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For years, Europe’s startup community has been painted as the undernourished younger cousin of Silicon Valley. Yes, there have been successes — Skype, MySQL and Yandex, for example — but there have been fewer billion-dollar web companies born out of Europe’s diverse continent (500 million people, 27 countries) than have been created within the 50-mile strip from the Golden Gate Bridge to San Jose.
Whether the lack of maturity of the continent’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is a result of an ingrained culture of low risk or whether it’s because of Europe’s hefty government regulations remains the subject of much debate. Regardless, for years the most successful European web entrepreneurs have been those who have packed up and headed to California.
But all of that is starting to change. I first noticed the difference when I returned to Britain at the end of 2010 and began covering startups across the continent after a couple of years in San Francisco. There was a frenzy in the air: Entrepreneurs seemed more driven and more enthusiastic and had a greater sense of community.