London state of mind

2 days in Europe’s capital

Over the weekend, I spent 2 days in London — that’s what I call my summer vacation. Meeting friends from all over the world, and their friends whom I mostly didn’t know, walking around town — which I never do in Paris, unless expressly and kindly asked —, you get a feel of a couple of things:

a) That town is vibrant. There is simply no question about it: you walk around the center, everyone is half running around, even on a sunny Saturday afternoon. You go into any Starbucks — and I’ve tried a few to make sure — and every barista has the energy of a TV soccer presenter. You go into any bar and people are dancing around like no one in Paris is — except foreigners. You meet people who work and live there, and they are all hyperactive multitaskers — as in, having very long hours, yet running marathons, starting businesses on the side and/or taking cooking lessons. No European city that I know of has that level of energy. Definitely not Paris, where the maître mot is quality of life.

b) That town is the economic center of Europe. Most of my London friends work in Finance or Marketing, and all of them work on projects that are bigger and quicker to put in place than in Paris (or Moscow, these 3 cities being the only ones I have worked in so far). In Finance, for instance, I talked to several investment fund managers who work on global multi-billion dollar projects that very few can even get to in Paris: the money is just no there. As for entrepreneurs, they say that the startup ecosystem is very much alive, that getting money is rather easy and that finding talent — the hardest part, in my humble opinion — is even simpler: everyone comes to London. Obviously, still not everyone succeeds, but the odds are clearly higher than anywhere in continental Europe.

c) What about New York? A couple of new-yorkers I met during this trip, other friends who live there and my personal experience — albeit too dated now : I was there last in 2005 — all tell me that New York is still the next step. Instead of managing Europe — as well as part of Africa or the Middle East, to be fair to London —, you get to manage everything. The US is still #1 and New York is still its epicenter, the only minor exception being the California startup scene, although you can also find quite a few of those in New York — and that is where they go to do their IPOs…

Now, the only question is: when will China join in?