If ever a Rolling Stones reference is appropriate in an EU context this is it! The motivation for the EUbacked ‘Startup Europe’ is not actually a far cry from the next line of this iconic song – “I’ll never stop” – because the idea of the scheme is to promote web entrepreneurship as a stimulus for sustainable growth to boost Europe’s flagging economy. Granted, it’s a loose connection, but it got your attention!


Recent developments (September 2014): Clear returns, clearer benefits

Getting ‘novel’ ideas and technologies to market can be a struggle for entrepreneurs. This is where Startup Europe, the EU’s Web Entrepreneurship Action Plan to support, promote and celebrate young and growing net-business ventures, can help.

The Action Plan is actually a series of initiatives aimed at strengthening web entrepreneurship, including the Startup Europe Partnership (SEP), Web Investors Forum (WIF), and awards and schemes for talented innovators, such as the TechAllStars competition.

The winner of this year’s TechAllStars is a great example of the class of startups coming out of the EU. A dozen companies competed for the honour of being crowned the best and brightest start-up in Europe, but ‘Clear Returns’ from Glasgow took out the top prize announced over the summer.

The nominees from every EU country of the Europioneers challenge have just (been?) announced. They are competing in four categories: female web entrepreneur, high growth web entrepreneur, web entrepreneur of the year and young web entrepreneur. Public voting on the nominees starts on 24 September 2014 and is open until 24 October . The award ceremony will take place at The Summit – Dublin on 5 November.

Meanwhile, a new report as part of the WIF offers a four-step action plan for ‘Boosting digital startup financing in Europe’. Finding European ‘exits’ – returns for investors – is a priority, according to experts interviewed in seven key markets (France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK).

Another is dealing with a shortage of equity leading to premature selloffs (often to US buyers). Recommendations were also aimed at better integrating the tech-investment scene and bringing in more private/corporate backers in Europe.

SEP, which scouts and maps tech ‘scale-ups’, is reporting in its latest report that European startups who manage to push through the “early- stage barrier [are] candidates to become large global companies and real job creators”.

Monitor Report mapped over 200 exits (tech startups acquired by other companies or issuing an initial public offering, IPO) in the period 2011-2014. Around 30 acquisitions with around EUR 77.6 million in valuations and 5 IPOs with more than EUR 776 million in valuations were reported. In Europe, Germany and the UK recorded the highest number of exited scale-ups (47%), with US buyers present in nearly half of the deals.

The startup scene is clearly vibrant but these results suggest more effort needs to be done to ensure a very dynamic investment landscape.

Now to the more serious message of Startup Europe, the European Commission’s Web Entrepreneurship Action Plan to support, promote and celebrate young and growing net-business ventures.

Web entrepreneurs and small businesses (see also pages 6-7) play an important role in driving innovation. By seizing new opportunities for economic growth and job creation, they are the key players in achieving the goals of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy. They use the latest web and networking technologies and ideas to create new products and services, as well as alternative solutions to the challenges of today. But ‘novel’ ideas and technologies are inherently risky, so they often struggle on their way to market. This is where the Action Plan and Startup Europe can help.

Six actions for innovation, growth, jobs

The Action Plan is actually six actions aimed at strengthening web entrepreneurship:

  1. Startup Europe Leaders Club – an independent group of technology leaders who act as role models for European web entrepreneurs and provide guidance to the Commission on what needs to be done to strengthen the environment for the next generations of web entrepreneurs (see also page 23).
  2. Startup Europe Partnership – facilitates collaboration between potential and existing entrepreneurs and active investors, mentors, accelerators and web-focused businesses, in order to increase and improve the quality, quantity and accessibility of services available to web entrepreneurs throughout the EU.
  3. Startup Europe Accelerators Assembly – an industryled network that connects accelerators, entrepreneurs and policy-makers, in order to strengthen the support offered to web startups across Europe.
  4. Startup Europe Crowd-funding Network – fosters the ‘crowd-funding’ of web ventures in Europe; a report on the status of crowd-funding in Europe is under preparation.
  5. Startup Europe Web Investors Forum – brings together the venture capital community to generate and share knowledge (research, facts and best practices) which fosters web startup activity in Europe.
  6. Startup Europe Web Talent – fosters web talent in the EU by encouraging the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) focused on web skills (web software application development, social media technologies, web design, standards evolution, web entrepreneurship, etc.).

These six actions are just the beginning, according to the team behind the programme: “Future initiatives planned under Startup Europe aim to accelerate and connect local ecosystems in Europe to help early-stage tech ventures ‘start in Europe and stay in Europe’, while scaling up to the global level.”

In addition to the activities focused on fostering innovationdriven web entrepreneurship, the scheme generates awareness of the most promising web startups through the TechAllStars competition, and visibility for the best web entrepreneurs of the year via the EuroPioneers Awards (see on page 30).

Basketball references aside, TechAllStars is more like a military boot camp for young tech entrepreneurs. The programme invites 12 of the best young European startups to the most prestigious startup events across Europe and gets them connected to top EU funding sources, successful entrepreneurs and other influential individuals.

Further impetus for tech and internet startups is provided through EURAPP, an EU-funded study of the EU app economy. EURAPP seeks to provide a comprehensive review of the size of the app economy in Europe so that it can be further supported by the Digital Agenda Europe and other initiatives.

“We will produce innovative and practical recommendations detailing how to overcome various bottlenecks identified in the app economy, using pragmatic ways in which to reach stakeholders, deploying effective research instruments and impact assessment methodologies for the app economy (in particular in relation to jobs creation),” notes the project team.

More info

(Article from net-innov future magazine (2014)).