Today, these often come in the form of small businesses and web startups: young high-potential companies that create the ideas and jobs that we need for our economic growth.
Whenever I visit startups, I am struck by their dynamism and determination to succeed in what are often difficult and crowded markets. At the same time, I am reminded that startups have their own specific problems.
A startup is not a smaller version of a large company. A better description might be a temporary operation that is looking for a scalable, repeatable and profitable business model.
They deserve our attention in their own right.
Investments in digital companies and access to capital are always needed for helping startups to grow.
But startups also need supportive policies. Linking and networking them will unlock more of their potential, and offer the scale necessary to compete with other ecosystems around the world.
So far, Europe's startup landscape is looking healthy. I was just reading the recent report on European tech by Atomico, which gives a lot of reason for optimism.
European tech in 2017 is in the strongest position that it has ever been, it says. A strong pipeline of world-class talent, a growing developer population that is increasingly being tapped by global tech giants. Record investments in European technology, especially deep tech.
This is all welcome news.
As always, though, we can - and should - be doing more to help European startups. They still face a lot problems, particularly in achieving their main goals: to scale up, grow quickly, and across borders.
As we build the Digital Single Market, many of these issues are being addressed.
The aim is to reduce obstacles so that startups have more freedom to innovate and scale up in Europe, taking full advantage of the single market to operate across and between EU country borders.
To boost their chances of success, the European Commission launched the Startup Europe programme to strengthen the business environment for web and ICT entrepreneurs so that their ideas and business can grow.
Startup Europe Week (SEW) is a major part of this programme and the largest multi-event of its kind for startups in Europe.
Now in its third year, it will run from March 5 to 9 in more than 50 countries – across the EU-28 but also a little beyond EU borders in Armenia, Israel and Ukraine.
This year is a first, in that there will even be SEW events held in Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria. Taking the EU's startup road-show to other continents strikes me as a good way to learn globally and attract talent and funding.
Regular readers will know that I have a particular interest in startups and digitisation in Africa and other EU partner regions – see my blog on Nigeria from last year.
The idea of all the SEW events is two-fold. Firstly, by providing information and practical advice, to raise awareness about the resources and opportunities available locally for tech entrepreneurs.
Secondly, to link and interact with other regions to create new networks and ecosystems.
Regions can inform and advise new businesses. They can help entrepreneurs to incorporate a company; they can often help on the financial side; they can link with other regions to create new networks and ecosystems.
I wish every success to this year's SEW and encourage everyone to make the most of it.
Another blog soon.