Talent, imagination and innovation: helping Europe’s tech startups to succeed
It was called Startup Europe Week. It was the largest ever multi-event of its kind for startups, certainly in Europe.
Now, to build on last year’s pioneering success, we are doing it again.
Throughout this week across Europe, a wide range of events will take place in more than 40 countries to raise awareness about resources and opportunities that are available locally for tech entrepreneurs and to help startups to create new networks and ecosystems.
Five years ago, we were just scratching the surface regarding startups with the early awareness initiatives of Startup Europe.
This programme’s main objective is to strengthen the business environment for web and ICT entrepreneurs so that their ideas and business can start and grow.
Since then, we have expanded and diversified the list of campaigns and programmes held under the Startup Europe umbrella – like the many events, around 200 expected, being held during this week.
Vibrant startup scene
And so the European startup scene has grown steadily.
Europe has now seen its first $10 billion companies emerge.
Deep tech is thriving, with investments and acquisitions going strong in this area.
European tech shows real diversity across industrial sectors, creating jobs faster than other industries. New tech hubs, where companies are succeeding in areas like fintech, healthcare, cybersecurity and the Internet of Things, are sprouting up to challenge more traditional centres like London and Berlin.
In short, Europe is home to a vibrant startup scene. And that is something we can really be proud of.
But we also know there is still more to do to help startups get off the ground and scale up.
Some familiar problems remain, such as linking up tech hubs, communities and ecosystems.
Networking them closer together would help to unlock their potential, and offer them some scale to compete in the international marketplace. This is exactly the kind of area where Startup Europe Week can help, especially with the local and regional support networks that it can provide.
We still need to encourage more women into tech and overcome what the Atomico/Slush report calls an “alarming gender imbalance”: 80% of companies that raise funding have all-male founding teams.
The Digital Single Market strategy directly addresses many of the problems faced by startups. We are already making changes to remove regulatory and administrative barriers that are holding them back.
To encourage cross-border investment, for example, we have proposed simplifying and modernising EU rules for online and digital cross-border purchases.
The aim is to help e-commerce startups by making it easier for them to comply with laws across the EU. In turn, they will be able to expand across national borders more quickly and offer their services to more customers.
Better public services – fully online and joined up across administrations and borders – will make life easier for startups keen to expand beyond national borders.
I want a “once-only principle” for businesses in their dealings with the public sector to be a reality soon; more e-procurement, and more procurement from startups – a great investment support.
Then, of course, there is financing. This is often – if not usually – the most tricky issue for startups, at whatever stage of the investment cycle, from seed money to late-stage funding.
Here again, we are working to improve the situation, especially with the startup and scale-up initiative that the Commission presented in November 2016.
This puts a new focus on venture capital investment, insolvency law and taxation, bringing them together with all the possibilities that the EU already offers.
Along with improving access to finance, the initiative aims to make it easier for entrepreneurs to have a second chance if they fail.
Last year, Startup Europe Week was a resounding success: the largest Europe-wide event dedicated to local support for startups that want to go global.
I wish this year’s week of events the same success, if not greater. Please get involved and help make Europe a connected continent for tech entrepreneurs: for them to imagine, to innovate, to succeed.
Another blog soon.