Mike Arrington stars in The Ugly American

by Mathew on December 13, 2008 · 17 comments

It’s been awhile since we had a good “bitchmeme” flare up on Techmeme, so now is as good a time as any, I suppose. In this case, it’s a cross-cultural, multi-continent event involving Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, LeWeb organizer (and TechCrunch partner) Loic LeMeur of Seesmic, and a cast of thousands — or possibly hundreds. The main attraction was apparently a panel discussion at LeWeb in which Mike talked about how all most of the successful Web companies are located in Silicon Valley because they want to win at all costs, while Europeans like to take long lunches and relax (the fun starts at about 17:00). The comment thread on Mike’s post alone is worth the price of admission. Loic LeMeur’s somewhat defensive response is here.

Update: In round two of this match, Mike has responded to Loic’s poll on whether he should be allowed back to LeWeb, calling it “censorship,” and Loic has responded to Mike’s response, saying that he thought of him as a friend “until now,” because Mike threatened not to send anyone to LeWeb next year, and posted a comment about starting his own European conference.

Not surprisingly, Mike is accused of being a stereotypical “ugly American,” who thinks that only American companies can succeed, and that all Europeans are lazy. He in turn points out that he never said Europeans were lazy, only that they have a cultural approach to business that isn’t as hard-nosed as the typical American entrepreneurial approach — and that while there are plenty of entrepreneurial European companies (Skype, etc.), they tend to either move to the U.S. so they can be part of that culture or get acquired by American companies. Like many stereotypes, there is a grain of truth in what Mike says, which is probably why it generates such an emotional response. It’s also possible that Mike likes to get attention :-)

As someone who has spent the majority of my life in Canada (although I was born in Germany and have visited Europe many times), I can’t claim any kind of real expertise in this debate. In my experience, however, American companies do tend to be more aggressive, and U.S. entrepreneurs tend to be more driven than those from other countries, including Canada — which, as many people know, is an odd sort of mix of British, French and American influences (we’re like the UN up here). But that aggression and drive can also produce companies that flame out spectacularly, and/or wind up pushing the envelope of the law. For what it’s worth, I am also on record as favouring long lunches, so I guess I am a little European in spirit.


Some thoughts from my friend Ethan Kaplan of blackrimglasses.

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