On September 7th, 2016, the European Startup Network (ESN) was officially launched in Brussels. With a total of 16 democratically organized, non-profit, and independent startup associations from Europe join forces into the ESN, the ESN constitutes the European umbrella organisation representing startups. The ESN’s main goal is to harmonize and empower the European startup ecosystems with respect to the entrepreneurial culture, market access, and the legal environment. Karen Boers and Lisa Schreier are the current directors of the ESN in Brussels and Berlin.
To achieve its goals, the ESN develops an action plan with three main pillars. The first is scientific research about the European startup ecosystem to create transparency and offer fact-based policy advice at the European level. To this end, the ESN is the editor of the European Startup Monitor (ESM), an annual study on startups and founder-friendly framework conditions in Europe. Secondly, the ESN supports the internationalisation of startups and facilitates international go-to-market through the development of a soft landing program to ease startups into foreign markets. Finally, the ESN helps to build and strengthen national startup ecosystems.
Nils-Erik Jansson, chairman of the ESN, states: “Startups are already truly international with respect to their staff and the markets they operate in. The foundation of ESN is the logical next step to reflect this global nature, also in the fields of advocacy and interest representation of startups. The ESN is the first permanent coalition of national startup associations and represents more than 25,000 startups across all sectors and stages of development at the European level. It is very important to take this step and to bundle our resources on a supranational level, as many laws that are elaborated and passed in Brussels have direct impact on all European startups without their voice being included in the debate so far. “
The ESN’s establishment was furthermore supported by the two founding partners MyMicroInvest and Deutsche Messe AG.
Jakobi, Head of CeBIT Business Development at the Deutsche Messe AG, comments: “The Deutsche Messe AG is pleased to support the European startup ecosystem as one of the founding partners of the ESN. With the „SCALE 11“, Europe’s leading platform for digital startups, we offer a perfect platform for European digital founders to connect with established companies from all industries and regions during the CeBIT. This further makes way for the internationalization of the startups’ distribution channels. Startups cannot only build valuable networks from exchanges at the various country-specific joint stands, but also from international delegations visiting the CeBIT.”
MyMicroInvest chairman José Zurstrassen adds: “Allowing European startups to scale quickly across the fragmented markets is essential for their survival in a truly global marketplace. Through this partnership with ESN, we will be able to provide more easy and qualitative access to funding across Europe, which is a very important element in the scaling process.”
To become a member of the ESN, national startup associations must comply with three criteria. First, the applicants must represent a large number of their country’s startups proven by a high number of members or the association’s involvement in a national startup manifesto with respective traction. Second, ESN members must be independent which can be proved by transparent and diversified sources of financing. Applicants must be membership-based with democratic structures. Third, the applicants must be non-profit and may not pursue any economic goals. Should a national startup association have interest in being a member of the ESN but does not yet meet all the criteria, its membership might remain pending if the applicant has shown commitment on fulfilling the set criteria. The ESN supports pending members in achieving the criteria.
Current country representatives in the ESN
Beta-i Association (Portugal)
Startup Delta (The Netherlands)
* The Swiss Startup Association, Startup Estonia and Startup Norway are closely collaborating with the ESN but not full members at present.
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