This post is 1st of 3 in the series aimed at discussing ways Silicon Valley and European tech scenes could contribute to and gain more from each other. The series are an expansion of a short speech I gave at Slush conference in November 2013 (video of which should be online soon) but I believe this topic is calls for more discussion and thinking along than 15 one-directional minutes on conference stage.
If you were to sit in the audience of any European tech summit these days you get soaked in action around you. Would it be TechCrunch Disrupt Europe, LeWeb, or the raising 5000-attendee rocket of the region, Slush in the November darkness of Helsinki – there is no arguing that the European startup scene is in its most bustling, vibrant shape ever.
Yet, a lot of this exciting renaissance seems still to be constrained to the Old World continent.
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The most recent Garage48 weekend event in Tallinn sparked some healthy discussion around the perceived and actually delivered value of this format towards the commonly accepted goal of creating more young, brave and hungry technology businesses in the country. The devoted fans of the time-constraint, playful and cutely random 48-hour hackathon were publicly questioned if their lack of attention to the big bad real world (business cases, marketing channels and Terms of Service legalese) were not accidentally misleading the youth to think that creating a real company is a joyride, lacking the need of solving the really hard problems.
Following the discussion (including further reading pointers in the end of this post) it felt like a bit more universal of a worry than just this particular event or our particular country. To share these concerns — and furthermore — seek further input from the international scene of startup support programs (and reacting to a random Facebook comment requesting the same) I decided to turn this conversation to English. And as it felt very little value add over Google Translate to start replicating the brightest arguments I decided to do something different.
Let’s try to visualize this conflict.
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An interesting graph from a presentation by Ott Pärna, CEO of Estonian Development Fund (see also my post from their recent event, in Estonian). Estonian & German industries being compared here by employment (left) and value added per manufacturing area.
One common characteristic we share is that there are a lot of areas where a large share of people is adding a tiny part of the value for country’s economy. However, it is quite concerning how tilted towards the bottom (= less value) is the distribution of Estonian workforce.
It would be very interesting to see service industries in different countries being compared in a similar way – such as the software, biotech, nanotech and other innovation/R&D fields we talk so much about. Anyone have a good pointer?
PS: most value in German manufacturing is added with oil, nuclear fuel and tobacco? Scary…