Given the decibel level of the current U.S. presidential elections, Americans can be forgiven for missing an equally lively debate underway in Britain over whether the country should remain in the European Union (EU) or not. A debate the press and financial markets have dubbed “Brexit” – short for “British exit.”
As dramatic as any Shakespeare play, the sound and fury from Britain in the run-up to the June 23 vote is sure to be deafening. And while Americans can be forgiven for favoring the latest pictures of the Royal Family or the pageantry of the Queen’s 90th birthday, over, say, the arcane details of the referendum to remain in the EU, make no mistake: Britain’s upcoming sovereign decision matters greatly to those in the U.S. Here’s why.
First, there are American interests in the EU, a club of 28 sovereign nations. Under British leadership, those nations created a single European market by linking their economies almost a quarter-century ago: America benefits from the openness of this rules-based single market, with its half a billionwestern consumers. Much is made of America’s investment in Asia, but the U.S. has invested more than three times as much in Europe, paying dividends in both jobs and economic returns.
Whether Greece stays in the Eurozone and accepts its bitter medicine or is one day forced to exit the single currency, the country’s future is usually regarded as bleak. Either course seems to promise years of hardship and privation for the Greek people.
From another perspective, though, one could see opportunity for Greece. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, who knew something about crises. Greece today has a chance to turn adversity into advantage. With change in the air, it will be easier for the country’s institutions, government leaders, and people to abandon some of the failed approaches of the past and to embark in new directions.
As we dig out of the first snowstorm of the year, we are reminded of one of the great appeals of Silicon Valley: the beautiful weather! And yet we both see – having just co-taught a course at MIT looking at entrepreneurial regions around the world – that Greater Boston and Massachusetts have many sources of competitive advantage that still make it a leading global hub for entrepreneurship and innovation, with new opportunities in 2014.
As an ecosystem, our New Year’s resolution should be to do all we can to ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is not always easy: research at MIT has taught us that at least five key stakeholder groups matter in such an entrepreneurial ecosystem – a model we refer to as the ‘pentacle’, consisting of: entrepreneurs, universities and ‘risk capital’ (of course), but also large corporations and even government policy makers.