Recent data shows that people who can speak more than one language have higher chances of success in their careers. We live in a boosting globalized economy where being a polyglot comes with great advantages. In the business environment, having the ability to speak other languages can be the key to corporate success.
The international business community acknowledges that polyglots are indispensible. They’re the secret tool to building foreign relationships and today’s competitive corporations are well aware of that fact.
The Schengen area has never been tested to the same level as it is now. The unprecedented volume of refugees arriving in Europe has left its leaders struggling to cope. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, issued a sober warning that the crisis puts Schengen into question, while Italy says it is ready to impose border controls and Hungary has sealed off its main train station.
Those who travel overseas for business purposes are usually impressed to see that the skills they use on a daily basis in their country don’t always apply to a foreign audience.
Making a start-up recognized in another country is challenging. How can you succeed though? Is there something you can do to entice a foreign audience if you don’t have time to take an international business degree?
If you’re from the USA, then you’re in luck. However, companies from Europe for example, won’t stand a change in the United States of America if the CEO can’t speak English fluently to market his business and deliver a compelling presentation.
Silicon Valley has become a synonym for innovation and, with its ecosystem of super-moneyed venture capitalists, it is world renowned as a hub for new products and software. Europe meanwhile has struggled to produce the likes of Facebook, Amazon or PayPal, or to garner the levels of investment for its startups. But could that be about to change?
Start-ups tend to succeed as part of a community or innovation ecosystem. Our research into these ecosystems found that the critical success factor for innovation and start-up cultures is the importance of a university city region. These are places where there is a concentration of intellectual capital and high levels of funders that are happy to take risks.
The other key ingredients are knowledge and financial capital, a willingness to take risks (and fail), and the drive to succeed. A comparison of the US and European start-up scene on these fronts shows why the US is still out in front when it comes to attracting investment and delivering new innovation.
1. Intellectual capital
European universities are coming second to their US counterparts in the creation of intellectual capital. A simple indicator is the international Higher Education league table with only three of the top ten universities located in Europe (and all of these are in the UK).
Not surprisingly, given their proximity to Silicon Valley, the California Institute of Technology, Berkeley and Stanford are at the top of this list. With Silicon Valley on their doorstep all three institutions have successful business founders and entrepreneurs working in university posts, sharing their knowledge, identifying the most talented students and looking for the next big innovations. This culture of giving back is not commonly found in European universities.
By contrast, the European universities in the top ten all fall within the much more widely dispersed “Golden Triangle” of top UK universities, concentrated around Oxford, Cambridge and London. This region sees significant research investment and innovation as a result.
Result: Europe 0 US 1
2. Financial capital
The close relationship between the US higher education system and its high tech centres provides a direct supply chain of knowledge capital. However, innovation also requires the steady supply of financial capital. Recent figures provide some reassurance that the UK is becoming a nation of angel investors that are younger and female. The internal boundaries of the European Union appear to be no barrier to innovation with investors who are happy to invest across it and travel if and when needed.
These positives are no consolation for the largest startup investment infrastructure being based in the US. Angel List, a web-based platform for managing start-ups, alone was able to raise more than US$100m in one year in 2014. This disparity between the US and Europe in their ability to raise capital is evident at many levels.
Result: Europe 0 US 2
3. Risk and failure culture
Silicon Valley is built on a gold rush mentality. Make mistakes and then learn and build on them quickly.
In contrast, in European cultures failure is perceived as a negative and a situation that is to be minimised and avoided at all costs. National social security systems, regulations and long procedures when it comes to establishing new business ventures are just some of the legacies of this culture that burden European innovation.
The recent Edelman Trust Barometer Survey of 27,000 respondents adds further insight into the European mindset. It found that expectations of honesty and fair play are expected requirements for building trust between entrepreneurs, start-ups and investors. A lack of trust between those with ideas and those with money hinders innovation and the development of enterprising economies.
Thus the European start-up scene suffers from playing it too safe. The result can be seen in a recent European Commission ranking of innovation, which places the US at the top of the list and outperforming Europe by 17%.
Result: Europe 0 US 3
4. Necessity is the mother of invention
When it comes to having motivation to create a start-up, not having work or low employment opportunities can sometimes be a good thing. Necessity is the mother of invention and if an individual has no other option and has nothing to lose they are more likely to ignore a lack of knowledge or financial capital and take risks. Europe has now faced the largest economic crisis since World War II, with many pushed into self employment.
Unemployment in the European market means more individuals are looking for work and some of these are considering the option of setting up their own business. To create a start-up culture there is a need for a critical mass of individuals working with one another, bouncing around ideas and prepared to fail – and learn – together.
Result: Europe 1 US 3
If you can’t beat ’em …
Based on these criteria it does seem that an entrepreneur interested in making it big has more chance of success in Silicon Valley. However, there is some hope for European entrepreneurs if they set themselves up near The Silicon Roundabout (or Tech City) in London where investment is growing. Germany too has a budding start-up scene, which is competing with the UK capital to attract international talent – and investment.
Of course, positioning the US and European start-up scenes as competitors is missing the biggest opportunity. The benefits of both locations are best combined through collaboration.
Europe is, and is predicted to remain, in an economic position where there is market receptiveness to innovation. The US meanwhile is better able to bridge the gap from idea to realisation. This is a powerful combination to fuel the next wave of technological innovation and start-ups, including wearables, implantables and EEG controlled devices.
Google’s announcement that it will not provide security updates for older versions of its Android operating system means that more than a billion users face growing security risks to their phones or tablets.
At the heart of this announcement is a piece of software called WebView, a component of the built-in web browser in earlier versions of Android, but which also turns up in many apps. It is WebView that Google is dropping support for, replaced in version 4.4 with a new component taken from Google’s browser, Chrome.
The reason for this is largely down to the number of security flaws found in the software, at least in part because it incorporates support for Adobe Flash which has simply proven too difficult to secure – ironically, as it was something Google touted as a plus for Android when Apple dropped Flash support for the iPhone.
If the affected version [of WebView] is before 4.4, we generally do not develop the patches ourselves, but welcome patches with the report for consideration. Other than notifying OEMs, we will not be able to take action on any report that is affecting versions before 4.4 that are not accompanied with a patch.
Many hands make light work
So Google is no longer fixing problems in anything but their latest (Android 5.0/Lollipop) or second-latest (Android 4.4/Kit Kat) versions, offloading the responsibility to either those that find the flaw, other interested developers, or phone manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, or LG.
Android is an open-source operating system developed jointly by Google and other interested developers around the world who are able to update and maintain the codebase, while Google manages and steers the project. By making Android an open-source project, Google increases the community’s ownership of the project, encouraging others to work on it. This approach is contrary to Google’s competitors – Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone – who develop their operating systems entirely in-house and keep tight control of their code.
So Google’s decision makes more sense with that in mind – the code for Apple and Microsoft’s operating systems is closed, so those firms wouldn’t be able to hand off their responsibility in this way. But Google can at least offer others the chance to tackle the problems.
Keeping you and your data safe
Our mobile phones are used for sensitive activities – from logging in to websites filled with personal data, to online banking or online shopping. It’s important to keep any software on any device – phone, tablet, or computer – up-to-date with the latest versions that patch those flaws and vulnerabilities that have been discovered. Encouraging more people to use the latest versions has been a key part of Google’s approach, through automatic updates and cloud services.
However, mobile phone manufacturers are keen to sell us their latest phones. Providing ongoing support for older phones is expensive and phone manufacturers, and especially the telecoms companies that sell them to us, are already terrible at updating phones, generally dropping support for older models as soon as they can. Expecting them to provide regular security updates seems far-fetched.
The upshot is that now phones even less than a year old are potentially vulnerable – Android 4.4 may have been “released” in late 2013, but new phones were arriving with 4.3 installed well into 2014. So, what can we do? Buy a new Android phone, or switch to Apple, Microsoft, or Blackberry?
Apple devices are considered by some to be more secure because of the tightly controlled ecosystem, from the operating system code to the vetting of apps in the App Store. But even iOS is not immune. Part of Android’s appeal is the fact that it is open: easy to access and customise, but with a greater risk from rogue apps, viruses, and hacks. It also means that, with the requisite technical skill and patience, Android users can tackle these problems themselves, unlocking, upgrading and customising their own devices as they like – such is the way with open source.
The moral of the story
So, are Google setting more than half their users up for a fall? In practice this may not have a huge impact for most. It may encourage phone manufacturers and the telecoms companies that sell them on to us to be more forthcoming with software updates for their devices, reducing the number of devices running out-of-date software.
Companies like Google should be encouraging people more to update to the latest versions and this in some way is a forceful tactic but it’s one that is required. Even if Google continued to provide patches it is still not guaranteed how long a user has to wait before the manufacturer and the network operators make the decision to roll them out.
Ultimately, the key message is that we need to start thinking of mobile devices as computers, not just phones, with all the caveats about security software, updates and precautions which that entails. This could be the tough love from Google that pushes people in that direction.