Karen Boers, co-founder & CEO of Startups.be and European Startup Network; is our current entrepreneur in residence. This week she shares the story of the European Startup Manifesto and the ongoing developments in the world of policy affecting Europe’s entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs provide the oxygen in our economy, creating new businesses and new jobs, new ways to look at the world and to interact with everyone around us. They invent and they build, they wreck and replace. In doing so, they often come up against the boundaries of legislation and regulation that have yet to adapt. Although creative ways can often be found to overcome such obstacles, this can slow them down considerably, allowing companies from more forward-looking regions in the world to snatch the market from right under their noses. Sometimes they chose to flee the country or even the continent, moving to places where experiments are welcomed and policy adapts more agilely to changing circumstances.
You may think that entrepreneurs have formed a powerful lobby to counteract all this, but they are already slaving away 24/7 to safeguard and build their businesses and teams, putting out today’s fires. Fighting for a better policy framework for entrepreneurs is often the last thing on their minds. They are scattered across smaller businesses, across regions, and have little structured organisation, meaning little changed for a very long time.
In 2013, Neelie Kroes as Commissioner for Digital Agenda called upon the Startup Europe Leaders Club to craft a European Startup Manifesto, a set of high-impact recommendations to create a better entrepreneurial climate in Europe. Yet many of the recommendations touched upon areas in which European Commission has little or no impact. It was up to the Members States to implement the change. The startup community rose to the challenge and got organised. An entire Startup Manifesto Movement emerged – with entrepreneurs across countries voicing their solutions and suggestions!
Now three years later, almost every European startup community has created their very own Startup Manifesto – often crowdsourced – and many have had considerable impact on local policy makers, as demonstrated by the Startup Manifesto Policy Tracker. Tax shelters were introduced, legislation on e-commerce was modernised, crowdfunding was eased, governments and corporations started buying from startups, the procurement legislation was adapted, a startup test is under development to stress test all new legislation for impact on startups, and much more!
The European Commission continued with its support, developing a Startup Europe program to connect startup hubs across Europe and allow more business to start and grow in the EU – and “startup managers” have emerged at all levels of policy making, from city to international. Some of the collaborations that grew out of these efforts grew into long-term sustainable platforms and networks. The European Startup Network unifies over 20 national startup associations to create a common voice and provide data analysis, facilitate an international go-to-market and build strong national ecosystems. Allied for Startups acts on behalf of startups worldwide. Entrepreneurs have also stepped up to the challenge individually and started sharing their stories of success, but also on (how to learn from) failure. Understanding that challenges were shifting from starting business to fast-growing companies scaling across Europe, a European ScaleUp Manifesto was once more crowdsourced from all those different communities, with clear action points for all involved at any level.
It is clear that the entrepreneurial voice is here to stay. Hopefully this voice will help construct a more inclusive and tolerant world, one in which change and diversity can be embraced rather than feared. We’re on the barricades for all those who wish to develop their passion into their profession – their dreams into reality. If you’re a dreamer, make sure no one holds you back, for there is always a way to change whatever is in your way! So what you can do? Sign the ScaleUp Manifesto and join the movement!
Our current entrepreneur in residence Karen Boers, co-founder & CEO of Startups.be and European Startup Network; has returned with a second blog post. This time she gives us her views on the current European education system and whether it really prepares the youth of today for the challenges they will face.
We’re always talking about the fast moving societal changes and how digitalisation is changing every aspect of our private and professional lives and will continue to do so. This is absolutely true – digital technologies have connected and empowered nearly every citizen on earth. After the industrial revolution, this trend could very well be the paving the way for different societal and economical models, which in their turn could lead to severe power shifts from the happy few, to the well-connected within the next decade.
Some very striking images have been circulating social media recently, showing the differences between what we called a ‘telephone’ a century ago and today, and the huge difference between what we called a ‘vehicle’ (i.e. horse & carriage) and modern cars and transport. There was also a comparison between what a classroom looked like 150 years ago – and its modern equivalent, it is unchanged!
We are preparing today’s youngsters for their future in very much the same way we have been preparing labourers to go into the factories for the past decades. We are training them to be silent, listen carefully and not question orders but rather execute them in the efficient, large-scale way we have grown accustomed to. We are training them to think hierarchically and obey – day after day and year after year. The reason being this is the way our society was structured for many years and how our economies thrived in the mass production age.
But now we are facing different challenges. Mass production is suffering in the western economies. Hierarchical icons are being disrupted by flexible, agile businesses. Collaboration, creativity and the ability to change are becoming ever more dominant in the new business paradigms, and it’s clear that there is no way back. Millennials are already exhibiting signs of not caring too much about steady careers, future-proof choices or life-long guarantees. They think very differently about ownership, citizenship, sharing, learning and professional careers. They are self-organising, always connected and pay it forward much more than previous generations.
There is no way that the education that we are currently providing Generation Z youngsters is preparing them properly for what is ahead, and there is growing consensus that future generations might not put up with the inertia of the current system, eroding it from the inside out. The information overload is growing, and we need to urgently transition into a system that educates youngsters to deal with that, to find their way in an ever-connected and saturated network of information sources, opinions and potential expertise. Self-learning and life-long learning are gaining in importance. Additional skills are often acquired outside of the school system at present, through volunteer programs and alternative schooling. Learning how to learn is therefore growing inherently more important than any kind of knowledge transfer.
I would not argue for a total disruption of our school system, though. Europe has been on the frontlines of (free) quality education, equal opportunities for all and innovation for a long time. Let’s now make sure Europe initiates a power shift in traditional education, slowly steering the heavy tanker towards a coaching environment, with expert inputs from all societal angles, project and applied learning and a wide range of soft skills on top of purely academic knowledge transfer. That way I am sure we will keep nurturing generations of renowned business and academic leaders, as well as a flexible and future-proof workforce.
Read Karen’s last blog post: Failing is not contagious, but success is
Petar Isirov an entrepreneur who formed part of the creation of Kartner-M, a privately held label printing company. They are based in Skopje in the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia and were founded in 2014. In this blog post, Petar talks about his motivation for starting a business and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
After talking with friends in the food and beverage industry, we realised that many local companies had problems with the quality of their labels. They couldn’t do marketing campaigns properly, and the quality of the labels made it difficult for them to export their products around the world. We saw an opportunity to bring something new to the printing industry in our country, something that would help many businesses.
We found the money we needed by pooling our resources and getting loans. We used it to buy the necessary machines and organise ourselves to work efficiently. Europe is a great place to be an entrepreneur because the business environment is always developing and improving. There are countless opportunities for entrepreneurs; all you need is the right idea. I believe Europe is very supportive of young entrepreneurs, which helps motivate young people to consider becoming entrepreneurs. However, more EU involvement in countries like FYR of Macedonia would benefit small and medium enterprises to develop their business more efficiently, and expand operations outside of their countries.
Persistence is essential for entrepreneurship because it’s difficult to succeed and even more so when you are a young, aspiring company. For me, a great leader is committed to a cause, outgoing and able to take responsibility and risks. They are able to motivate, have a vision for the company, have objectives and be aware of their surroundings.
For more information: www.kartner-m.mk
Businesses across Europe already benefit from the European Single Market, but there are still challenges to tackle before SMEs and start-ups can fully gain from it. This was discussed during the final Single Market Forum, held in Amsterdam in June. Start-ups, SMEs, experts and government officials all agreed that it should be easier for businesses to start-up, hire talent, comply with administrative issues, win public tenders, scale-up and trade cross-border in Europe.
These were the main takeaways for start-ups and SMEs:
Strengthen cross-border trade in the EU
A services passport will be created to harmonise and unify procedures, in particular for business services such as accounting, architecture and engineering, ensuring they only need to complete them once and can cross-borders. This will make it easier for service providers who want to offer their activities in other Member States. There is also an ongoing plan to tackle VAT in E-commerce. This means business owners will have an easier time selling online with less paperwork. Additionally this means customers will receive a better service and lower prices when shopping online. A double win!
Start-ups and SMEs to have an easier access to public tenders
Public contracts and tenders offer many opportunities for SMEs to grow, yet many SMEs rule themselves out due to burdensome and diverging national rules on public procurement. This should not be the case! SMEs and start-ups’ participation in public tenders means that public money is better spent, but also results in better competition for public contracts, which essentially boosts growth, transparency and accountability.
A single information info point for all businesses
How do businesses find the information they need to navigate cross-borders? A single digital gateway is being developed to allow for business owners to access all the information they need to benefit from cross-border trade in a one-stop-shop. In order to know what information is needed, a collaborative discussion needs to take place. We need you on board to help us develop it.
Better education and access to finances are needed
Finally, how to support entrepreneurs and provide them with the tools they need to grow in the Single Market? Let’s talk about lifelong learning. In today’s economy it is clear that learning skills by itself is no longer enough for a successful career, and entrepreneurs need to hire staff that are adaptable. Additionally, we should support capital markets, making it easier for investors to invest in businesses cross-borders, and for start-ups to get more cross-border funding opportunities.
Let’s not stop here. Let’s continue debating and finding the right solutions for start-ups and SMEs. What more do you think can be done to support start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs trade cross-border? Join the discussion in LinkedIn Group or tell the Commission what you think.
More photos from the event on Flickr.
At Expo Milano 2015, TEDx Binnehof 2016 launched its search for the most inspiring entrepreneurs and world changing ideas. The 2015 SME Assembly, taking place in Luxembourg on 18-20 November, will also be part of this search for ideas worth spreading. During the SME Assembly, entrepreneurs from all 28 EU Member States will pitch their ideas. Ten entrepreneurs will be selected to present their ideas at TEDx Binnenhof 2016 “Made in Europe” in The Hague.
Follow the conversation on Twitter: #TEDxB16 and #MadeInEU
We originally set up RETTRO to provide complex IT services to large companies. With the help of ESF and JAPTI research funding, we have since diversified into developing web-based products and services applicable for mobile devices. RETTRO’s latest product is a mobile application called Notiﬂy. Notiﬂy is a revolutionary new system of conveying content through sound code, undetectable by a human ear. FLY messages are broadcast by TV and radio stations, event and concert managers, organisations, restaurants, shops etc. to consumers who want additional information related to the programme they are watching; the shows they are attending; the shops they are visiting. Looking ahead, the challenges for RETTRO are to continue to create new innovative products and access new markets.
Start ups and small firms in general would most benefit from a tax regime that encourages investment in R&D and from more ﬂexible employment rules.
“Entrepreneurs are important to society because we create jobs, develop the economy, bring new ideas, discover new businesses and boost the local community.”
Hero(es): Honest and fair people
Start up capital: Savings and ESF/JAPTI investment
Growth rate p.a: 33%
Can you code? Yes
Education / Training: Mathematics
Product / Service: Marketing/retail applications
I set up Fröjd because I felt strongly that there was a better way of conducting business – a way that would benefit both clients and employees. Fröjd creates e-commerce solutions, websites, campaign sites and mobile applications that support our customers in achieving their objectives. Our vision is to be “The Web Agency of the Future”, an ongoing challenge that means we must stay curious, alert and ahead of market trends. This gives us valuable insights and new business areas to explore, and keeps us on our toes. I believe I am an entrepreneur at heart, regardless of what the digital era has given us, but I believe the dynamics of the industry have helped me grow faster.
My shopping list for further improvements in enterprise promotion would be: subsidise broadband and computers to minimise socio-economic gaps; add programming to the school curriculum; establish more accelerator programmes; and free Wi-Fi in public areas.
“Entrepreneurs like me are important to society because we are driven by change and progress, to find solutions to everyday problems and long-term challenges.”
Hero(es): Astrid Lindgren
Can you code? No
Education / Training: Digital communications
Product / Service: Digital communications
Digital technology (and a grant from the Croatian Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Crafts) has enabled us to express ourselves in a very creative and meaningful way. Our most popular product is ‘Wall of Tweets’, a simple and engaging Twitter wall solution that enables people attending events to share their tweets in real time on a big wall. We have also developed a number of smaller helper apps for Twitter list management, search engine optimisation and data analytics, as well as a framework for dashboard-like data representation. We enable people to interact with each other, to share, to enjoy, to express themselves and realise their potential. For us, it’s all about the people.
For entrepreneurs to succeed we need to lower taxes and social security contributions; reduce bureaucracy; and listen to entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurs have a positive impact on everyone’s life: we have the potential to contribute, grow, develop and inspire people.”
Hero(es): My team and best friend
Start up capital: Own
Growth rate p.a: 65%
Can you code? Yes
Education / Training: Astrophysics
Product / Service: Social media analytics
Read more about UX Passion here.
In April 2014 participants at the LOGIN Startup Fair were presented with innovative business ideas from 54 startup teams, 40 of which presented their products at the event.
The representatives of 24 venture capital funds and seven start-up accelerators, who were looking for new talent in Lithuania, attended the event. Among the guests were Europe’s largest venture capital fund Balderton Capital, Israel’s largest venture capital fund Pitango Venture Capital and investors that have already invested in start-ups founded by Lithuanians such as Wellington Partners and Intel Capital.
The “Matchmaking Area” saw 229 one-on-one meetings take place between investors and start-ups during the two days of the event.
Rimante Ribačiauskaitė, Project manager, Enterprise Lithuania, email@example.com, +370 618 0605
A record number of 31 countries entered the 2014 EEPAs. 22 projects from 15 countries – Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Turkey and the UK – were shortlisted during the jury meeting held earlier this summer.
Commenting on the shortlist, Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, the newly appointed Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, stressed the creativity and imagination used to produce these outstanding results. He said it proves exactly why harnessing and celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit is so important to driving the growth of European business. He believes that the 22 shortlisted projects will inspire and encourage young people and women especially, to choose entrepreneurship as a viable career path.
Shortlist for the 2014 European Enterprise Promotion Awards
Category 1: Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Austria: AplusB build! Start-Up Centre’s two main goals are to promote entrepreneurship as a career option and stimulate entrepreneurship by providing coaching, training and financial support for innovative start-up projects in the Carinthia region. Their goal is to support 8-10 new start-up projects each year, and the initiative has already funded more than 95 start-ups, with over 90 per cent of these companies trading successfully.
Responsible organisation: build! Gründerzentrum Kärn GmbH
Organisation website: www.build.or.at
Hungary: Encouraging Business Start-ups by Mothers with Young Children helps mothers to acquire the entrepreneurial skills and mindset to start a business and make it profitable. The project delivers online resources including a blog, Facebook page, e-learning training programmes and a weekly newsletter, as well as the Entrepreneurial Women’s Roundtable meeting to help mothers navigate the world of business and network with each other. The project also hosts the annual Mother Company of the Year competition and the Business Mums’ Conference.
Responsible organisation: Gazdagmami Kft.
Organisation website: www.gazdagmami.hu
Lithuania: Mobile Apps Laboratories is an initiative to promote entrepreneurship in information and communication technologies. Working in the four biggest Lithuanian education institutions, Mobile Apps Laboratories bring together young people with academics and industry professionals to deliver ‘App Camp’ during their bachelor, master or PhD dissertation works, with the objective of bringing innovative new products and services to the market. It also aims to increase the number of women starting businesses in information technology.
Responsible organisation: App Camp, JSC
Organisation website: http://www.appcamp.lt/
Netherlands: International Business College 20:80 Learning is an entrepreneurial programme for students in secondary education. The young students complete the standard Dutch secondary school course in four days per week (80%) and during the remaining time (20%) they have an International Business College (IBC) day where they set up and run their own business. There are currently 10 active IBC schools and 350 students involved in this education programme.
Responsible organisation: International Business College
Project website: www.20-80learning.nl
Category 2: Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills
Bulgaria: Brandiko educates students on how to build a brand and register the brand as a Community Trade Mark. Students establish training companies and are mentored on how to build and manage their own brand, market the brand and use it to increase sales. Pupils also learn about the importance of intellectual property protection. More than 1,700 students have completed the Brandiko programme.
Responsible organisation: Ministry of Economy & Energy
Organisation website: www.mi.government.bg
Germany: BRENNEREI Next Generation Lab enables master’s students and graduates to learn and develop new entrepreneurial approaches. Together with professionals from the science and creative industries, scholars work full-time in inter-disciplinary teams to solve the real problems of companies or public entities. The activities include analyses and finding novel approaches that are socially relevant in the areas of communication, product design, and use of new media. Approximately 60 applications from all over Europe have been received for the 2014 scholarship.
Responsible organisation: WFB Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH
Organisation website: www.wfb-bremen.de
Project website: www.brennerei-lab.de
Serbia: Western Balkans Business Challenge is a unique competition for high school students from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. In mixed teams (4 students from each country), they compete to provide the best business idea for the challenge put before them. The initiative develops entrepreneurial and financial skills and motives the students to think proactively. At least 1,500 students and 200 business community representatives have participated in the competition so far.
Responsible organisation: Junior Achievement Serbia
Organisation website: www.ja-serbia.org
UK: Primary to Professional (P2P) engages primary and secondary school pupils introducing them to important entrepreneurial skills including creativity, innovation and risk taking and leads to a specialist enterprise academy for start-up businesses. This has developed into supporting business start-ups with the first Start up Weekend in Wales and the new Tech Hub for new Tech Entrepreneurs. More than 4,000 secondary school pupils have taken part in Young Business Dragons and enterprise is now embedded in a number of educational institutions across Swansea.
Responsible organisation: Gower College Swansea
Organisation website: www.gowercollegeswansea.ac.uk
Category 3: Improving the Business Environment
Austria: Sources of Strength has five clear objectives to improve the manufacturing economy in the Murtal-Murau region. These include building a sustainable image of the industrial/manufacturing economy, positioning this sector as an attractive employer, strengthening the integration of businesses in the region and developing an industrial tourist product and launching this into the tourism market. Since its inception, 61 leading companies have come together to strengthen the integration of industry and trade services in the region.
Responsible organisation: Industrie- und Wirtschaftsentwicklung Murtal GmbH
Project website: http://kraft.dasmurtal.at
Italy: Grow and Compete with Business Network Contracts promotes and disseminates a business contract culture and to support companies interested in setting up business networks, particularly to facilitate internationalisation processes and increase competitiveness in foreign markets. The project includes a training phase and a customised support phase for businesses expressing an intention to aggregate through network contracts. So far, the project has led to 12 network contracts being finalised, involving 50 businesses.
Responsible organisation: Unioncamere Emilia-Romagna
Organisation website: www.ucer.camcom.it
Spain: Start-up in 3 is a technology platform that streamlines and simplifies business creation and business start-up procedures, linking existing platforms through a single point of access and connecting all the Local Authorities in Spain. The aim of the project is to reduce the time between the establishment of the company and the time it takes for the enterprise to become operational to just three days which is achieved by registering the enterprise through a cloud-based system.
Responsible organisation: Ministry of Finance and Public Administration (MINHAP)
Organisation website: www.minhap.es
UK: The Sharp Project has converted a redundant distribution centre into a media hub for over 60 companies, including those specialising in digital content production, digital media and TV and film production. It is where space, power, connectivity and people converge in the inspiring surroundings to develop careers and compete on a global stage. The aim of the project is to reduce barriers that prevent creative and digital businesses from growing, creating work and generating wealth.
Responsible organisation: Manchester City Council
Project website: http://www.thesharpproject.co.uk/
Category 4: Supporting the Internationalisation of Business
France: The French Label Living Heritage Company focuses on quality assessment and is awarded by the French Government to distinguish companies with excellent craft and industrial skills. Recognised businesses are characterised by a long trading history, innovation capabilities and rare know-how that has helped establish their reputation. Since 2005, the label has been awarded to 1,157 companies, who account for 53,000 jobs and more than €11 billion in cumulative turnover.
Responsible organisation: French Government
Organisation website: http://www.dgcis.gouv.fr/
Italy: Mirabilia: European Network of UNESCO Sites links together areas of common historical, cultural and environmental significance for the first time. The project is aimed at creating a network of places recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage sites, but which are lesser known to Italian and international tourism, with the aim of promoting them in a co-ordinated and organised way to Italian and foreign tourists.
Responsible organisation: Matera Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Crafts and Agriculture
Organisation website: www.mt.camcom.it
Project website: www.mirabilianetwork.eu
Netherlands: Get in the Ring is a worldwide platform for start-ups to raise capital. It brings together the most promising entrepreneurs from around the world and gives them a chance to secure an investment of up to €1,000,000 by pitching in front of prominent international investors. There have been 1326 participating start-ups attracting over €6million in investments.
Responsible organisation: Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship
Project website: www.getinthering.nl
Category 5: Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency
Malta: EU LIFE+ Investing in Water is aimed at identifying water saving measures amongst best practice enterprises, disseminating this information to others and supporting their implementation. The project is focussed on sharing information through face to face meetings, printed materials and an interactive CD, workshops and via the website. The project has identified 26 best practice enterprises and saved an estimated 141 million litres of water per annum.
Responsible organisation: Malta Business Bureau
Organisation website: http://www.mbb.org.mt/
Project website: http://www.investinginwater.org/
Portugal: AMS – Thinking Ahead set itself the challenge of becoming ‘the most efficient supplier of tissue on the Iberian Peninsula’, achieving this through innovation and differentiation. It has revolutionized traditional industrial processes by installing a pipeline connection to its pulp supplier; a unique alliance that has reduced CO2 emissions by 11,000 tonnes per year and generated significant competitiveness in external markets.
Responsible organisation: Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade of Portugal, Public Enterprise (“AICEP”) in partnership with AMS Gomà-Camps, S.A. (“AMS”)
Organisation website: http://www.portugalglobal.pt/PT/Paginas/Index.aspx, http://www.amspt.eu/
Turkey: Developing a Widely Applicable, Low-Cost Model for Clean Production in the Textile Finishing Industry is a pioneering project which develops models to reduce the quantity of raw materials used in the textile industries and promote sustainable production. The project has resulted in solid methodologies and processes that can be widely adopted and used by a multitude of manufacturing businesses at almost no cost.
Responsible organisation: Uludağ Textile Exporters Association (UTEA)
Organisation website: www.uib.org.tr
Category 6: Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship
France: The Entrepreneurs Team helps young and unskilled people, including those excluded from school, to succeed in employment and autonomy. Offering teaching and coaching based on entrepreneurship, the project involves two main phases; a University Diploma in Business Creation which is accessible to the unqualified, followed by socio-professional support in conjunction with an entrepreneurship advisory body and a University. The project has supported 167 individuals; 23% have successfully created their own business.
Responsible organisation: Association Nationale des Groupements de Créateurs (ANGC)
Organisation website: www.groupement-de-createurs.fr
Germany: Wiesbaden Engaged – the corporate citizenship strategy of the city of Wiesbaden – promotes the social sense of responsibility of businesses and entrepreneurs in Wiesbaden. They have developed four key activities within the project; an annual day promoting social engagement, two long term projects promoting integration and employability, an award for engaged businesses to establish a local reputation and participation in a national corporate social responsibility networking and consultation project.
Responsible organisation: Municipality of the City of Wiesbaden – Agency for Social Work
Project website: www.wiesbaden.de
Poland: The Construction and Equipping of the Intramunicipal Vocational Rehabilitation Centre aims to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities, particularly mental disabilities, enabling them to participate equally in society and in a professional capacity. The Rehabilitation Centre offers employment within eight departments including catering, laundry, garden maintenance, cleaning and hygiene, assembly/disassembly and recycling. Employees not only earn an income, but also receive training in vocational and social skills to encourage independent living.
Responsible organisation: Polish Association for Persons with Mental Handicap, Szczecin Branch
Organisation website: www.psouuszczecin.org.pl
Portugal: DO IT – The idea behind Portuguese Origin is a competition to use the experience, talent and dynamism of Portuguese emigrants to benefit their country of origin. Under the slogan ‘They think of it there, they do it here”, the project aims to select and promote ideas and support the realisation of social entrepreneurship projects which contribute to transforming emigration trends in an effective way for Portuguese society and the country as a whole.
Responsible organisation: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Organisation website: www.gulbenkian.pt