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Pt III of interview with Randy Komisar on European Entrepreneurs & Incubators. Randy is an author & venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He wrote ‘The Monk & the Riddle’ & ‘Getting to Plan B’. He is the original ‘virtual CEO’ and has a hands on approach with startups with whom he invests. The interview is featured in 3 parts. This is Part III on European Entrepreneurs & Incubators.
This is the transcription and the video above.
- For all the European entrepreneurs, where venture capital investment is more difficult & business is much more conservative & risk averse: Do you have any advice to support them in sourcing funding. Is there no other option than living in the Valley?
I just came back from Barcelona where I was a speaker & then a judge of a global competition called HIT. And I was really encouraged by it, this was the second year. And these were entrepreneurs & venture capitalists sourced from all over the world: from Chile, from India, from China, from Germany, from Norway. There was a broad swath of great entrepreneurs that had gone through several levels of competition to get to this final competition in Barcelona. I was very impressed with the quality of the people. The quality of the people that I saw starting companies around the world through this lens was as good as the best that I saw here in the valley. What was missing, in my mind, was an environment in which those seeds could take root. I felt almost embarrassed, because as I gave them sort of crumbs of information & insights they feasted on it. And my heart went out to them because these are people who had the capacity to do great things, and they were clearly in environments where they weren’t able to find the resources, the guidance, the mentoring,and the talent that they would need to take their businesses to market. Some I hope will succeed, some are willing to transplant themselves to the United States to be in that environment.
The truth is that innovation is distributed around the planet, wherever there are smart people and that’s everywhere. Innovation is just part of the creative drive, the human condition to solve problems & create. And there’s no significant advantage to growing up here in Silicon Valley versus growing up in Bhutan to be able to solve great problems. The advantage is as follows: Whilst innovation may be evenly spread & distributed around the world, entrepreneurship is a profession, entrepreneurship has a best practice. And the best practice of entrepreneurship on the planet remains in Silicon Valley. That’s not to say there aren’t great practice areas around the world, there are. That’s not to say that Silicon Valley will be the best practice of entrepreneurship 10 years from now, it may not? But it took 70 years for Silicon Valley to create a culture of risk taking, to create an environment of resources & investment & more importantly to create an expectation that great minds would invest in great minds. Not just money in great minds but their minds in great minds to help create the next new thing. That’s something that I find missing in other cultures.
When I talk to my European counterparts in particular to European entrepreneurs, they tell me two things. They tell me if they try & fail in Europe its a personal failure not just a business failure. That’s not the case in Silicon Valley. In Silicon Valley if that were the case we would not have far fewer risk takers & far fewer entrepreneurs than we have today. Business values are business values and if you fail for the right reasons, which is pretty much any reason other than being corrupt, stupid or lazy then you have an education. Then you are more valuable. The other thing the entrepreneurs in Europe tell me is when somebody is successful in Europe, an entrepreneur has a big win, they disappear from the scene. They retire, they buy a yacht, they do whatever they’re going to do. But they don’t do what happens here in Silicon Valley, reinvest themselves in the next generation. And until you have generation upon generation re-investing themselves in the success, the guidance, the mentoring of the next generation then you don’t have a real fly wheel mechanism in your entrepreneurial culture.
And this then is very valid to your experience in Barcelona?
- How do you feel about all the groups and competitions for funding startups that are on the rise? In January I won a spot on TheFunded.com Showcase & flew in from London the day before. It was an amazing opportunity and a great networking time. Astia also runs trainings for women entrepreneurs which facilitate network opportunities with venture capitalists, obviously they charge for that. Do you think these group facilitated opportunities help or hinder the process for startups? And there is one point that I note: Because I’m a matchmaker I still lament that there is no matching facilities with these groups: matching vcs with startups. I did suggest to Adeo Ressi that I would help set that up on TheFunded.com but to date they have not been interested enough to do that.
That’s an interesting idea! In terms of the competitions and I think the corollary which is the incubators that are going on, those incubators that are being created around the world, I’m of two minds. To the extent that the competition doesn’t bring together the right ecosystem of investors, of talent to help make these companies successful & of great entrepreneurs. To the extent that its really just an amateur showcase then I don’t think it serves anybody’s interests & it builds the wrong expectations. People come there expecting that they’re going to be exposed to the people that can help them build their businesses. And if you don’t serve that real matchmaking function, in bringing together the right people to be part of that competition, like they were in Barcelona. I was very impressed with the quality of the people in Barcelona! Then I think you are doing a disservice to both groups. That’s number one.
Number two on incubators: In a place like Silicon Valley I think incubators have a limitation. In the sense that incubators keep the entrepreneurial world & culture out, rather than in. Because Silicon Valley is one big incubator in & of itself. It has the right environment & the right reinforcing values to take good ideas & good entrepreneurs & raise them up. If you build an incubator, all you’re doing is insulating yourself from those natural tides in this culture. On the other hand if you’re in a culture that is not as friendly to entrepreneurship, where you need to protect your fledgling organisations & provide them with care & feeding to get them strong enough to get them into the business culture, then I think an incubator is a useful tool!
Thank you very much. Thank you so much for your time today!
It was a great, great pleasure. Thank you very much. It was a pleasure speaking with you.
This interview was reposted on TheNextWomen