How Can European Startups Become the Best? Find Out.

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By Edite Cruz

Yes, Brussels does talk “startup”! If you follow my Facebook account you’ve seen that since starting my role at Beta-i, I’m more often than not in Brussels. And you’re probably wondering what is that all about: Brussels and startups?! Well, there is an awful lot happening in Brussels regarding startups and a considerable number of people, both at the Commission and in other organisations, focusing in creating a globally competitive Startup Industry in Europe.

At Beta-i part of my role is to manage the four European projects we’re working on. Through these projects we build direct relationships with 20+ partners from other member states — to the point that I have them on my whatsapp account. These partners range from accelerators to incubators, research agencies, startup networks, media channels, universities and other sorts of organizations. All of them are key players in the European Startup Industry. This means that, on a daily basis, we at Beta-i are going across borders for our startups, partners and overall for the Portuguese Startup Industry. We work together with these partners and have the amazing opportunity to get to understand what is happening across europe both locally and across borders. Here are a few things that I learned on this journey so far:

The Europe of Startups is growing united

Things are moving really fast. Startups are not something from Silicon Valley anymore. They are here and they are ours. They are European! From London, Paris, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, and very often they have more than one nationality (e.g. Estonian & Swedish, Portuguese & German or Italian and French). The Europe of Startups is a more borderless Europe, a more international one. There is a startup culture that bonds everyone with the same ‘language’. Startups think globally and the challenges they have are pretty much the same no matter where they are located. Hiring a data scientist or growth hacker is nearly as challenging for a startup in Stockholm as for a startup in Athens. All of these factors mean that this industry is speaking the same language across borders and has a collaborative approach to solve the challenges it faces.

Politicians want to act

Startups are important. They know that. They are crucial for the future of European economy. Trust me, they really do know that! Many of them are making time in their agendas to sit down with us, learn about what is happening and identify together with the people from the industry what needs to be done for the startup industry to scale-up in Europe. During these next months, with the Dutch presidency in place, it is expected that a few major steps will be taken that strongly impact startups in Europe. There are talks that this may be the chance to push through a European Startup Visa to allow startups to hire specialized resources from outside Europe whenever there is an identified shortage in Europe. From an early stage, the Commission has been backing up the growth of the Startup Industry in Europe and many initiatives have been put in place to support that. Startup Europe, DG Connect and COSME, just to mention a few, are some of the initiatives currently active and aiming to help Startups in Europe to tackle the current challenges they face in the most diverse areas (e.g. access to finance, access to talent or soft landing at member states for market expansion)

The time is now

Startup is no longer a buzzword. Startups are an industry. It is no longer about starting up the startup economy (forgive me the redundancy). Now it is about scaling up this industry. Corporates have recognized the innovative and strategic value of working with startups, politicians know their economic value and the ecosystem is mature enough that key players are emerging as experts, with best practices and know how that are beyond the initial experimental phase.

What does this all mean for startups and other players in this industry? Simple: if you speak now, you will be heard. It is time to become a changemaker. Take advantage of this alignment of factors and build on the momentum that is there.

With this in mind, Beta-i is launching the Portuguese Startup Manifestomovement in 2016, when all eyes are set in Portugal. Now a mature ecosystem, with several international players moving in, the time is right for Portuguese entrepreneurs, startups, investors and other key stakeholders to voice their ideas and contribute in defining the necessary actions to upgrade the Portuguese Startup Ecosystem. The goal is to put in place the measures that will upgrade the Portuguese Startup Industry and allow Portugal to become a competitive hub for startups worldwide.

Join the discussion using #PTstartupManifesto or drop by an event near you. Learn all about it here.

This blogpost was first published on the Lisbon Challenge website.

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