Around Europe w/ Tyler Cowen. Lobbying. Startups Across Borders. Biden’s Global Tax Reform.

Today: Tyler Cowen on the "Building Bridges" podcast. My "Sifted" column on lobbying. Essays from the past week and current news.

  
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The Agenda 👇

Today’s episode of the Building Bridges podcast is my conversation with Tyler Cowen, an economist, director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, blogger at Marginal Revolution, and host of the podcast Conversations with Tyler.


I first met Tyler back in 2019 when my colleague Zineb Mekouar and I spent a few days in Washington, DC to promote my book Hedge and to connect with John Dearie’s Center for American Entrepreneurship. We had lunch with Tyler and his colleague and co-author Alex Tabarrok in a Chinese restaurant near George Mason University. Most of our conversation that day was about exchanging ideas and impressions about the relative situation of America, Europe, and the rest of the world.

Since then I’ve kept reading everything I could find about the political situation in the US, the state of the transatlantic relationship, and recently how COVID-19 was impacting the distribution of power and wealth across the world. Then last year, I realized something: Americans are, by far, the most inspiring contributors to this conversation—yet alas they’re mostly speaking about America, leaving the rest of the world untouched, uncommented on, almost undocumented!

In this context, how about launching a podcast series in which I’d interview American thinkers, but having them focus the conversation on Europe?

Fast forward to today: my 2020 idea has morphed into the Building Bridges podcast which I’m co-hosting with my wife Laetitia Vitaud. The value proposition of our podcast is to provide a platform for anyone who has interesting ideas to share with our vast community of “unapologetic globalists” (to quote my recent guest Chris Schroeder).

  • Not everyone that’s part of this roster has much to say about Europe. But whenever I catch one who does, I make sure to focus our conversation on that very subject—and I must say Tyler is one of our recent guests who has the most to say and to share about the Old Continent!

And so if you’re interested in Europe, economics, libertarianism, or the prospects of various other regions in the world, I urge you to give my conversation with Tyler a listen. Here’s what you’ll hear:

  • What Tyler likes and dislikes about Europe, and the various countries he’s lived in or traveled to here (which is most of them!).

  • Why he thinks Europe is one of the least fragmented regions in the world—which is the exact opposite of how I view Europe!

  • Why Americans should be present and invest in India if they want to retain some influence in the future.

  • What advice he would give to young Europeans and young Americans who want to prepare themselves for our coming world.

  • Why he expects Europe to remain a wealthy and prosperous region, despite, well, everything. And many, many more interesting topics and ideas.

👉 Listen to my conversation with Tyler in the latest episode of the Building Bridges podcast using the player above 👆 or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify 🎧

⚠️ In Sifted this week, I take up a problem that most startup founders find extremely difficult to navigate: regulatory barriers and how to lobby regulators for updated standards that take our now-digital economy into account.

  • As more startups move into industries such as finance and healthcare that are (for good reason!) quite highly regulated, founders and investors both need to step up their game in terms of effectively interacting with regulators. And on the other side, regulators—especially in Europe—need to realize that upgrading the regulatory framework can be a competitive economic advantage that boosts value creation.

Read it all in my column: Lobbying: it’s high time startups up their game.

🏗 Building Startups Across Borders 

Last Thursday, I took on a topic that I consider critical for everyone interested in European tech: how startups can build their business across borders. It’s a subject that my firm The Family is interested in both for our startups (since our reason for existing is to help ambitious entrepreneurs grow the best companies possible) and for ourselves (since we knew from very early on that in order to achieve that goal, we ourselves needed to expand beyond our beginnings in Paris).

So from experience, both that of our firm and that of our startups, I can tell you that it’s not easy. And it’s made even harder by the general lack of good information available on the topic. It made me realize something: despite our perception of the economy being global, not many companies have actually succeeded in being truly multi-geography. In turn, that means that the number of people who have been on the ground doing it successfully is quite low.

Yet such hands-on experience is critical when it comes to the “hard” problems which companies face when trying to do business across borders: corporate structuring, employee equity, work contracts, proper accounting, etc. There is a real dearth of open source knowledge on these topics, and this essay serves to open a new stream of content that we at The Family want to produce for founders facing these problems. By the way, the essay is free for everyone!

👉 I do hope you’ll read the whole thing (and welcome any thoughts you may have) in Building Startups Across Borders.


🚪 All About Crossing Borders

My own writings on startups’ attempts to grow across borders and the issues they run up against have mainly discussed the “soft” problems relating to culture, language and the like. These were the subjects of some of the earliest long-form essays that I wrote when The Family switched to producing all of its content in English back in 2015.

More recently, these topics have focused on fragmentation, both in Europe and around the world in general. As I’ve become more familiar with different ecosystems around the world, it’s striking just how many founders, whether they’re in India, Spain, or wherever else (that isn’t the US or China), are facing very similar problems.

My real question now is which countries are going to step forward and make things easier for their local champions to expand across borders? This obviously becomes a question of industrial policy, and so perhaps it is no surprise that the most enterprising countries so far seem to be smaller ones that recognize the opportunity presented in the shift to the Entrepreneurial Age: Estonia, South Korea, and Israel, for example.

👉 The potential reading list was quite long this week in All About Crossing Borders.


🌐 A New Corporate Tax

For several decades, the global tax structure (or lack thereof) has been the cause of many grumblings in many places, with the associated noise only getting louder as software has continued to eat the world. But for all the talk about “double Irish with a Dutch sandwich” and headlines about corporations paying no taxes on their profits, there has been very little actual change in corporate tax codes.

That may be ending, however, with a new proposal for a global minimum tax coming from the Biden administration. Following on the heels of a Trump administration attempt to have companies repatriate profits via a lower corporate tax rate, the Biden administration’s proposal benefits from a multilateral approach (as opposed to a change affecting the US only) and a context in which corporations, including many tech companies, are facing mounting PR problems over their lack of tax contributions despite soaring profits.

Of course, as always, the road is long and nothing is finalized yet. And in terms of the outlook for Europe, such changes likely won’t put more tax dollars into the coffers–unless European companies, and specifically startups, can start to create and realize more value right here on the continent.

👉 I put together a quick 30-point outline of the situation in A New Corporate Tax.


Sounds interesting? Subscribe to European Straits and let me know what you think!

😓 In my latest contribution to The Family’s daily newsletter, I share a few pieces of advice for founders about how to raise funds for their startup: Fundraising is hard.

🇫🇷 We’re resuming our bi-weekly podcasts with Laetitia on Nouveau Départ (in French) for paying subscribers: check out yesterday’s edition on Suppression de l'ENA : une mesure populiste ?

From A Founder's Handbook for Lobbying the Government (January 2021):

Many founders have a naive view of government, thinking that a 10-minute meeting with some cabinet minister will help them see the light, letting the problem be solved once and for all. After all, how can any government official be against progress?

In reality dealing with regulators is hard, and there’s no magic bullet. But I now have a lot of experience dealing with startups in The Family’s portfolio, and after hundreds of hours spent advising them on the best approach, I realized there are recurring themes and approaches that have all been validated in action. I’ve tried to organize them all into a coherent 10-point list.

All recent editions:


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(Credit: Franz Liszt, Angelus ! Prière Aux Anges Gardiens—extrait du disque Miroirs de Jonas Vitaud, NoMadMusic.)


From Munich, Germany 🇩🇪 

Nicolas