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The Dangerous Myth of the Hero Entrepreneur

NEW YORK – Earlier this month, I sat on a panel in Monte Carlo, a hotspot of the establishment, discussing the question, “Why can't Europe be more like the US?” The formal name of the panel was “Silicon Envy: Will Europe ever build the next new media giant?”

But I think people are focusing on the wrong question. After all, what is the actual value of a Microsoft or an Apple, Oracle, Google, or Twitter to a country in the first place? Surely, it's not the taxes paid by Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison or Sergey Brin, nor even the taxes paid by their companies (of which other countries get a share anyway).

The real value created by many of these companies is much broader. Their employees become productive workers and, ultimately, consumers in some local market. And their products and services generate value even when pirated or used in countries where the provider doesn’t sell much advertising. A country can get all these benefits without actually being the entrepreneur's home country.

But there are two benefits that do redound to a hero entrepreneur’s home country. First, the local entrepreneur serves as a role model. He (rarely she) encourages people to dream – and also to take risks, persist in the face of long odds, and generate economic activity.