Category Archives: Business Culture

Why startups in Europe don’t have the needed support

Start up culture (CC) Walter Lim
Start up culture (CC) Walter Lim

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?

Silicon Valley investors are beginning to show an increasing appetite to invest across the Atlantic, most recently seen in the US$58m investment that US venture capital group Andreessen Horowitz recently made in the British money transfer platform TransferWise. In fact 2014 saw investments involving US groups estimated to be about US$3.5 billion compared to US$808m in 2010.

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

Knowledge Capital image (CC) by Emilie Ogez
Knowledge Capital image (CC) by Emilie Ogez

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

TechCrunch Disrupt Europe: Berlin 2013 (CC) by  TechCrunch
TechCrunch Disrupt Europe: Berlin 2013 (CC) by TechCrunch

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

Swim at your own risk (CC) Todd Shaffer
Swim at your own risk (CC) Todd Shaffer

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 rate comparison European Union 28 states vs US
European Commission, Author provided

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 …

Follow your dreams, image (CC) by Chris Devers
Follow your dreams, image (CC) by Chris Devers

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.

By Aleksej Heinze, University of Salford; Gordon Fletcher, University of Salford, and Marie Griffiths, University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

End to security updates for old Android operating systems

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.

While Android operating systems on phones and tablets have grown exponentially in popularity, from 4% market share in 2009 to 84% in 2014, by abandoning support for versions prior to Android 4.4 “Kit Kat” Google’s decision affects more than 60% of Android users running older versions that will now be vulnerable.

Android’s long tail – many users still run older versions.
Erikrespo/Google data, CC BY-SA

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.

There was no official announcement. In response to security researchers Rapid7 who had reported another WebView bug that needed fixing, Google responded:

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.

Zain Javed, Head of Penetration Testing Services from Xyone Cyber Security said

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.

The ConversationBy Aleksej Heinze, Salford Business School and Alex Fenton, Salford Business School

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Quick win negotiation techniques used by skilled negotiators in Europe

Whether you want different responsibilities, more resources or a raise, having sound negotiation skill is fundamental. There are many techniques you can use, and while some are trivial others can only be mastered by skilled negotiators.

Bargaining for something with European partners can be challenging, and that’s because they have a different mentality and business culture to yours. The French are known to be more aggressive, while British and German negotiators are meticulous and incredibly patient.

Christine Aylward of  (CC) by by  Hubert Burda Media
Knowing as much as possible about negotiations removes stress and pressure and this is something that business management courses don’t always teach. In some ways, negotiating is very similar to playing chess: if you can’t play, the game will appear intimidating, particularly if your opponent is an experienced player. Many predictable things can happen when you’re negotiating, and if you want to win you must learn to master the rules. Here are 5 negotiation techniques many skilled entrepreneurs use to land a good deal.

1. Know your goals

Before entering a negotiation, you must have some goals:

  • Are you negotiating with employees, investors, suppliers or with partners overseas?
  • What do you want to obtain from the negotiation?
  • Are you willing to compromise?

These are standard questions you must be ready to answer in advance. Assess your company’s short-term and long-term objectives, and have a clear understanding of what really matters for you before entering the meeting.

If you’re negotiating with partners from European countries, it might be a good idea to know some trivial things about their nation. For example, you could break the ice by saying:

“we’ve been in Paris for 3 days and haven’t had croissants yet; we should all have lunch after the meeting, can you recommend us a restaurant?”

Opening up a negotiation with a trivial statement makes opponents see that you’re interested in the deal but also in the people with whom you’re doing business.

2. Research is vital


(CC) by City of York Council UK

You can’t enter negotiations unprepared and expect to win. It just doesn’t happen. If you want to land a good deal, you must be prepared. Back up your allegations with numbers, analyses and sensible facts. Study the market in advance and make sure you’re familiar with your opponent’s company goals, too.

Know as much information about your opponent as possible. Use that information to spot their weaknesses and boost your strengths. Also, before engaging in a negotiation, make sure that the other party is allowed to sign the deal.

3. Strategize

Every negotiation adheres to several key principles. The first offer is fundamental because it is used as a benchmark for subsequent offers. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you must know that you won’t get exactly what you want from a deal, so it’s important to make an aggressive, first offer (ask for a bit more than you actually want to make room for further negotiations).

You have nothing to worry about, and the other party won’t feel offended in any way provided that your asking price is not an outrageous amount. If you are happy with 5% – see if you can ask for 10% reduction – planning to meet half way.

4. Find and use leverage the smart way

Four businesspeople in a boardroom smiling

(CC) by le temple du chemisier

Apart from exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses, you should also focus on using your advantages the smart way. If what you’re offering is unique and nobody else has it, then this means you have leverage. You make the rules and if the other party really wants what you’re providing, they will most likely agree to all your terms. However, it’s not a good idea to be greedy either.

Negotiating deals in Europe can be challenges, especially if you’re doing business with investors in underdeveloped countries. Just to be on the safe side, before mentioning any numbers get informed and find out basic information about that country’s economic prospects.

5. Sometimes it’s best to walk away

If a deal doesn’t satisfy any of your goals, then it’s best to decline the final offer and walk away. Before entering a negotiation, set some clear ground rules (see point 1) and let your opponent know what is negotiable and what is not. If you can’t reach a mutual agreement, you should put an end to the discussion and search somewhere else for a better deal.

Winning negotiations can happen as long as you’re prepared to deal with the unexpected. Always enter meetings prepared with solid information, and don’t allow opponents to intimidate you in any way. Fight back by asking questions, and maintain a professional attitude even if you sense hostilities from counterparts. Remember, your reputation is on the line, so can’t risk messing it up.

Article by Davis Miller and!

EU competition watchdogs would be wise to watch out for Apple’s growth

By Aleksej Heinze, University of Salford and Evgenia Kanellopoulou, University of Salford

Apple Beats

Image (CC) by Kārlis Dambrāns

Apple’s market value has reached a record-breaking US$700 billion, far outstripping its nearest rival. In a year of superlatives, the company’s shares have risen by 60% and it made its largest ever acquisition, paying US$3 billion for Beats Music. But, with Europe voting to break up Google, Apple’s growth raises some questions on whether they too could be getting too big and if regulators would want to step in.

Apple follows in the footsteps of Microsoft and Google in a bid to maintain its household name in the constantly evolving digital business landscape. But both Microsoft and Google have learned to their expense that being dominant in their respective markets can attract the attention of the competition authorities, such as the EU Competition Commission.

The European Economic Area is the largest in the world and any global business such as Apple is interested in maximising their international trade in this lucrative market. And, Europe too, with its prioritisation of the digital economy through the development of EU Single Market rules for the digital era under its Digital Agenda is eager to attract global players such as Apple.

But, as Apple looks intent on challenging Spotify’s dominance of the music streaming market, with reports that its Beats music service will feature in future versions of Apple’s operating system, this could attract competition commission regulators’ attention.

The original purchase of Beats was announced in May 2014 and approved by the European Commission (EC) in July, and later by the US regulators. The two product markets that the sale affects are the hardware market for headphones and the market for streaming music.

The headphone market is much simpler than that for streaming. While individuals are easily satisfied with one or two sets of headphones, streaming provides potentially infinite numbers of subscribers and therefore a huge market. This is where the strategic purchase for Apple has the highest potential rewards. Plus, the delivery of an electronic good such as a song has lower overheads compared to the cumbersome packaging and supply chain arrangements needed for shipping and storing a set of headphones.

Downloads and streaming

At the time of evaluating the competition case of Apple’s acquisition of Beats, the EC deemed there to be no need to differentiate between music used for download and music used for streaming. Yet the two are quite different.

Streaming music is a concept where we essentially rent access to songs for a monthly or yearly fee. In music, a similar attitude is developing to that of video – where once you have watched a video film you rarely want to watch it again. Consumers might have their favourites but they are keen to have access to an unlimited number of songs.

When iTunes first came out, it was a revolutionary market place for buying music digitally. Now, however, while it is still profitable, growth is slow. Users are increasingly aware of and opposed to the iTunes licensing models by which even if you pay for music you do not “own” it, rather you are granted a non-exclusive licence to use it. These restrictions and the relative cheapness of streaming has turned public interest towards streaming models instead.

Could Apple get too big?

If a business dominates a market, breaks have to be applied by the competition regulator to prevent monopolies from controlling the market. In terms of the Apple-Beats case, the EC gave the green light, originally not considering the streaming service an issue since they are only entering the hardware market in Europe.

Although Apple iTunes offered streaming for the US and the Australian market, it was not offered in the EEC. Similarly, Beats Music was only available for the US and Australian market at the time of their merger assessment by the EC. And, should they start streaming in Europe, the assessment considered that Spotify and Deezer users in Europe are sufficient competitors for Apple Beats.

But perhaps the competition assessment fails to take into consideration the overall size of Apple and the price restraints it can potentially pose on its competitors, due to its presence in adjacent markets. Apple has access to more than 800 million Apple IDs – people who can very easily switch to streaming. So, will this mean that Apple Beats is going to dominate the streaming music market? The regulators will certainly be watching this case closely.

The Conversation

Aleksej Heinze receives funding from a number of organisations including the European Commission, Technology Strategy Board now Innovate UK.

Evgenia Kanellopoulou does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Tips on managing confrontational international negotiations

Internal Conflict Image (CC) by Simon de Bakker

Successful negotiations, conflict resolutions and disagreements demand preparation. Comprehensive planning can be seen as undesirable and unnecessary for trivial conflicts; on the other hand, major conflicts require goal establishment, listing alternatives, and trade-off identification that will help negotiators fix the issue in a timely manner.

International negotiations are challenging due to various factors such as: cultural aspects, religion, traditions, character and personality and entire postgraduate courses are created to learn about international management. When dealing with individuals from other countries, confrontational situations may emerge. It can happen, especially if you share different opinions. Here are some tips to help you deal with conflict when bargaining internationally.

1 – Recognise Conflict Management as an important skill to develop

Learning about efficient negotiations to minimize confrontational situations and resolve conflict helps business people manage stressful scenarios a lot better. Exposure to constructive behaviours, positive mind-sets and well-thought strategies are often linked to successful negotiations.

Depending on the situation, you can avoid, confront, accommodate, collaborate or compromise – it’s up to you to choose and make the most of that choice. Find a way to build confidence, and use the most creative approaches to make others relate to whatever you have to say.

There are a number of conflict resolution styles which you can develop and customise to your needs. Conflict resolution techniques as those developed for your own team can also help you to think about international negotiations, such as the Interest-Based Relational Approach: 


2 – Preparation is key when dealing with international negotiations

Preparation: a woman focuses on her workout Image (CC) by Nathan Rupert
Preparation: a woman focuses on her workout
Image (CC) by Nathan Rupert

In some cultures, the actual negotiation comes at the end of a business meeting. Not knowing that will cost you. Time is flexible in many cultures, so it’s important to remain calm and be prepared. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Know more about the negotiation style of your opponents from a cultural point of view – link negotiations to that country’s history and background (never forget that history makes the people)
  • Are your opponents laid-back and relaxed, or do they seem tense? – don’t play with fire and try not to use humor if opponents are overly formal
  • Showcase your curiosity – If you’re negotiating in a country you’ve never been before, highlight that aspect. Ask about places of interest, restaurants, accommodation. This will cool the atmosphere and everyone will feel more relaxed

3 – Patience is paramount when dealing with tense international negotiations

Business talk, Image (CC) by  Wolfgang Lonien
Business talk, Image (CC) by Wolfgang Lonien

Typical business people from the US are used to flying across the world with a sole intention in mind – to sign a deal. That’s not always a good business attitude. Flexibility and patience are paramount.

Rushing things and persuading opponents to sign a contract may trigger redundant reactions from the opposition. Deals that may usually take 2 days to close in the US, may take up to 10 days to close in Asian or Arab countries.

4 – Anger should be used constructively

Controlling anger before it controls you... Image (CC) by Min-Yoon Cheah
Controlling anger before it controls you… Image (CC) by Min-Yoon Cheah

Anger is an extremely common feeling in the business environment, and that’s mainly because people don’t always share the same opinions. Not everyone can use anger constructively though, and in many cases the end result is not positive at all. Efficient bargaining skills can help curtail the impact of a confrontational situation.

First, you must identify what exactly triggered your anger; next, you must assess personal biases and view things from an objective perspective.

In order to function well in tough scenarios, you must find a way to diffuse anger and focus on a beneficial outcome.

5 – Define your negotiation style

Negotiation Cartoons: Positions Vs. Interests Image (CC) by  jonny goldstein
Negotiation Cartoons: Positions Vs. Interests Image (CC) by jonny goldstein

Prior to starting a negotiation, it’s important that you define your negotiation style. Know your BATNA and settle on a plan that can help you close the best deal. It’s equally important to get to know your opponents as well.

While business individuals from Asian and Arab countries can be extremely patient, we can’t say the same thing about people from the US and Canada. Your style should define your business personality. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Know your numbers – for a business negotiation to succeed, it must be backed up by solid information. Know the ins and outs of your company, and be ready to answer questions. Since you’re dealing with international negotiations, conflict may arise. You can always avoid such situations as long as you hold solid information.
  • Know the competition – it can be tough to “read” foreign negotiators. Their ideas, principles and main beliefs may be completely different from yours.
  • Know when to back off – just because you flew 20 hours to get to get to a business meeting in Tokyo, it doesn’t mean that a deal will be closed. There are chances for negotiations to fail. If an offer can’t bring enough benefits to your company, it’s best to say “no” and walk away.

Managing confrontational negotiations is tough. Beginners may require negotiation training to help them surpass dreadful circumstances. Whatever happens, it’s vital that you stay calm.

Never lose your temper, and never allow an opponent (foreign or not) get under your skin. Stay professional and don’t hesitate to reject a deal if it doesn’t benefit your business.

By Davis Miller and!