Build your own lasting stuff!

Silicon Valley is currently regarded as the one and only paradigm for a successful start-up ecosystem. Start-up Genomes Report takes it as reference. From Bangalore to Santiago, from Vancouver to Moscow – every start-up hub competes for place #2. Berlin does not flinch acting the clown as »European Silicon Valley«. European founders, managers, and politicians are blinded by the mystic mix of Californian surfer lifestyle, SF hippie hipster culture, Stanford’s marketing excellence, and the glance of the a bit aged »new economy«.

Please just allow me a humble advice: Stop dreaming folks and start understanding with reading this: »Why Germany Dominates the U.S. in Innovation« by Dan Breznitz (HBR Blog Network; – Got that? So let’s continue:

What you can learn from life (the hard and expensive way) or from Steve Blank (affordable,  you even don’t need to pay for one of his books, all relevant stuff is on slideshare and youtube): Innovativeness and any resulting pay-off is definitively not about start-ups! It’s about building enterprises and industries. Well not just industries, but lasting industrial ecosystems.

Silicon Valley is (mostly) a start-up ecosystem. As the term start-up tells us: it has nothing to do with building lasting industries – except of one: finance. American (and traditionally anglo-saxon) entrepreneurship is about starting-up a project and gain your profits from a successful exit: Making tons of money by quitting at the right moment.

In times like our’s, when money is a commodity, when everybody is longing for the faintest business promise to put his or her money in, this works pretty well. (Just in terms of macro economical wealth burning. If you are politician and expect e.g. middle class jobs from that: forget about it.)

Let’s take a closer look at Steve Blanks simple but influential distinction between a start-up and an enterprise. According to him, the difference is between searching a business model during starting-up – and executing it when you succeed in building an enterprise from the start-up.

This model precisely provides us with the essence of American entrepreneurship – and with the reason why U.S. is dominated by others (e.g. Germany, China will dominate soon as well) in innovativeness. Because just exploiting a single business model is fairly not enough – just in case you like lasting industries.

Corporations which focus solely on the exploitation of a market will die by market saturation sooner or later. During the agony period you will hear the famous last sentence: »We have to reinvent ourselves!« (Cut / black burst.)

What about continuously further develop your products/services/processes et al. During this kind of persistent incremental innovation permanently new opportunities for disruptive innovations will pop up, as well – be assured. (Study the history of German Freudenberg Group, e.g.)

Building a lasting enterprise is not merely setting up structures (and people) to execute the business model you found during the golden start-up period. It’s about growing a living organism capable of both: innovation and execution.

Keep this in mind, when you think about the Berlin start-up ecosystem. Then it’s clear, that a start-up ecosystem can be successful – only can be lasting successful – when it is understood as part of an economical and eco-cultural ecosystem. Ask yourself: What are our overall objectives? Is it about fostering finance industry? Or is it about further developing our total ecosystem – lasting and comprehensively?

If you like to live and learn in the valley – do it. There are great people. Many ideas, some of them quite usefull. A vibrant atmosphere. And a pretty good prove for the fact, that being self-referred works well as a cornerstone of a region’s business model.
But please – get rid of the copycat delusion. Silicon Valley is in the U.S. It works there under certain regional, cultural, and macroeconomic conditions which are innate to the American (and former English) entrepreneurship model. It does not work neither in Berlin nor in Skolkovo, nor in London, nor in Cape Town.

@Berlin: Build your own lasting stuff – that’s exactly what entrepreneurs do.

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