The Surprise of Germany

I spent two weeks in Deutschland in May and felt a gentle tipping of the European scales. One week was spent in and around Munich giving a two-day seminar to web aficionados at Siemens and one week was in Berlin at Internet World.

Usually I spend more time in London than anywhere else, and this time I had the chance to detect a difference between the two. Aside from the fact that the beer is better and history is more recent.

It seems that the UK is focused on two things at the moment: online advertising and online access. This is the place where grocery stores are offering free access to the Internet and AOL and BT are testing flat-rate access with no phone charges. Meanwhile, the UK-Netmarketing list spends a great deal of time bashing about the ins and outs of banner ads.

At the same time, the UK government has its heart in the right place, promoting the Internet as a means to a more competitive Britain.

Still, the buzz I get on the street and at conferences has me thinking that Germany is moving faster toward the prospect of e-commerce. Buying and selling, research and development, value chain and intranets.

It’s as if the Brits got in on the ground floor and soaked up the Silicon Valley spirit without convincing the old white guys in the head office.

Meanwhile, the Germans are looking closely at the marks and pfennigs, and don’t really care much for the brave new world, the camaraderie of web developers with bold ideas, the information-wants-to-be-free publishers. The Germans also don’t want to waste time lamenting about the lack of venture capital for pure Internet companies.

It seems that Germany may be able to ignore the spirit of Silicon Valley/Silicon Alley, recognize good business tools when they see them, and become the e-commerce center of Europe.

Watch this space.

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A black Aston Martin DBS 2009.