Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Reflections on the Valley

I was recently in San Francisco - only the third time since we founded our start-up in the UK and again I was struck by the vast differences between the culture in the Valley versus here in Europe.

I met several seasoned entrepreneurs on their fourth, fifth, six start-up who were younger than me - three years into my first at 36.

The scarce commodity in the Valley is coding. If you are a quality coder with an idea then you can invest time and energy in an idea and find a receptive audience to listen to your plans with a view to backing you. The model is that if you then generate traction a management team is drafted in to provide the professional backbone to the company.

That model does not exist in Europe - indeed though increasingly scarce, coders are seldom the most highly paid individuals within a company. Looking at the network operators in the mobile space the order of pay for mid level employees would probably run: strategy, business development, marketing, portal management and then coders. This has much to do with the sourcing of these employees: strategists tend to come from management consultancies with associated salaries versus self made, home made developers.

In the US it is the ingenuity of the developer which is seen as the secret sauce of the company and backed. In Europe, it tends often to be the Management Team even at a seed level and a developer on their own is perceived as less credible.

The best advice I would give to any UK developer with an idea would be to up sticks and go to the Valley for two years. There will be so much opportunity in that time that it would never be a wasted experience.

At one event, I heard Steve Ballmer say that the gift he wants to give to his children is a love of technology and the inquisitiveness to use it to try new things. I can totally understand how his environment and the investment environment in the US fits this answer. In the UK, I think that this would be a less clear cut ambition. Vive la change!

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