Madrid

plaza de toro de las ventasA spectacular venue for South Summit in Madrid – La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas – bringing together hundreds of people from across the start up landscape in Spain (and beyond).

It was a beautifully run event, but you can sense a “but” – and this has nothing to do with South Summit or Madrid, it was highlighted in a strand of our panel conversation on the UK ecosystem too.

My impression is that the start up industry – and make no mistake this is now an industry – is slightly overheating. There is a clear feeling of the “me too”: every corporate now has a lab; every city is home to a proliferation of accelerators; public organizations are sprouting to broker and aggregate and mentor; everyone is a (serious) investor. And with it comes the insight free jargon – everyone is disruptive, everyone can quote the sexy stat on big data (really big!), tech will save us.

I also can’t help but think that the combination of a continued fetishism of failure and the neediness of an economy of incubators and accelerators contributes to a lack of rigour. “Keep going with your not brilliant idea, and if it doesn’t work you can pivot right? Or fail, well done! I’ll extract my value anyway, thanks”.

Nobody seems to be drawing the strategic dots between an oft repeated global “talent gap” and an environment which actively encourages start ups with a 90% failure rate – because you might be the next Google. Or maybe you can get aqui-hired, rather than hired.

It might be these are just the frayed edges of a new industrial revolution, or I woke up cynical this week. It is completely true that the pace of technology innovation is making it very hard for corporations to keep up with the changing behaviours of their customers. I wholeheartedly believe in open innovation and that the interesting important ideas will emerge from unexpected places and the combination of diverse skills.

But in the middle of this are a cohort of bright young people, trying exceptionally hard to make their mark in a challenging world. And I have a distinct sense of unease that their dreams are becoming a bandwagon for others.

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