My name is Spencer Lazar. I am a venture capitalist at General Catalyst. I grew up with the internet, spend my life thinking about how it can make our lives better, and work with world-class entrepreneurs to affect that chanage. NYC is my home. This is my blog.

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US vs. EU: Extraverts vs. Introverts

I have now lived in Europe for six months.  It has been an exciting period of intense immersion in which I have met scores of new people in the technology ecosystem and traveled a ton.  Whether with an entrepreneur, investor, or even just a new social acquaintance, I only need speak a word before locals discover that I am a foreigner.  What follows is typically some variation on the same question: how is Europe different from the US?

As this is a big question whose answer is ever-evolving, I thought that I would unpack it by focusing first on one key element of what distinguishes American from European entrepreneurs: a culture of self-promotion.

Self-promotion or salesmanship is one of the most important qualities an entrepreneur can have.  It is the means by which individuals convince others to join a founding team and win any other key hire along the entrepreneurial journey.  It is the positioning used to persuade organizations to trust a fledgling product as an early customer.  It is the push behind a leap of faith required for early stage investors to buy into the dream of a big outcome.  It is a source of creativity required to land both technical and business strategic partnerships - and ultimately exits.  As such, I believe a dearth of self-promotion hampers one's chances of success.

There are a number of structural reasons why self-promotion is somewhat harder to do in Europe.  The first and probably most publicly visible is language.  According to the EU, Europe has 23 working languages.  This inhibits ideation, hiring, and commercialization.  The second is density.  In Europe, everything is just more spread out.  Buildings are typically no more than four or five stories high, leading to sprawl.  And, distance equals effort.  This means teams must work harder to find one another, customers are harder to visit, executives must travel farther to find compelling sources of capital (if at all), and the attention of potential strategic acquirers is more difficult to attract.   

I am not a fan of the complete shameless self-promotion which both Chris Dixon and Chris Sacca recently pointed out as falling out of vogue in America where even the most unlikely of start-ups can find a path toward public visibility.  

I am a believer that people (and particularly entrepreneurs) should be proud of what they are doing & have accomplished and find ways of more frequently (but still appropriately) communicating it to relevant parties.  I would not be in Europe if I did not feel the enormous potential of the region.  

If you are interested, here are a few concrete suggestions:

  • Find ways to close the distance.  Get together more regularly (or even co-locate when appropriate). TechHub in an example of a formal shared space, however, many exist such as OpenCoffee that are less formal tech focused gatherings.
  • Engage with the European branches of some of the larger US tech companies including Google and Facebook, who have now been in Europe for some time, and have strong cultures of innovation (as well as start-ups sprung from within).  They could be your partners, your co-founders, or your acquirers.
  • Embrace social media.  Twitter, Facebook, and even location-based broadcasting services are great ways to get low cost visibility.  Your brand should have a presence that is well curated and actively engaged with your community & customers.

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Reader Comments (1)

You know why I love your blog? You don't just raise issues and point out the obvious, you actually try to provide a solution or a possible resolution to anything you raise. On top of all that, you write very well. Thanks for putting your thoughts in words you can share. (and I totally agree with what you said about the Kindle)

May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGenevieve

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