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Venture capital investment is growing faster outside the US (citylab.com)
92 points by mooreds 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments

I recently read Factfulness, by Hans Rosling, and it really changed how I read articles like this. Here's where this article goes totally off the rails...

It's only showing American startup activity as a proportion of global startup activity. I might have missed it in a quick read, but nowhere did I see total numbers by nation, or by startup city.

Let's shift perspective slightly. Is American investment in startups decreasing? Not compared to China or whatever, but compared to itself? Or is it staying the same, or growing? Looking at Pitchbook data, the biggest year for US venture capital was 2015 ($82.2B), with 2017 close behind at $81.9B, and 2018 looking to be about on par. So stable, basically.

What this tells us is not that the US startup activity is in any way unhealthy, but rather that the rest of the world is figuring out how to do it, too. And what's wrong with that? How is that a negative? We don't get that from the article, because it's stuck in this misleading mode of lost competitiveness from is comparison model.

This is why everyone should read Factfulness. No other book I've ever read has helped tune my bullshit detector so well.

Further to that point, the article pretends it's a global phenomenon that's occuring. It's not. Venture capital has barely budged in the developed world. That growth is almost exclusively isolated to two countries: China and India. The growth in the rest of the world is very modest as a share of the global total VC.

Just look at the expansion in China since 2005, as one would expect, it represents the extreme majority of all VC expansion globally. The story should have actually been framing the premise as: China's dramatic economic expansion since the late 1990s, in which it added ~$80 trillion in cumulative economic activity over 20 years, has resulted in a lot of venture capital activity. They went from 1% of global VC activity, to 25%, in roughly 20 years (12x that of France now) - that's the primary story.

Or put another way, since ~2006, the US has bled only three to four points of its global share of all VC to 190 some countries, and roughly 24 or 25 points to just China and India.

That wouldn't make for nearly as attention-getting of a headline though.

Are there any other countries that are seriously in the software industry besides the US, China, and India?

> While it is true that venture-capital investment in the U.S. continues to rise, having reached more than $90 billion in 2017, such investment is growing even faster in other parts of the world, expanding by nearly 375 percent—more than twice the 160-percent increase here.

Looks like the story here isn't the U.S. falling behind, but the rest of the world catching up.

Yep. But it's not presented that way, because bullshit. Same numbers, completely different conclusion - but important data that would reveal the bias left out of the article.

I read "How to lie with statistics" and had the exact same experience.

"There are lies, damned lies, and statistics"

The title: "America Is Losing Its Edge for Startups"

Based on the data they presented, this is true in a relative sense. Actually, based on your quote as well:

>Is American investment in startups decreasing? Not compared to China or whatever, but compared to itself? Or is it staying the same, or growing? Looking at Pitchbook data, the biggest year for US venture capital was 2015 ($82.2B), with 2017 close behind at $81.9B, and 2018 looking to be about on par. So stable, basically.

You've just shown that recent VC growth in the US is zero.

That, I would say, is 'losing an edge', when everyone else around you is growing.

Yes of course, others are playing catch up and realizing that the institution of venture capital can have big pay offs. But for the #1 contender to stop growing, does mean that they're becoming less dominant in a relative sense. And if trends continue, they will cease to be number 1.

Without reading your comment I had already read from the article just by skimming it that the US was not declining it absolute terms, but rather the rest of the world was catching up.

So I think you may have jumped the gun there.

I buy the data. I don't buy the conclusion.

America blazed the trail. Do you think the rest of the world is simply going to sit idly on the sidelines after watching the success? No. Entrepreneurs around the world have been watching, and they've been inspired to create movements in their own cities. Governments have been watching, and they're inspired to support their entrepreneurs. The rest of the world woke up and that's a good thing for the world.

Also what's with comparing America with an aggregate of the rest of the world? That alone shows how far and away America is that we need to make bad faith comparisons like that.

Here's an example from the article:

> While it is true that venture-capital investment in the U.S. continues to rise, having reached more than $90 billion in 2017, such investment is growing even faster in other parts of the world, expanding by nearly 375 percent — more than twice the 160-percent increase here.

> Do you think the rest of the world is simply going to sit idly on the sidelines after watching the success?

I think Europe will. When it comes to business, they tend to eat their young.

Look, I don't want to be a Europe apologist because the continent does have it's problems, but having moved just to Stockholm, the startup scene here seems to be very much hitting its stride.

There have been relatively big exits in the past five years, there's more money than ever in the ecosystem and people seem to be willing to do more risky ventures than before.

I've got a friend in Berlin in the startup industry who's very bullish in their local ecosystem as well. Neither of these places is Silicon Valley nor will they ever be, but they're both doing pretty ok and you can easily start a company here and have it be pretty successful, even globally.

I think that outlook was more likely a few years ago. In the grand scheme of things it seems like places like Stockholm and Berlin have largely capped out. I think it is getting harder to see that there would be significant growth for these places in the future, especially without things like debt and real estate capturing much of that growth. They have largely been growing because there were excess potential, but failures to continue that trend means there isn't as much potential anymore. Maybe they will reinvent themselves, but that is yet to be seen.

What do you mean by eating the young?

usually it refers to policies which (usually unintendedly, sometimes explicitly) take from the productivity of younger people to finance older people. Because it is difficult to predict the future, the fear is that the unintended consequence is that this may take so much from the young that it robs their future. There are very good reasons to at least consider this as a possibility, because policymakers seem to make state revenue projections that are consistently overoptimistic. Also, programmes that were instituted as temporary often wind up becoming permanent and then also get mission creep; some programs that wind up being generational are instituted without taking into account demographic shifts, especially in fertility rates, etc.)

The lost decade in Japan is often cited as such an example, but increasingly we are seeing things like wage stagnation among <30 in the US and Europe that may also be the result of this (of course plenty of mainstream explanations abound as well).

Great answer, thanks for taking the time!

Cost of entry is too high for new players

In EU regulations, there is often a trend to not exclude small businesses from costly regulations. The GDPR is a recent example of this, with no carve outs for organizations under a certain size or revenue number.

In the US and other English speaking countries, there are often revenue, employee count and public vs private carve outs for various regulations.

By not excluding small business and startups from costly regulations, they often stunt potential new businesses from developing in the EU.

Highly regulated environments are heavily biased toward huge and/or old companies because regulation is a regressive corporate tax.

And regulations often have grandfathering clauses which favor old companies!

This article seems like bunk fear mongering to me. It talks about everything in terms of percentages of investment, percentages of companies and growth rates: cherry picked statistics that seem to be intentionally misrepresenting reality. The global economy is not zero-sum. Other countries growing their startup scenes is a good thing (with a notable exception around those doing it with heavy IP theft) and should be celebrated, not spun into fear of the US losing out. Let the US worry about whether it's healthy and growing, not fret about whether others are.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

I wonder why the down votes, as the long term trend has been for this to be emphatically true.

It's a contemporary euphemism for "trickle down", the long term trend of which has been emphatically untrue.

> It's a contemporary euphemism for "trickle down"

Really? Trickle down proponents have co-opted the rising tide aphorism? Ugh.

LeBron James is not improving his basketball skills nearly as fast as the world's babies are improving their skills.

I love this analogy

remember: slope _and_ gradient...

I'm not sure the data supports this conclusion that "America is losing its edge."

VC funding continues to rise as a whole, and the declining share of US VC invested vs. rest of the world is just a trend of a broader portfolio growth from international startups. That would be just lazy statistics - e.g. if I go from 1 US city to 3 US cities + 3 UK cities, I have growth in VC funding as a whole, as well in the US, but the US goes from 100% to 50%.

VC funding is growing faster in other parts of the world? Well when you're denominator is 0, or really low, of course growth "rate" is going to be high by definition. It's not really apples-to-apples. Further, I don't see whether or not the US has hit diminishing returns, yet, from this article, or if US growth is still healthy.

The data on China, though, is intriguing - maybe someone else here more informed than I am could speak to that.

As others have pointed out, there are some things in the article worth considering, but whenever people talk about "making the next Silicon Valley", I feel like they never seem to appreciate just how special and rare and fragile a successful ecosystem is. A million little factors all contribute to making something like that happen, the absence of any one of which tends to make the other factors disappear as well.

I personally am ok with silicon valleyesque hubs coming up around the world.

But what's really surprising is the speed. The reason? The best markets and the best people are not coming here anymore.

Sometimes when I go to Asian countries, I almost feel like they're from the future. Payments, electric scooters, charging stations, rental bikes, AI, digital ecosystems, car sharing, hotels, biofuels, cloud based systems etc. are all waay more important, waay more mature, waay more people designing, waay more usage, waay more convenient than the US.

The more that smart entrepreneurs decide that US is not the future, the more tides are a turning. The next Sergey Brin will probably be in Asia.

Fun fact: China and Japan both use far more cash than the USA. Cloud, especially cloud providers, is way more mature in the USA. Car sharing ditto. Try finding a car charging station at a Chinese supermarket parking lot like you’d find at Whole Foods, etc....

China has made a lot of progress in the last few years, they are definitely making faster progress than the USA. But they also started way behind and are still, to much extent, behind in many areas.

> China and Japan both use far more cash than the USA. Cloud, especially cloud providers, is way more mature in the USA. Car sharing ditto. Try finding a car charging station at a Chinese supermarket parking lot like you’d find at Whole Foods, etc.

I agree. But that's the difference between US until the last decade and today. Cloud providers here are mature because Amazon pioneered it in the last decade.

But AI on cloud is all Alibaba. We don't hear about it here in US media but US companies are playing catchup.

Same for charging stations. They don't need a charging station in whole foods because most people don't even drive as much. They order groceries on apps. Even if they do, charging stations are present in gas stations there. Their low cost cheap cars have features that rival Tesla (albeit at a lower quality and lower price)


We here in the US just don't get this shown to us in media.

> But AI on cloud is all Alibaba.

Huh? I mean, Alibaba is doing alright, but not particularly better than the other cloud providers.

> Same for charging stations. They don't need a charging station in whole foods because most people don't even drive as much. They order groceries on apps. Even if they do, charging stations are present in gas stations there. Their low cost cheap cars have features that rival Tesla (albeit at a lower quality and lower price)

Teslas are actually fairly common in Beijing now because of the plate lottery.

The Chinese have plenty of parking lots and plenty of driving. The biggest challenge to personal electric cars in China, something I don't think anyone has figured out yet, is that many people don't actually have formal overnight parking spaces for their cars. Sure, it works for taxis, you'll see taxis use those charging stations, but no one else.

Look, I've totally been there. We used to have bottled water delivered to our apartment (heck, even before the apps came out, we'd just call the store downstairs). I don't do that anymore now that I'm back in the USA, I just drink from the tap. And no, I never had a car in China either, but plenty of other people did and the grocery stores weren't empty (especially when compared to a western one)!

> We here in the US just don't get this shown to us in media.

Is there a single Asian city that scores on all of the examples you cited?

Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul comes to mind.

But other major asian cities like Shanghai, Shenzhen, Taipei, HongKong, Kuala Lumpur all have 70% or more of those.

You'll find some of those even in Vietnam, Thailand and India.

Confession - didn't read the article because the title shows that the author has its head in the wrong place. There shouldn't be comparisons like these because every ecosystem is different. USA has a mature startup ecosystem and is rather awesome. Also why the competition ? Startup ecosystems should crop up everywhere since these are so healthy for the world economy as a whole.

I also buy the data, but not the click-bait conclusion.

China aside, the U.S is still by far the strongest place for startups. Venture capital was invented in the U.S, but just because it is not the only country with such industry today doesn't mean it has lost its edge.

I have trouble understanding the problem. Should Silicon Valley corner the market for startups? I believe in entrepreneurship and empowering people, this is excellent news. It will expand the number of startups exponentially, Chinese startups will learn things from US, and then teach us here few tricks. European startups will bring their own flare, South American ones will bring their own color to the mix. And amount of VC investment will explode, as it will be beyond just what US, or SV can provide.

I see this as a very good thing. What we should do is, find a way to collaborate with each other and to help each other do better.

The article only states that the share of venture capital deployed in the United States is declining and not the total amount. The total amount is increasing. This is to be expected and this is not surprising by any means.

Article states that investment outside the United States is increasing at a faster rate. That makes sense since its a combination of trying to catch up from a lower base and a faster growth rate in gdp.

The us share of world gdp is 23%, if venture capital was proportionally distributed across the world the us would only get 23% of total venture capital spending.

What edge? Silicon Valley VCs still invests in American (and global) companies. Just because London VCs also invests in British (and global) companies, doesn't mean one city is competing with the other. I don't get why they are even compared.

Now if you want to list which places are the best to BUILD a startup, that's a different thing all together.

I came across this awesome site the other day[1] and its made me think about potentially opening up shop somewhere other than NYC.

1: https://nomadlist.com

I'd be interested in a similar comparison for startup success. Do American startups fare better than others around the world?

Another clarification: most of these VC in China is in a few, huge deals by Alibaba, Tencent etc. If one looks at the number of startups that are getting funding, China ranks very low.

I have lived in China for 15 years, am located in Beijing and am a founder of a startup.

There are an incredible numbers of funded startups in China. You can't make up stuff because you live in the country.


Look at Appendix 7 Top 50 Cities for venture capital deals Top 50 Cities for Pre-Venture Capital (Angel + Seed Stage) Deals

Especially the second one clearly shows it.

Europe will not win race for ambitious people.

I lived in Sweden for almost one year as an expat (I'm a software engineer). Now, I live in the Netherlands for more than two years.

I can say for sure that Europe is nowhere near Silicon Valley in terms of compensation for ambitious software engineers. Sweden went total nuts with taxes, anything above $6500 per month would be taxed at 55-60% tax rate. It's effectively cap to enforce equality of outcome.

60% tax doesn't mean that ultra-high salaries will be taxed at this rate. It means that ultra-high salaries will not exist in job market in the first place.

The best Swedish startup threatens to leave Sweden because of regulatory and tax burden [1].

The Netherlands recognized importance of highly-skilled expats by introducing tax discounts called "30% ruling". I do respect their efforts to attract talent. That's why I moved from Sweden to the Netherlands in 2016.

However, as non-EU citizen you can work only for publicly registered sponsors [2]. Usually, it's boring well-established companies. So I missed some cool opportunities due to this limitation.

As I learned dutch local job market, I found that almost nobody will pay you 10'000 EUR per month.

Aside from tax and regulatory burden in Europe, there are cultural things like Law of Jante [3]. I can't imagine how society with such mentality can attract highly ambitious people.

Also, talking about money in Europe is kinda taboo. And dutch automatically repeat "money is not everything". It wouldb't annoy me if someone committed to work for open source software. Or being great painter. But when recruiter respond me "money is not everything" when I'm asking "too much", it annoys me a lot.

With that in mind, I decided to abandon idea of living in Europe, getting citizenship, learning dutch language etc. It was tough decision for me but it's time to move on. It's not kind of a society where I want to spend rest of my life. Sorry dutch and swedes, I don't fit here.

So I decided to move to Hong Kong. I've just got very lucrative job offer in Hong Kong (in HFT). The size of compensation is far beyond of what Europe can offer me. Now, I'm almost on par with US (I couldn't get into US because I don't have any degree). Now, I'm just waiting for my HK visa getting approved.

You might troll me saying that, I'm whining. OK, I have answer to that. Just look at my net salary increases:

Russia -> Sweden (2015) +28%

Sweden -> Sweden (2015) +15%

Sweden -> the Netherlands (2016) +63%

the Netherlands -> Hong Kong (2018) +83% (and possible bonus up to 300% of yearly salaries!)

I will work like crazy fanatic and in next six years I will be well over $1M of liquid net worth.

So Europe lost me. Europe is perfect place for people who just want to work from 9 to 5 and put family as their top priority. It's not suited for risk takers.





Thanks for the insight. I don't think all societies can be all things to all people, but I don't 100% agree with your final conclusion. Europe has a great safety-net which allows people to take on risks that would be nuts to do elsewhere especially if you have a family.

For the kind of people like you who want to work long hours and reach the stars, I can agree Europe is probably not the place.

But there are many talented people with families who want a work-life balance. For them places like Hong Kong is not going to cut it. My wife has family there that have visited us, and IMHO they have zero work life balance there. It may be good for making money, but not for having a family.

They speak of kids committing suicide because they are so insanely stressed out about their life.

Still I found your perspective very interesting to read. I wish I get to hear sometime in the future how your life in Hong Kong turns out. I have always been very fascinated by the city and hoped to visit it some time in the future.

While I find your perspective interesting I disagree with some of your conclusions.

> It's effectively cap to enforce equality of outcome.

It isn't so much to enforce equality of outcome as to enforce equality of income. What you are experiencing is to a large extent being on the wrong side of inequality. Just that isn't income inequality, but rather things like wealth, real estate, inheritance and education. Inequalities which people in Sweden largely aren't aware of, or accustomed to. If you had arrived 10 years earlier you would have, at least to a larger extent, been set for life. Other than that I can certainly see your perspective because it is almost impossible for a "salary man" to catch up in Sweden.

"as to enforce equality of income". This is what puts me off of Europe!

I don't mind if group of people voluntarily decide to live in communism and share with each other everything they earn. Like hippies who lived in сommunes.

If high taxes (>33%) are not voluntary then it just means that social democrats are not confident that most successful people in the country will share their ideals.

If European social democracy is so cool, then it should work on purely voluntary basis.

Let's re-frame conversation from arguing to selling. I mean there are lots of top technical talents in India and China. How are you going to convince them to go to Sweden instead of US? It should be pretty damn good reason to decline $300k offer from Silicon Valley and go to Stockholm instead!

P.S. I think selling/pitching society ideals is much more positive and productive than arguing.

> "as to enforce equality of income". This is what puts me off of Europe!

It is one of the few ways to have an equal society. With to large income inequality the welfare state becomes unsustainable. The poor can't pay for services performed by the rich and ultimately you get a society like the US or worse. Everywhere doesn't have to be the same, no one is forced to live in Sweden. Swedes have very good visa conditions and generally do very well abroad.

> How are you going to convince them to go to Sweden instead of US?

Sweden is a small place. To the extent it needs top talent there is plenty available. People who want to make $300k shouldn't and largely won't move to Sweden anyways. This isn't a competition Sweden can win. Sweden is largely successful because it competes, or have competed, on its own terms. Not by trying to be a worse copy of something else.

Swedish society can, or could, attract people that wants things that are in line with what it is good at and not readily available in other places i.e. its unique selling proposition. Things like education, family and quality of life. There is a foundation to provide those things that has been lost in the last 10 years or so. A lot of people move for opportunities, making money is only one opportunity.

I think it is telling that you are also leaving the Netherlands as a significantly lower tax rate couldn't keep you there either. Note that I am not saying the Sweden is attractive at this point, just that I find it unlikely that taxes are the main problem.

Personally I don't like Hong Kong, but it will certainly be different. Don't miss out on going to Shenzhen.

I acknowledge that Sweden has number of advantages and benevolent government with no corruption. It's certainly one of the top countries in the world in terms of development.

My guess is that Sweden might be popular choice among people who want to pursue PhD or something like that.

I fell in love with Hong Kong first time I visited it as a tourist in 2013.

I am interested in how you learned to program given that you are saying you have no degree.

It seems most Russian immigrants either come from the 80s phd era or have wealthy patterns and go to a foreign school.

So, you learned on your own?

I was born in Uzbekistan. I lived 22 years in Uzbekistan. My parents had no money but in 1994, my father bought me russian clone of ZX Spectrum:



Basically, in 1990s many of us, used what was popular in 1980s in UK.

My father wasn't technical person but I fell in love with ZX Spectrum from day one! So I just learned it all myself.

Schools were terrible, I mostly skip all classes. But ZX Spectrum is very simple machine, so it's possible for 10 year old kid to learn it without external guidance.

Funny fact, I started working in Internet club in Uzbekistan in 2003 for 10 USD per month. In 2004, I discovered wonderland called Knoppix and FreeBSD. Then I learned programming in Bash. After that I learned programming in C because Kernighan and Ritchie books was so thin and at the same time all Unix/Linux was written in C.

More details on how I learned programming:


Wow, that mirrors so much of my computer learning experience. I grew up in Eastern Europe and my parents made a huge effort to buy me a local clone of ZX Spectrum when I was 10 years old after I was exposed to these computers (and computers in general) because of the local computer club for children (all state sponsored, since it was a communist society). It was love at first sight like you said and all I ever wanted to do.

Then learned everything else on my own with whatever sources I could find (resources from the computer club, magazines, books, etc). And took part in programming contents. These were of all levels, there were town level contents, then the winners would move to county level contents then the winners going to national level. I made it to national level for years after having that ZX Spectrum clone at home. By the time I had some kind of computer class in my education path (high school then later on college) I already knew all that they were going to each. At least it made those classes easy :)

I think educational microcomputers should be reintroduced in modern schools, so kids would have easier time to imagine all path from programming language to hardware.

By the way, your username reminds me of great game on ZX Spectrum called Dizzy:


I sometimes have urge of nostalgia and play such games on ZX Spectrum emulator :)

Cool, thanks.

Out of curiosity, what risk in last paragraph have you in mind? What is in stakes and what can you loose?

Are you asking about what I mean by "It was tough decision for me"?

You can read my post dated 2014:


In short, I was very upset by political situation in Russia and I felt that I must settle in any relatively free country even at great opportunity cost.

But now, I became more confident of my skills and as a result I became more risk tolerant and more ambitious. I decided that in order to be truly happy I should take more risks and completely abandon the idea of stable and predictable life in Europe.

When I leave the Netherlands, all my legal time till citizenship will reset. And I can't truly settle in Hong Kong because housing prices are insanely high and I can't get citizenship there but my bet is that I will become so successful that I will be able to settle anywhere I want as high net worth individual.

> Are you asking about what I mean by "It was tough decision for me"?

No. I was referring to "It's not suited for risk takers". I was curious about where you see risks. What is the danger, what is the valuable thing you might loose by the move. Excluding trade-offs - "legal time till citizenship will reset" is more of trade-off or cost because you know it will happen. It is uncomfortable and obstacle and challenge for sure, I don't want to deprecate the difficulties involved, but it is not what I wanted to ask about.

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