“Web entrepreneurs represent a specific category of entrepreneur who creates new digital services and products that use the internet as an indispensable part of their business proposition,” notes the European Commission. “With the internet increasingly finding its way into our lives in unforeseen ways, web entrepreneurs thus have an increasing impact on society.”
Using innovative technologies and platforms, they create products, services and solutions that improve and enrich our everyday lives – from smartphone apps for healthy living, to geo-location services for navigating new cities, and timesaving technologies for juggling family and work life. Twenty years ago, who could have imagined how the internet would change our lives?
For the benefits of the internet and its next generation, the ‘Future Internet’ (of things and services), to be experienced accross Europe, the conditions have to be just right to encourage web entrepreneurship.
“They require tailored support measures to strengthen the web ‘startup ecosystem’ and break down remaining barriers,” notes the Net Innovation team.
Foremost among the challenges faced by web entrepreneurs is access to finance – there must be incentives for early-stage investors to compensate for the inherent risks of backing an internet startup.
Europe also stands accused (according to Eurobarometer) of lacking an “innovation and entrepreneurial culture”, in the leagues of competing regions such as the USA and Asia. A lack of tech-leadership (see also page 23) and skills gaps are also given as reasons holding back European web entrepreneurship.
The Commission has launched a series of six initiatives under its Web Entrepreneurs Action Plan (see also pages 8-9) to tackle these concerns. “These measures seek to promote a renewed culture of innovation and talent development at a European level,” notes the Net Innovation team.
“Some Member States perform better than others, so successful approaches should be replicated, adapted and scaled across the EU. Key resources for web entrepreneurs can be effectively stimulated and pooled at EU level to create single points of access, independent of their national origin, or location.”
Europe is also lagging behind competing regions in terms of global leaders in this sector. Fewer startups are founded by European web entrepreneurs and, even those that are relatively successful, rarely “grow up” to become global leaders (exceptions being members of the Startup Europe Leaders Club, see interviews on page 28 and page 31).
The Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan has highlighted specific short- and medium-term actions to improve the present situation for web entrepreneurs. A host of other initiatives and projects, such as the FIRE projects, supported by DG CONNECT, are taking place to provide “joined-up” solutions to stimulate the internet economy, many of which are featured in net-innov future.