Yumbling part 2: When Capital Fears Risk

Publié le 5 Octobre 2011

Mexico DF – Ricard Suarez found the money he needed for launching Yumbling, his site that aggregates all possible information on entertainment in Mexico City, while incorporating social-media and gaming layers. He found enough to pay developers for a year and to launch his first applications for the web, iPhone, Nokia and Blackberry in mid-September. But now he needs more funding in order to grow, to adapt to what he has learned from his fairly successful early efforts.

That’s the fate of every startup. But here’s where things get complicated.

The way Suarez puts it, “there’s money in Mexico, but it gets invested in more traditional industries, or in businesses that are making money.” I talk about this in more detail in my column on the last page of Le Monde’s supplement, Science&Techno (online print version, subscription required).

This factor, along with others (universities that invest little in research and rarely promote entrepreneurship, for example) contributes to a particularly anemic innovation climate, but it gives me the opportunity to reflect and comment on the term “capital risk.” French and Spanish speakers use this term, and it is disastrous.

Venture capital,” the term used by English speakers, means something entirely different, or rather, it evokes different sentiments. “Venture” can mean “adventure,” “undertaking,” or “attempt,” among other things. Risk plays a role, but the possibility of winning is built into the word – this creates desire.

But calling people who invest in early-stage businesses “capital riskers” – underlining the possibility of failure – will only cause those who have the money to invest in sure-things. And innovation inevitably suffers.

I’m not saying that the fact that the climate is unfavorable to Mexican startups – as in France and Spain – is first and foremost a question of vocabulary. But I’m sure it plays a role, in a negative way.

I would prefer “audacious capital,” for example. You needed audacity to bet on Google in 1999, or on Facebook in 2007. It’s not that the risk wasn’t there, but the connotation seems more positive to me.

What do you think? And, especially, what do you suggest?

 

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