The European Landscape For Startups

    Occasionally we intentionally divert from our primary focus on reviewing and reporting on internet and mobile software startups and growth entrepreneurship in and from the Nordic and Baltic countries to examine the European, the Baltic and the Nordic landscape for the entrepreneurs. Here’s another take on the issue.

    Dirk Van Quaquebeke, the founder of Tailor Nation (Facebook app here), talked to me about his experiences on running a startup while working at the same time in Deutsche Bank, where to set up your startup and whether London is the startup hub you should go to as an entrepreneur.

    When I asked what would he do if given the chance to do a startup anywhere, Dirk said 1) do an MBA in IIM in India (given one is a business guy). 2) While at it build a team around you since you get access to the great talent pool while in India. 3) Given there’s three founders, one stays offshore production center at India 4) pay people well & even incentivize some through equity 5) build a sales force through the founders located onshore like London (given its a product that needs a sales force).

    Dirk emphasized that London is mainly a PR center where its rather expensive to live (something I can assure!), thus living in somewhere else like Copenhagen or Berlin might be equally good or even better option. He also pointed out that you can do development across the time zones, but if you can avoid it do so because you will be much more efficient.

    I will disagree with Dirk especially on the MBA bit -if you do an MBA you will most likely rationalize yourself out of all the big ideas and dreams you had, and even if you can stick to your dreams the socialization effect among the MBA students will lure you to the nice (yet bored out of your mind) life at McKinsey. Naturally, there are exceptions for example if you have already started a couple of startups and you like to know a bit more about say finance. In the latter case, an MBA might be a good option to meet other like minded people in a place like Stanford and maybe even learn a bit. But as a rule of thump, avoid MBA schools!

    What comes to the location, I believe one should build strong ties to the Silicon Valley (something Jyri Engeström, the Jaiku co-fouder, also reiterated) as it can significantly cut the time to market which might make a big difference from the time the window opens to the point where a competitor has already a critical mass and beyond your reach. That said, I still believe one should stick to the community s/he knows be it Copenhagen, London or Helsinki, since culture and support mechanisms like your family and friends make a big difference and if that is not a big enough reason you might loose not only time but also your money while trying to relocate and adjust.