This week Promoting Enterprise is starting a series of interviews with a group of Estonian entrepreneurs to find out about what they do! From motorised scooters to furniture, these entrepreneurs are diverse, creative and not afraid to think outside of the box. Read on to meet our first two entrepreneurs, Kenneth and Sander and learn about where their entrepreneurial path has led them…
Meet Kenneth – he is 24 and the founder of his brand Kenneth Pert Natural Furniture. Kenneth is a designer and furniture craftsman. At the moment, his company is a ‘one man show’, Kenneth has to fill different roles – from managing the business side to cleaning his workshop. At this point, he has been in the field for 5 interesting and challenging years.
What motivates you?
I am inspired by people who have overcome challenges, their own personal struggles and added some extra value to the world. People play an important part in my life. That is why my closest friends and family are also my biggest driving force. Without them I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am today.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur?
The opportunity to use my time as I wish. I have been able to focus on my own interests and to grow at my own pace. This gives me enough room to devote time to the people I hold most dear. At the same time, it is important to stay disciplined and remember that I have a lot of responsibilities.
What skills do tomorrow’s entrepreneurs need?
The skills of today’s and tomorrow’s entrepreneurs largely overlap, for example, adaptability, consistency, discipline and curiosity. There has been a rising demand for people to have emotional intelligence regardless of their role or position in an organisation. It is quite essential to identify the right people to hire, because without help, it’s almost impossible to create a successful business.
When developing a product or service a lot of research, testing and feedback analysis goes into it. In this phase being good with numbers and having analytical skills is definitely another essential entrepreneurial skill.
Sander Sebastian Agur
Sander Sebastian is the 26 year-old co-founder of Inventory.com, the first online B2B marketplace to offer a comprehensive inventory management service by comparing suppliers and transactions up to the final delivery of products. Sander is also a Senior Vice President of ERPLY Retail Platform, which is a web-based on Enterprise resource planning application with support for accounting, inventory, invoicing, e-commerce, Point Of Sale (POS) and more, offering retailers a complete IT solution that can be adapted to meet unique requirements. The company includes well known clients such as Sony, Walt Disney, Amazon, Elizabeth Arden, Garmin and many others.
At the young age of 22, Sander was chosen as the successor to the head of Estonian Air, the former national airline of Estonia, but decided to work in private enterprise instead.
What motivates you?
Learning new skills and applying them usefully. I’ve definitely failed more than I’ve succeeded. As most long-term goals require skills that we don’t have when we set the goals, this motivates me to grow together with the challenges.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur?
In my sector there are almost no limits to what can be built. Once you realise that everything around you has been created by people that are no smarter than you, it all becomes doable.
What skills do tomorrow’s entrepreneurs need?
I think skills are important, but they can also be acquired on the way. What is more important is your mindset for what’s coming and your openness to learn and make stuff happen. Everything changes so fast so you must be able to work in constant chaos. I think that’s what a startup is, nonstop chaos you need to navigate.
Anything else you want to share?
For Inventory.com, we got a small grant at the beginning of 2017 of 50, 000 EUR from the European Commission to kickstart the development, which we are super grateful for. Unfortunately we were rejected for the second phase of the Horizon2020 program, but we are continuing to invest our own resources to help Europe have a multinational sales channel for product exchange and we hope that our next application in November will be successful!
The project “Inventory.com” increases the visibility and competitiveness of manufacturing SMEs on the EU market by creating conditions for an open and efficient market. Currently manufacturing SMEs lack access to suppliers and clients. They are reliant on a small number of business partners and are invisible to any other potential partners. Many SMEs, due to their niche products, find it hard to expand their client network, find suppliers and create international contacts. Product availability, specifications, price and delivery information is not available to market participants and the required information is not presented, standardised and/or not available in different languages. Therefore, companies cannot compare and decide on the best choice. This is a problem our European customers face daily and we would like to change that.
The 2017 SME Assembly will take place in Tallinn, Estonia from 22 – 24 November 2017.
The conference will be the flagship event of European SME Week.
What kind of support is out there for green and eco-entrepreneurs? How can you sell an idea that is innovative, eventually profitable but also green and sustainable? Entrepreneurs in this field may find it difficult to convince investors or find the right support systems for their offered products and services. This is where the newly launched ECOSTAR accelerator is there to help!
ECOSTAR is the research-enterprise impact hub and accelerator that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation for nature-based businesses. The initiative is promoted by a university-enterprise partnership between European and US-based institutions, and it is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, and other private investors. It’s an Impact Hub that promotes the start-up and acceleration of new business initiatives with a positive impact on environment and society. It’s a Research-Business alliance that links universities and companies, providing networking and market-oriented training. It focuses on business models that make profit by marketing, promoting and enhancing biodiversity, and ecosystem services. The initiative provides business opportunities and real benefits for the environment through the following main actions:
JOIN: Create a wide research-enterprise network at EU level, linking together entrepreneurs, scientific and business mentors, and investors, wanting to create value for nature through new business ideas.
LEARN: Deliver a series of specialised entrepreneurship and innovation trainings targeted to MEEB through multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning.
GROW: The ECOSTAR Nature-Accelerator selects and invests in early-stage impactful startups that are developing innovative and sustainable solutions for disrupting the agriculture, forestry and natural resource sectors.
E-learning technology, business model case studies, EU support networks, and free ad hoc MEEB business plan advice, are some of the methods that are delivered through a strong and committed partnership of businesses and universities at country and European level.
To find out more about this exciting initiative and to read some of the success stories from participating eco-ventures, visit their website: www.ecostarhub.com
Tue David Bak, director of Innovation and Growth for Region Zealand in Denmark, is back for a final interview with Promoting Enterprise. Today the subject is the future, what does it hold for innovation and enterprise? What can we expect? What are the trends telling us? Read on to find out…
In Denmark specifically, the public sector is embracing innovation, which I see as a positive thing. Overall, user driven innovation is increasing, as consumers and users begin to play larger roles in development, and there is a shift from only research based innovation. The current trend is disruption of society as there is a need for innovation for us to advance.
What measures/steps are you taking to encourage digital innovation in Region Zealand?
In Region Zealand we currently don’t do enough and as such we are not a front runner in the digital space. In Denmark however there have been some steps towards pushing companies to work digitally and make that digital transformation. The Danish Business Authority (which takes care of company registrations and working in the Danish public sector) took the controversial decision to make it mandatory for all companies to digitally invoice if they wanted to work in the public sector. Initially there was a lot of resistance but overall it helped – and is still helping companies – to transition to the digital sphere. As such, Denmark has no physical paper trails for monetary transactions and the public sector is going fully digital. That is truly innovative.
As director for innovation and growth, what do you see as the future of enterprise?
The same situation can be seen across all the EU countries, the public sector is under enormous strain which has and will continue to be a catalyst and driver for innovation. This in turn will result in increased cooperation and further blurring of public and private divisions. This blurring of divisions also relates to how the idea of employment is changing and evolving, which is not to say it is negative, but simply means that new working models are beginning to emerge. I see the future of enterprise as no longer including the ‘employee’ concept, I think this will be phased out. It is not uncommon now and nor will it be in future to have multiple jobs or hybrid employment models, alongside an overall merging of individuals and companies.
What does the future of enterprise look like in Denmark? Do you think it is different to global trends or where the future of enterprise will go globally?
Denmark has always had a strong focus on creating a business environment conducive to startups and entrepreneurs. So far we have been successful, but we also need to change in order to stay competitive and innovative. The new focus now needs to be on helping startups to scale up. So the big question for us now is how do we scale up in Denmark? Perhaps a larger and certainly important question is, how do we scale up in the EU?
If you enjoyed this insightful interview with Tue David Bak, be sure to read his other interviews right here on the Promoting Enterprise Portal.
First interview: Innovation – What is it and how can it be fostered?
Second interview: Startup Culture – Tue David Bak shares his insights and predictions
Promoting Enterprise is proud to welcome back Tue David Bak, director of Innovation and Growth for Region Zealand in Denmark. In his second interview with us, Tue sheds some light on startups, accelerators and incubators in Region Zealand and Denmark, current trends and the regional influences on startup culture.
In Denmark we have actually worked to avoid having too many regional accelerators and incubators, we prefer to have these bodies on a national level so as to keep them open to all Danish and even global companies. Global companies are not excluded from accessing our incubators and accelerators. As long as they have a Danish license and a physical presence in Denmark they can access all the resources. Through this openness we hope to facilitate a link between the Danish and global markets, thus making Denmark just as attractive as the Silicon Valley and other innovation hubs.
What trends are you seeing on the startup scene?
There is an increasing acknowledgement from startups that they do need help. The old idea of two guys in a garage doing everything on their own and not needing any support is starting to be replaced by the realisation that getting a startup to take off is difficult and that there a multitude of resources to draw from and that they are there for a reason. This links to another trend which is an overall change in mindset regarding partnerships. Similar to the collective realisation that they need help, startup founders are specifically beginning to value the need for partnerships with mentors, larger companies etc.
What trends are you seeing in startup culture? For example, does geography play a role?
Absolutely, just looking at the differences between Northern and Southern Europe is an illustration of the role of geography. I have more experience and expertise in Northern Europe, and overall I have seen that there is a strong entrepreneurial culture in Northern Europe, including acceptance of changes of career as a ‘normal’ part of professional life.
Even within countries geography is a big influence, a startup or company located in a rural area will not behave in the same way as an urban counterpart. Rural startups are more traditional working on the idea of being your own boss and are often less aggressive in their approach to scaling up. They are also more in line with the traditional Danish culture which means not standing out or drawing attention to yourself. In contrast urban areas are experiencing an aggressive growth of entrepreneurs.
Tue David Bak will be back next week on Promoting Enterprise for his final interview on the future of innovation and enterprise and what Denmark and the EU need to focus on to stay competitive.
Read his first interview: Innovation – What is it and how can it be fostered?
As the concept of employee and place of work begins to change and become more fluid, there has been a global rise of ‘coworking spaces’, which serve as transient spaces where individuals and companies can work alongside a variety of professionals. Whilst these spaces provide flexible physical locations without traditional constraints, do they actually work? Do they really promote cross-sectorial cooperation and innovation? Are they conducive to entrepreneurship?
Different studies and interviews of those that use coworking spaces and founders of these spaces have revealed key messages that point to what makes these innovative spaces different to traditional office environments. With reported higher levels of satisfaction and productivity, ongoing research has highlighted the following reasons for their attractiveness:
- People who use coworking spaces see their work as meaningful.
- They have more job control.
- They feel part of a community.
In an environment where collaboration and assistance are the norm, work takes on new meaning, stands out and can even be a valuable asset to another space user. The spirit of collaboration can exist in traditional office spaces, yet can also be accompanied by office politics and internal competition. By working with ‘strangers’ from a range of professions, this can help strengthen each individual work identity, add value to each unique contribution and ultimately eliminate the sometimes counterproductive aspect of internal competition.
When it comes to job control there is no denying that the world of work is changing and the once accepted 9-5 schedule with rigid policies, pushy bosses and no room to manoeuvre is being replaced by the need for autonomy and ultimately flexibility for workers. Coworking spaces allow for necessary but minimal routine and structure without traditional constraints. These spaces are normally available at all hours, meaning that working days can vary depending on when long hours and days are needed, to when a few hours are sufficient. This allows for healthy balance between professional responsibilities, family obligations and other social needs, through the flexible schedule a coworking space promotes.
Finally, the sense of community these spaces create is another strong factor in their attractiveness. Autonomy and flexibility are aspects that can be achieved from a home office, yet this can be isolating and result in decreased productivity. In contrast, the coworking spaces offer both interactive and individual work stations, giving users different working style options as well as the chance to socialise and expand their personal and professional networks.
With the ever changing workforce and working styles, . Taking into account the figures, the studies, the interviews and the ongoing research, there are definitely some benefits to coworking spaces, but can these benefits be translated into entrepreneurial success? Entrepreneurs often think outside of the box, so perhaps working spaces that fall outside of the ‘traditional box’ of structured and rigid office spaces are what these pioneering and innovative minds need to build their networks, launch their ideas and ultimately bring innovation into our daily lives.
For more information:
Interested in coworking spaces and what it is like to run one? Read through the Promoting Enterprise interview with ‘The Library Group’ CEO and founder Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld on Instagram! Find out about her entrepreneurial journey and what led her to set up and run her network of coworking spaces in Brussels.
As the SME Assembly 2017 approaches, along with the beginning of the Estonian presidency, Promoting Enterprise has decided to briefly explore how this Member State rose to be the digital pioneer of Europe.
After gaining independence in 1991, the Republic of Estonia was a small state with a small population and few resources. It was at this moment that the country’s leaders decided to build on the global launch of the internet and integrate it into the construction of the post-Soviet Estonian infrastructure. Preparations for the modern e-Estonia began with the passing of the Information Policy in 1994, followed by the Personal Data Protection Act and the launching of the Tiger Leap project in 1996.
The Tiger Leap project marked the beginning of the prioritisation of the creation of Information Technology structure, by allowing educational institutes to access computers and the internet. This ensured the training of tech-savvy Estonians from a young age, which continues to allow the healthy growth of the national IT industry and development of innovative e-services such as the ID Card project and the X-Road. The project continues to run today and fosters the development of entrepreneurs and their innovations.
Fast forward to the present day and Estonia continues to pioneer digital solutions and is the training ground for other countries wanting to implement online voting and e-Health systems, to name a few. Not only a European but a global pioneer, Estonia is the seat of the NATO Cyber Defence Centre after demonstrating the ability to defend itself against a cyber-attack on national level in 2007.
E-Estonia is by no means finished and new systems and innovations are constantly being developed and added. What will Estonia develop next? We will have to wait and see…
For more information about E-Estonia: https://e-estonia.com/
Are you between the ages of 16-25? Want to make your voice heard?
This is your chance!
The Youth Essay competition, organised by the European Commission Directorate General for Single Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, is launching again and is looking for creative and well thought out answers to this question:
Do you have an opinion on how European policy can help shape the future; or on what government, academic institutions and businesses can do to ensure that young people can acquire the skills they need for tomorrow’s world of work? Would you like to share it with policymakers and entrepreneurs on a European stage? All you need to do to have a chance of winning an all expenses paid trip to the 2017 SME Assembly in Tallinn, is submit an essay of no more than 2 500 words in English before 8 September 2017.
To get started, read through the rules below, get writing and
If you have any questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The competition is open to all 16 to 25 years old from European Member States or COSME partners countries (see the list)
- Essays should not exceed 2 500 words in length
- All essays must be in English
- Only one entry per applicant
- The deadline for submissions is 8 September 2017
- The three finalists will be announced in October ahead of SME Week and will compete at a grand finale in Tallinn where they will present their essays
- The final winner will be chosen via a public vote
- An all expenses paid trip to the SME Assembly in Tallinn, Estonia for the three finalists, to present their essays to 500+ Assembly delegates
- Presentation training before delivering essay live on stage at the SME Assembly 2017
- Promotion of essays across SME Week social media channels
Follow us for competition updates: #SMEWeekYouth
Meet our partners:
With a good idea, some investment and hard work, start-ups in the health and life sciences fields can get started in their local market. But if these firms are going to achieve meaningful growth, and if their innovations are going to benefit a wider audience, they will have to go abroad – which means understanding new regulations, a different culture and an unknown set of market realities.
This is where Product/Market Fit comes in. An EIT Health Accelerator programme, Product/Market Fit helps start-ups that have already established themselves in one market and are ready to expand beyond their borders. The support this programme offers has an estimated market value of EUR 25 000, but the opportunities it provides can be worth much more than that.
“Based on our experience in the Accelerator, grownup start-ups start needing support with going to other markets,” according to Katrien Van Gucht, a Co-Coordinator of the EIT Health Accelerator Strategy and Digital Health Program Manager at EIT Health partner IMEC. “We wanted to get in that sweet spot, right when they are ready to expand,’ said Johnny Waterschoot, who project manages European open calls for IMEC. “We are looking for companies that are ready to go beyond their borders, but lack the necessary funding to do just that. This programme will help them decide what markets to address next.”
According to Van Gucht, companies that are mature enough to qualify for this programme have typically raised about EUR 500 000 in investment and generally consist of two or three people. She said the companies obtain great value from the market testing that the programme can do. “The trial and error ratio of going out and seeing for themselves if they can make it in another market, we reduce this a great deal for them. They will see if they still need some work before they start growing in that market. Or the outcome could be that this market is not for them.”
If the entrepreneurs have the passion and drive to expand, the Product/Market Fit programme can provide them with many of the other tools they need.
Interested in finding out how to apply? Read more about the process here.
For more information: https://eit.europa.eu
Today Promoting Enterprise welcomes back Karen Boers, co-founder & CEO of Startups.be and European Startup Network, for her insights into the taboo of failure in the European startup world and why failure and the lessons learnt from it could actually be the key to future success.
5 years ago Failing Forward was launched as a keynote conference, with big role models testifying about the hardships they had overcome along the way and why the lessons they learned were critical to their success. Because let’s face it, failure is nothing more than a stepping stone in a learning process – and yet we seem to be very ashamed to talk about it. Thankfully, the campaign has been growing across Europe with events, media campaigns and social media stories – breaking through the stigma associated with failure.
European startups have long felt the sting of failed ventures, yet forums to discuss what went wrong are scarce. When we started to invite speakers for a conference on this topic, we really experienced how deeply people – especially entrepreneurs – fear discussing the subject in public.
Yet failure is not something to feel ashamed of. In many areas of life, it is common sense that practice makes perfect, and practice requires – guess what – trial and error, or failure. In the US, investors applaud entrepreneurs with previous experience, good and bad, as long as there are clear take-aways from that experience. In Europe, it’s all or nothing: either you make it the first time around or you might be banned from entrepreneurial life forever.
Why is failure important and what can we learn from it?
The point is not that we should try to avoid failure – that goes against the heart of innovation. The point is that we should embrace the lessons learned from failure. When a kid falls off the bike, you don’t tell them to go figure it out themselves either. You tell them what they’re doing wrong, help them learn and persevere – and become an expert before you know it.
So whenever we take a wrong turn or fall face first on the ground, let’s not be shy about it, help each other stand up again and prevent others from making the same mistakes.
How have you been tackling the ‘failing’ stigma in Belgium and Europe since starting this initiative?
Starting out with the keynote conference, we started gathering more partners around the topic. First we were able to join forces with 15 partners in a two year European project, tackling the subject across the different communities. We did this through local events, panels in big startup events as well as some research into the obstacles leading to failure and countermeasures allowing us to share and recommend best practices.
At present, a four year Flemish project is allowing us to take the campaign to a new level by including local events, a big media campaign every six months and an online platform where people can share their own stories.
What progress have you seen since the last failing forward conference?
It’s been great to see the progress in how easily people talk about the subject. Previously we had a very tough time lining up 10 hot shot speakers for the first editions, now people are knocking on our door, eager to share their stories. Not all people dare to speak about the topic that openly, but the culture is shifting slowly but steadily.
Mainstream press have also picked up on the topic, providing many more two-sided tales of the failed entrepreneur rather than stories focusing exclusively on their failures.
Read more about Karen Boers here on Promoting Enterprise:
Today Promoting Enterprise welcomes guest contributor Daisy da Veiga, a self-employed entrepreneur who balances motherhood, travel and family life alongside running her own business. Over the next few weeks Daisy will be giving insight into the life of an entrepreneur and how to best communicate your ideas effectively.
Hello everyone, my name is Daisy da Veiga and I live in Rotterdam. I am 32 years old and a happy mom to Isaiah and wife of Mark. I am a self-employed entrepreneur in the empowerment sector since 2008.
With my enterprise Daisy da Veiga Coaching & Consultancy I get to empower people to make choices from the heart and live a victorious life. In 2007, after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in International Communication Management, I read the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. I had felt stuck for a while because I could not find a job in the field of work I studied for. After reading this book I was triggered to use the insights gained and put them into action. I had learnt that we create our own reality with our thoughts. The first dream I realised through applying the Law of Attraction, was to work abroad, in Abu Dhabi as an international media consultant. This meant daily interaction with CEO’s and chairpersons of the biggest companies in Abu Dhabi. In the two following years, I fulfilled my second dream, which was to meet inspiring people, like the social rights activist Desmond Tutu, the football player Clarence Seedorf and life success coach Tony Robbins.
With the realisation that we have the power to create our own reality, I decided to dedicate my life to communicate this message to as many people as possible. I do this as a life coach, author, empowerment trainer, blogger, vlogger and motivational speaker.
My biggest success is the thousands of people I have positively impacted with my work over the years, and my biggest challenge is balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship. I’d like to spend all my time with both my son and my work.
One of the things I love to do is travel, as I believe that it is extremely important that I feel balanced between my social and professional life. I am very happy that I have found that balance, mainly due to my great husband.
My latest trip was to Lisbon in Portugal for an empowerment exchange project that I will tell you more about in the near future. In the video below I introduce myself, according to an introduction exercise we did on the first day of the project. Yes, sometimes I am a blue communicating Smurf!
Interested in Daisy and her work? Come back to Promoting Enterprise for her next post and be sure to visit her website for more information: http://www.daisydaveiga.com/