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Differences between running a startup in Sweden and a startup in Silicon Valley. Presented at Stanford's "European Entrepreneurship & Innovation" (http://www.europeanentrepreneursatstanford.com) in Jan of 2012.
It’s All About Relationships Running startups in Sweden and the Valley Huh? Nope. Experiences from running *a* startup in Sweden and the Valley Emil Eifrem, CEO @emileifrem firstname.lastname@example.org #neo4jSunday, January 15, 2012 1
Agenda • Wait, wut? What is Neo Technology? • Entrepreneurship in Sweden vs entrepreneurship in the valleySunday, January 15, 2012 2
Neo? • Neo Technology Jan 2012: • 25 people / Six countries / Three continents • Raised a total of $13M ($10M of which in Fall of 2011)Sunday, January 15, 2012 3
... and this: “Tax burden as percentage of GDP” (OECD 2010)Sunday, January 15, 2012 19
My observations (thus far) • Let’s compare Sweden and the valley along six axes: • Competence • Funding • Government / Policy • Culture • Market • NGO (Nitty-Gritty Operations!) • Warning: Bring huge grain of salt. All of these are just subjective reﬂections and heavily (enterprise) software biased.Sunday, January 15, 2012 20
Competence - employees Swedland The Valley • Very high average skill • The best in the valley are the best in the world • High and early internet penetration • Deep technology mainly based on experience from leading tech • Predated by early PC companies like Facebook, Google, penetration (“home PC reform”) etc • Probably among the best in the • But combined with a general world when it comes to mobile savviness about running a startup (because unlike in the valley, mobile phones actually work) • Most sophisticated and inﬂuential early adopter consumers in the • Employee afﬁnity is higher worldSunday, January 15, 2012 21
Competence - mentors Swedland The Valley • • None. Most experienced and clueful in the world. (x) • They all suck, (*) • Most willing to share in the world. (y) because if they • x * y = leaps and bounds didn’t they already ahead of anyone else in the world moved to London or the Valley. • Don’t think anyone will catch up for several decades * For a pretty strict deﬁnition of all.Sunday, January 15, 2012 22
Funding - VCs Swedland The Valley • The top 5 are really good, on par with the best in Europe. • The rest are money managers • with a ﬁnance background. Smart people, but with no • The best in the operating experience. world. • And can’t asses product or technology risk => no early stage intuition or mindset.Sunday, January 15, 2012 23
Funding - Angels Swedland The Valley • Very rare with any type of angel capital. • “Smart” (i.e. experienced in software or internet service startups) angel capital non- existent. • The best in the • Government tries to ﬁll the role, world. with minor (but not zero) success. • Especially troubling since there really are no early stage VCs.Sunday, January 15, 2012 24
Government / Policy Swedland The Valley • Some immature legislation, for example around options • • Strong labor laws • I guess very pro- “Quick to hire, never ﬁre” business? • But legislation / policy don’t really move the needle in either direction in my experience: • In reality just seems • Taxes don’t really matter pro lawyer to me. • Setting up a company is equally easySunday, January 15, 2012 25
Culture Swedland The Valley • Less quarter capitalism than the valley and more long-term • Echo chamber rocks sustainability for staying on the • OTOH, less “shooting for the leadin’ bleedin’ edge stars” • Supposed challenges that haven’t been a problem (for me): • Everyone’s as clued • Cultural fear of failure in about startups as • Lack of fellow entrepreneurs you areSunday, January 15, 2012 26
Market Swedland The Valley • Small domestic market • Harmonized, US • Swedish is only spoken in domestic market, Sweden (and some 5% of strongest economy in Finland) the world • Companies have to go outside of Sweden for • High inﬂuence scale consumers, trend • For good and for bad settersSunday, January 15, 2012 27
Nitty-Gritty Operations Swedland The Valley • Trust makes a lot of • Guilty until proven things easier otherwise (and probably a little bit longer) • Invoices are kinda cool • The social fabric in • Service providers galore Sweden is very powerful • But everything in the • Parental leave, medical valley is less friction and beneﬁts, daycare, etc more liquidSunday, January 15, 2012 28
Remember those logos? • Why does Sweden have a disproportionate (to its population) amount of “global” startups? • Some ideas: • Small domestic market -- has to go outside • High PC penetration -> Internet penetration -> Working Mobile technology • Good English • Reaaaally cold winters?Sunday, January 15, 2012 29
Why is Neo HQ now in the valley? • Superior graph: • Access to the smartest and most experienced senior talent (executives, mentors, value add angels) on the planet • Access to the smartest and most experienced capital on the planet • All (non-catastrophic) exit paths are easier here • This is the center of gravity for our industrySunday, January 15, 2012 31