Geek’n’Rolla Call to Arms: Go West!
I kicked off the TechCrunch Europe’s Geek’n’Rolla with the usual point of encouraging European entrepreneurs to consider launching in the US if their product is more suited to a market as such. I tend to clarify that this call to arms is not made in the spirit of “thundercats are go!” or the Pilgrim Fathers 2nd Cometh. The attractiveness of the US market, a high volume mammoth that provides incredible revenue projections if cracked well, is a no brainer for every corporation, from Japanese car makers to IKEA.
In the Internet world, The U.S. is a social reference for many other countries, namely Canada, Australia and Europe (Scandinavia, UK, Holland). These countries are U.S. centric by nature, from U.S. TV series, music tastes to social mirroring. Still, half way through Geek’n’Rolla I started receiving emails from U.S. people I have never had the pleasure of meeting before, telling me that my comment had sent their Twitters onto a flurry of comments, perplexity and shock.
After my presentation, lo’ and behold, we had the same point made by Leslie Eccles co-founder of Hubdub, a Scottish startup that looked around and went for the US market exclusively. Their success is still a wonder for many but not for me or the investor community.
This said, I can understand why some people may feel puzzled at first instance. I had a discussion later on that evening with Richard Moross, founder and CEO of Moo Print, a company that I also helped grow from their seed days to the series A with Atlas Venture. Initially, Richard disagreed with my comment because Moo never moved to the US and still managed to attract an enormous following in such country. I reminded him: Moo really took on when the Flickr photostream became a partner product of the house, and only then. He agreed.
Ideally, you don’t even have to move over there – like Stardoll, Skype, Hubdub. Some opt for a minimal sales presence like Habbo, Screen Systems, Netlog. Others go for the full “hey-ho-let’s go” – Dr. Butcher, I am trying to keep the spirit of Geek’n’Rolla by quoting the Ramones: Seeismic, Kyte, etc.
The point is: European entrepreneurs should understand that why investors encourage them to tackle the U.S. market is not because we think that servicing Europe is something startups should not bother about, but because we know that some European Internet propositions have a good damn change to get traction and good revenues over the pond, so hell, why not.
Depending on the event, I sometimes add the sentence “and steal all of their customers” but that may sound a bit harsh these days post-Pirate Bay and the defiant poses on deck of a three-masked vessel.
I have seen the transformation of Europe into a place of Burger Kings, hip-hop, starbucks, highschool musicals and social behaviour that really has nothing to do with our cultural points of reference: we eat food consciously, not “fast”, we export rock and pop but not the ghetto angst of the black brothers, we drink expressos and tiny-sized coffees, not pints of frothy milk, and our schools are not obsessed with prom-night, the jocks or cheerleaders. It is only fair that I want our products, services, design, personality and innovation offered over there as well.
And to quote the great Jimmy Hendrix, in a world that is currently upside down, “if six turned out to be nine, I don’t mind”: if a good Internet service makes the delights of the U.S. public, does it matter to them where it is from?