tech-debateEuropeans are too ashamed of failure and too unwilling to take risks to be successful entrepreneurs (or so the stereotype goes). Contrast this attitude with that of America, where anybody – as long as they’ve got a “can-do” attitude and enough elbow grease – can start a business in their garage and watch it grow it into a billion-dollar enterprise (at which point, to be fair, they will probably want to start stuffing their cash into European tax havens). At least, that’s the stereotype.

One of our commenters put it like this:

On the other side of the Atlantic, they understood a long time ago that failure is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing, and it teaches and makes you improve. Without changing the minds of European policy-makers, as well as venture capitalists, Europe will never be an entrepreneurial zone with open-minded businesses, because those flew away to the San Francisco bay area to look for the failure that Europe was so afraid of, and that will ultimately bring them success.

Well, earlier this year we caught up with Peter Halacsy, a Hungarian entrepreneur who co-founded the cloud-based presentation website Prezi (which is, surprise surprise, now a US-based company). We asked him if he agreed that the concept of entrepreneurship was more developed in the US than in Europe:

So what did he think could be done, then, to encourage more entrepreneurs in Europe to take the plunge and risk everything?

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21 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think? Are Europeans too afraid of failure to be good entrepreneurs? What can Europe do to encourage more risk-taking and get over its fear of failure? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we'll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

  1. avatar
    Raymond Timmers

    You need to stop asking for entrepeneurship if your policy is reducing the spendingmoney of potential customers for those entrepeneurs. It’s disgusting: wanting it all but no investing in the climate… **** your Austerity Politics.

  2. avatar
    Gonçalo QuelhasLima

    The weight of state burocracy and eurocracy kills entrepeneurship. Failure in Europe is a stamp for life. There is no culture of constructive failure and banks suck you to the bone if they can.

  3. avatar
    Davey Brown

    The EU destroys enterprise with its over regulation and destruction of livelihoods in order to prop up its failed currency. Stick your EU up your ****s basically!

  4. avatar

    Young Europeans are not afraid, it is just way to hard get credit from banks or private investors. On top of that, the younger generation has been taught to educate themselves and do something in line with what they studied which is currently no longer attainable. Hence, they are completely uncomfortable with starting a business because 1. they have no clue how to start one, and 2. they will have to leave behind what they thought they we’re going to become for the last ten years. The latter point is largely due to parents telling their children they’re special and will have prosperous lives if they get all the diploma’s they can possibly get their hands onto.

    Currently, I find that a lot of my twenty-something counterparts are not starting anything new, are trying to be individually successful by desperately trying to get this major traineeship or professional job, and in doing so, try to complete the checklists often in place for many of these jobs. For example, many try to get a foreign experience, speak three languages, do three unpaid internships, and graduate two times. Young Europeans only know this road to success because that’s the road we get pushed into by panicky fifty year old’s afraid to loose some of their pensions. We were unconsciously set up for failure.

  5. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Europe lacks two things.. Our governments and political and financial system do not encourage or even allow entrepreneurs to flourish.. In some countries it is very hard to start business and that is deliberate… Our political elites want to keep the established financial status quo and do not encourage new business to blossom.. Taxation, red tape and over regulation are the means that are used to stop any young or new businessmen to start their own business and bring more competitiveness in their region..Also in many countries it is very hard to start a new business if you do not bribe the local authorities or you do not know any high ranked official in them.. Europe is a very rigid and conservative continent and it is no wonder why it finds itself now days in a crisis, that is more than economic, but also political, social and cultural.. The other issue is education.. Our education system but also our mentality as peoples are not very independent or innovation oriented… They are teaching us outdated modules in school, like religion instead of other modules that will enhance our ability to become real businessmen.. We all like to stick to what we know and we take few risks.. Fishing in the North, agriculture in the mainland, public sector in small peripheral states… Property, tourism and banking industries also flourish just because they offer a chance of easy and quick money, seasonal profits in some cases but without the ability of exports.. Our establish elites love this fact because they have invested millions in developing those sectors and any new sectors would alter the financial make up of the country… Our education system should change and educate new modules to our youths, that will teach them about new industries and how to become more innovative… Encourage them to experiment, not place austerity on them and force them to stay with their parents well in their 30s..This austerity that Mrs Merkel has placed on us, hits the young the worse, and how do the European elites expect Europe to recover in the future if the continent’s youth is incapacitated and have their wings clipped in its more creative stage? Mrs Merkel and the European elites are making sure that the wealth remain in certain rich and powerful elites of certain rich and powerful nations, keeping the wealth of the continent forever in their hands, while forbidding any chance of change of this status… Shame on them!!

  6. avatar
    Juan Vázquez García

    By assuring them the government is not going to bleed them in taxes. Ergo every country would be better off on its own, dealing with its own problems, instead of having to pump more money into this stupid European Union. The European Union wants to imitate the United States, possibly take over, but it won’t happen because it was built on a shaky foundation.

  7. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    @Juan Vázquez García
    I agree with you almost 100%!!

  8. avatar
    Gabriel Dostert

    Actually, I unsuccesfully tried to create a business. I had big plans, big hopes, but was totally unprepared for the realities that were to arise. Especially the skepticism when I tried to present my project to banks. Why banks and not business angels ? Because I was suspicious of them, I wanted to ensure my control over my future company. Looking back on it now, I was destined to fail that attempt (unrealistic market analisys, and other flaws). It would have been otherwise if I had help from an experienced entrepreneur, which I encourage would-be entrepreneurs to seek !

    I, however am in total disagreement with the comment above. I am sick of reading and hearing that there is too much taxation. Admit that you DON’T WANT TO pay taxes, which is a very simple, common, point of view. Just stop making up excuses …

  9. avatar
    Gabriel Dostert

    If I had to suggest something, on the other hand, it’s creating a way, outside of expensive business “schools”, to help new entrepreneurs develop a realistic business plan without the risk of them having their ideas stolen !

  10. avatar
    Bava Vava

    After EU destroied half east continent by them stupid economic and politik strategies, now they discover that is need more entreprenorship. How can these do with zero capital ?

  11. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Eu digo que não a Europa têm jovens criativos que podem ser grandes aventureiros dentro do mundo empresarial O que esta a faltar a esses jovens é a confiança porque ainda existe muita burocracia estatal e a eurocracia que esta a mata empreendedorismoÉ preciso mais transparencia nos governos e nas instituições finaceiras da Europa

  12. avatar

    Good question! Creating a business does look like a daunting task. Also I suspect the situation is different in each country. From the media I’d say the safety net put in place in some countries does seem to give people a bit too much comfort in unemployment when otherwise you would be required to set up a business to get by if you couldn’t find a job. Not sure we’d want that to change in the EU.
    The regulatory environment in some countries seems daunting though I suspect it is probably not as extreme as portrayed (still enough to put some people off).
    Education may help (in terms of teaching those in school how to set up a business). I’m for some sort of programme that some if not all students have to set up a company during their studies (regardless if it trades or not but at least to show how to do the basics). Similar to some school programmes.
    From an EU perspective, perhaps offering a simplified EU set of rules for business that can work along side existing structures? (harmonised system of invoicing, basic employment rules, simplified tax code with deductions).
    I realise these ideas may be pie in the sky but it would help reduce some of the barriers to entry that EU has put in place?? I do think the EU seems to be hindering entrepreneurship at the moment, or at least isn’t allowing existing companies to become new world brands.

  13. avatar
    Nikola Subic Zrinski

    Europeans first need to have money so they could take risks.It’s impossible because people need 130% of their income just to get by trough the month.EU has impovirshed the Europeans.

  14. avatar
    Joe DaSilva

    There’s no question about that – Need you ask? It’s evident, no? Unless of course you never lived in the US.

  15. avatar
    James Stevens

    No they just can’t be doing with the red tape, rules and regulations within the EU that makes the simplest of tasks so laborious.

  16. avatar
    Eleni Rodami

    No, you are the most unsuitable administration under the circumstances. You keep on asking ‘the opinions of the people’ on questions which concern nobody in Europe, to prove your democratic credentials.. and your posts. I DO NOT WANT TO PAY YOUR WAGES NO MORE. Do not I have this choice? Ask the next question!

  17. avatar
    Yo Lou

    no. they are afraid that the political laws and taxes ruin their business

  18. avatar
    Stephane Czajkowski

    They do not open night shops anymore because there is a muslim mafia. If you want proof, talk with former Belgian night shop holders. I did it.

    • avatar

      I’m sorry, what? Most night shops in Brussels are Muslim family businesses, and they’re doing just fine.

  19. avatar
    Jason Piccioni

    You know this is a rhetorical ‘devil’s-advocate’ type question. It just depends on level of taxation and level of bureaucracy in each given system. Most continental Europeans have been negatively conditioned by those excesses in many years of experimentation. The US is catching up though.

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