Why the European startups don’t succeed? (Part 1)

Published February 3, 2013

OK, some of them do succeed. Let me modify the question: Why do they get limited success? Of course, the question may be asked regarding Brazilian or South American or Asian startups (China being a separate issue) But let’s not complicate things. I’d like to focus on the European startups, or even to be more precise, EU startups. I will add another limitation. Let’s look at the startups which undergo acceleration. Why do these companies have limited success? I see the reason for that in the acceleration model. 

The gold standard of the acceleration has been created by Techstars. Hundreds of accelerators in the entire world were created, based on the this model. Getting that much of a success is incredible. David Cohen is one of my gurus, I have a lot of respect for him and for Techstars. The Techstars model has one feature that I would like to emphasize that is the very center of the whole process. It is based on mentors and mentoring. Mentoring might have a tremendous impact and it is the essence of supporting teams. In the acceleration process the quality of mentoring and the overall quality of acceleration are corelated.

Active mentors come from the city where accelerator works. They come from the very same entrepreneurship ecosystem, the same startup community. Mentors have a defined level of their own competence and the value of the acceleration programme is derived from the professional level of their mentoring. I live in Cracow, Poland. Cracow has a great startup community, which undergoes a rapid development. It has many great investors, mentors and entrepreneurs. I am also a mentor on regular basis. I know that many Cracow based mentors give huge value to the teams they meet. Nevertheless, no really successful global companies were founded in Cracow, thus mentors’ experience is limited. Switch Cracow for London or Berlin and the big picture will be better, but not much better. 

In order to make a non-gradual change you must answer a question how to connect local community to the best know-how. Without that, the progress will be organic and not necessarily permanent. The Techstars model doesn’t answer this question.