Category Archives: European Entrepreneur News

Off The Beaten Path

Over the last year I have been working on a project funded by the European Investment Bank to help young entrepreneurs in the occupied territories in Palestine. The project has been an amazing learning experience for me. Sometimes you have to move outside your comfort zone and beyond your normal pathways in order to discover new parts of the planet and new sides of yourself. The photo is from the Technical University of Hebron and was taken in December 2011. What impressed me most about this group was their eagerness to learn and their insightful questions. Rather than being focused on the hopelessness of the situation in their region, these brave young entrepreneurs were searching for opportunities and seeking solutions to problems.

This is true entrepreneurship at its best. Becoming an entrepreneur means taking responsibility for your life and taking action to make good things happen.

Making the most of any situation

I did a workshop this week in Palermo, Italy for a group of MBA students and startup companies at the ARCA Technology Incubator. Palermo is a fantastic place of chaos, crowds, energy and even innovation.

I once heard a story about an American law professor who was in Italy holding lectures about the American law system. After one of his speeches there were 2 Italian students who approached him and said “Professor – is it true that in America if someone falls down and injures themselves on the sidewalk in front of a building, that the building’s owner is liable and can be sued?”  The Professor answered, “Well, yes, this is true if the owner can be proven to be negligent.” The two men started discussing this fervently amongst themselves in Italian with much waving of the hands and loud voices of enthusiasm. Finally the professor said, “So, would you fellows like to go to America to study Law?”   The Italians answered. “Oh no, no, no. We want to go to America and fall down on sidewalks!”

The Sicilians are champions at adapting and making the most of any situation. Sicily has been invaded and conquered by the Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Muslims, Normans, Catalan, Spanish and perhaps 10 other different empires throughout history. Governments come and go here, but the Sicilians remain. Somehow they make the best of the situation.  The architecture the conquerors left behind is an amazing mix of Gothic, Roman, Greek, Classic, Neo-classic and Tasteless. Most buildings are either in an advanced state of decay or under unorganized reconstruction. The sidewalks are narrow and impassible because there are armadas of small Fiats parked on every available square meter of sidewalk space. If no Fiats, then there are 22 motorbikes piled into a single parking space. The roads are disorganized, chaotic and without any easily visible signs or indications of direction or place. Billboards and garbage everywhere add an ambience that completes the picture. Palermo is hectic and yet somehow still lovely. It has a strange charm that takes some time to sink in. I don’t think that Palermo is really part of the western world. It is more like a third-world country that is disguised as a province of Italy. Silvio Berlusconi and his unique style of leadership was so popular here in the last election that he won 63 of 63 seats in congress. OK, personally owning most of the national media can be a bit helpful.

Amidst all the chaos and the mess, you will find the lovely and friendly people of Sicily.  Few speak English. I just went into the information center at the central train station and the two ancient, gray-haired men working there did not speak a word of English and were mildly irritated with me for wasting their time. Amazing, but if you are polite and try to use some travel-guide Italian phrases you will find that most people are patient, helpful and delighted to be of assistance. You will also find many smart researchers, scientists and professors in the technology centers.

Making the best of any situation is a useful skill, both for Sicilians and for entrepreneurs.

More Serial Entrepreneurs?

Yesterday I led a workshop for 20 young entrepreneurs in Dusseldorf, Germany. I asked them if they knew the expression “serial entrepreneurs”. Few did.  I asked if they knew the term “serial killers”. Yes. They all had watched enough TV crime shows to understand that term.

OK, so I challenged them to learn to become “serial entrepreneurs”. A serial killer commits one murder after another. A serial entrepreneur completes one startup and then immediately starts to dream about the next. Call this an illness or call it a calling in life. Some people just get it. Some people just don’t. Some people love the ability to convert an idea into a plan, a plan into a team, a team into a business, and a business into something of immense value and social change. Others just don’t understand the motivation that is needed to do this.

The workshop was the start of an 8-month program where 15 selected technology companies from the North Rhine Westphalia region will get special help, assistance, coaching and individual follow-up from experienced entrepreneurs and investors. In one way, this is a grand experiment. Just like young plants need special care and nutrients in order to grow quickly, this program seeks to nurture and to fertilize the environment where these 15 young companies will grow. The Dusseldorf region is a fertile growing ground. We are trying to make it even more so.

We need more serial entrepreneurs. We need more people who have learned how to start and build small businesses. We need more people that know how to write business plans and then how to raise capital to realize their dreams. We need more people who are willing to take risks and we need political systems that reward people who take initiative and create value.  The most important and vibrant part of any growing economy is the grassroots of startup companies that spring forth on their own.  Nurture them.

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Laid-off?… then Become An Entrepreneur

These days, the workers in the Northeast of England have the feeling that things have not been worse since the famine and plagues of the middle ages. Unemployment is at an all-time high, problems are escalating and you have a whole new generation growing up without any means of work or income other than government subsidies. Only fools entertain optimistic thoughts, let alone dare to leave the house with smiles on their faces.

Then to make matters worse, I just read an article about a group in the Northeast that is encouraging people who are facing layoffs from their jobs to consider becoming entrepreneurs.

How dare they? Is becoming an entrepreneur really an option for someone facing redundancy and unemployment?

My Story
What got me started? 20 years ago I was working for Norsk Data, a large corporation that went through several big rounds of layoffs. One year after the third round I learned from my boss that my name had been on the list of those to be fired in the last round. Being familiar with my work, he had rescued me from the list. Learning this news shook me to the core. I had never even imagined that I could lose my job. In spite of all the layoffs, it had not even been a remote possibility in my mind. After all, I was so smart and talented (I thought). Leaning this fact shattered my ideas about job stability. It made me completely rethink which career path was ”safe” and which was ”risky”. I vowed to myself that I would never again put myself in a position where another person’s whim could affect my future in such a dramatic manner. I decided that by becoming an entrepreneur, I could control my own fate and shape my own destiny. Within 3 months of receiving this news, I was involved with 2 software programmers in my first successful tech startup called BlueSky Software (renamed eHelp Corporation). Since then I have been involved with over 12 different startups and early stage ventures. It became a good career for me.

The threat of being laid-off prompted me to take action. How would you deal with this same situation? I sincerely believe that more people who are faced with layoffs should indeed consider becoming entrepreneurs. I will not promise you that it is an easy path to walk, but for the right type of person, it is a good move to make.

Excerpt from:  Forum urges recession hit people into business:

“No one is ever going to suggest that starting a business is the easy option – such a step into the unknown can be daunting or even intimidating. But there has never been a better time to give it a go because you’re not alone. There are plenty who are in the same position and plenty who’ve been through it, come out the other side and once they’ve worked through the doubts and challenges never look back. And their stories are always inspirational.”

“Entrepreneurs have an increasing role to play in the future success of the economy and we should see this as an opportunity to transform the economic make-up of the region.”

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.com and at www.xelerator.com.
Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who believes that this beautiful world that we have created needs our help. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

USA passes Educating Entrepreneurs bill

“Every $1 dollar invested in this program will put $2.87 into the national treasury” – N.Velazquez (US State Representative)

“The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in our region. What is lacking is the opportunity and ability to tap into ‘the experts’.” Donna Kilhoffer (Community Education Council)

On July 28, 2009 the US House of Representatives passed a bi-partisan bill called the Educating Entrepreneurs Through Today’s Technology Act. The bill was introduced by New York Democrat Nydia Velazquez, who is the Chairperson of the House Small Business Committee.  It provides funds for creating a USA national training program for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. It will finance satellite and advanced network infrastructure as well as leading-edge content and participation by some of the most successful and experienced entrepreneurs on the planet. The delivery will be live, online, interactive and available to small business owners and entrepreneurs nationwide. Whether they live in the backwoods of West Virginia or in the heart of Silicon Valley, they will now have access to instant, interactive and specialized expertise. Now that is the type of government stimulus program I like.

Why is this important for European entrepreneurs and politicians?

  • USA entrepreneurs are challenged because there are so many remote geographies and rural areas. Europeans are challenged because there are so many different and also remote nationalities. Europe needs this kind of program.
  • USA entrepreneurs are blessed with a single, large and homogeneous market. Europeans need to lower the national barriers so that European Entrepreneurs can service EU markets unencumbered.
  • USA venture capital markets are uniform and relatively equivalent across the country (the VC terms in Boston are not that much different from those in Silicon Valley or the Technology Triangle in N.Carolina). Europe needs to flatten the geography.
  • USA entrepreneurs struggle with internationalization and cross-border ventures. Europeans understand this innately and should be encouraged to use this to their competitive advantage.

Europe needs to find a way to turn this from a disadvantage into a competitive advantage.

Your comments on this article are encouraged.

Here is more information:


Thompson Bill Passes House “The Educating Entrepreneurs through Today’s Technology Act”

July 28, 2009 6:12 PM. Washington, D.C.—Today the House of Representatives passed by voice vote, House Resolution 1807, the Educating Entrepreneurs through Today’s Technology Act, introduced by U.S. Representative Glenn `GT’ Thompson, R-Howard.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing roughly half of U.S. workers, and while our communities are experiencing high unemployment rates, the entrepreneurial spirit remains alive and well,” Thompson told the Members.  “For many underserved and rural areas, it is critical to have the opportunity and ability to tap into resources that will foster further economic development and provide prospective entrepreneurs with the same access afforded to their suburban and urban counterparts.”

The measure will provide high-quality tele-distance training through a competitive grants process administered by the Small Business Administration. The program will promote peer-to-peer networking for small business development, by using technology to deliver information and share data on-line and through videos and satellite communication.

Satellite seminars and online information services will allow prospective and established business men and women to interact with each other to trouble shoot problems and share best practices for interacting with the Small business Administration.  This is a good example of the proliferation of online networking sites, where people can exchange their knowledge and  information.  This one will offer facts and figures on securing financing, navigating government regulations and learning to get a small business off the ground.

For many entrepreneurs, accessing this kind of information requires driving long distances to a Small Business Development Center.  This legislation will bring the information to home computers.

In April, when this bill had a hearing before the Small Business Committee, Donna Kilhoffer, the program manager for the Community Education Council of Elk and Cameron Counties testified, “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in our region. What is lacking is the opportunity and ability to tap into ‘the experts’.”

This measure will allow people throughout the Nation to tap into the experts.

Thompson’s bill passed in May as well when it was included as a part of a larger House-passed bill, (H.R. 2352), the Job Creation through Entrepreneurship Act of 2009.  Both measures await action in the U.S. Senate before either can become law.

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.com and at www.xelerator.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who believes that this beautiful world that we have created needs our help. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Rick Salmon appointed President of Selection Jury for 2009 European Venture Contest

barcelona 081(Oslo, Nov. 12, 2009)
Europe Unlimited has appointed Rick Salmon as President of the Selection Jury for 2009 European Venture Contest Finals which will be held on December 14th and 15th, 2009 in Barcelona. The Jury will consist of 30 distinguished members representing the Venture Capital community in Europe.  The mission of this annual venture contest is to find, evaluate and award world-class innovative companies with the potential to dramatically impact their industry and contribute to increasing European competitiveness and growth. This year over 700 startup companies have competed in the contest this year and the top 25 have been chosen to go to the finals in Barcelona.

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Worshiping Genius

RS_Photo94“Italy worships Genius, but has not yet figured out how to create a culture of entrepreneurship”. This was an interesting statement made by the Executive Director of the Italian Angels for Growth, Lorenzo Fanchini at last week’s semi-final of the European Venture Contest (EEVC) held in Turin. Italy is a country filled with brilliant scientists and engineers. There is a huge supply of new technology, brilliant engineering and mechanical precision but unfortunately a shortage of businessmen – those boring guys in business suits that focus on cash flow instead of electron flow. Don’t get me wrong. There are good businessmen in Italy, but as an outsider, I am struck by the inequality in the number of engineers.

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Throw away 1000 years of history

When I arrived in Trento, Italy on Thursday the first thing I noticed were the city walls. Since the medieval times they have kept out invaders from the north and conquerors from the south. When you are reminded of your ancient past each day, perhaps it makes it harder to understand that THE PAST IS NOT THE FUTURE.

I was a speaker at a venture event in Trento this week that was sponsored by the local government and businesses. This region is making a fantastic effort in their attempt to break from the traditional thinking of old Italy and Europe and to foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. While perhaps this may sound novel, the reality of changing peoples’ beliefs and even values is daunting. In almost every single meeting I had with entrepreneurs it only took about 3 to 4 minutes before they started by telling me how difficult it is to succeed with a startup in Italy. It was almost as if they felt it was their task to convince me that this was impossible!

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Entrepreneurs are Losers

LoserA few weeks ago I was standing in line at the store behind two boys. They were probably 13, maybe 14 years old and these guys were really cool. They wore low-rider pants that constantly tried to slide down to their knees, big T-shirts advertising their favorite vampire heavy metal bands. One had a skateboard under his arm while the other had a ski hat tugged down over his ears in spite of the warm day. I overheard them talking about a friend of theirs who had recently quit the skateboarding scene and moved on to something else (I think they said he quit skateboards and started chasing girls…). As they talked about him, they both stopped, looked at each other and simultaneously lifted their right hands to their foreheads. Placing their thumbs against their foreheads and extending their index finger straight up, they had both created the big “L” sign. This stands for “Loser”. Having both agreed on this point and signaled what they thought about it, they smiled to each other and went on to talk about something else.

Are Entrepreneurs Losers?

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The Circle of Life

allman_brothersI admit it. I spend too much time on the web. Mostly I am searching to see what other people are doing to solve problems for entrepreneurs and early-stage startup companies. There are some really interesting things happening out there, but in today’s world of info overload you really have to do some serious searching. And then there is all the other stuff that you stumble over on your way down that rocky road…

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