist to the mill of all the xenophobic Yahoos on the Internet. But beyond all the predictable culture-warrior baggage that goes with this kind of debate, there is a serious question here about why European entrepreneurs and companies have generally struggled to complete globally with Silicon Valley.
I spoke to both Arrington and Le Meur last week on the telephone to get a more measured take on their debate. Arrington, an ex lawyer who partially grew up in
Le Meur, who once advised French President Nicolas Sarkozy on digital matters and who himself moved to Silicon Valley in 2007 to found Seesmic, agrees with Arrington about the added structural problems of doing a new media start-up in
I wonder, however, if there is another more fundamental difference between American and European entrepreneurs in terms of the meaning of work in their lives. In his latest book, Tribes, Seth Godin, a leading American marketing blogger, confesses to obsessively checking his email at 4.00 am while on holiday in