How should the EU € help web entrepreneurs?

The EU Commission has invited me to participate in a consultation on the Horizon 2020 innovation and financial aspects impacting Web Entrepreneurs. Basically they have €80 billion to spend on research and innovation for the Horizon 2020 (2014- 2020) program with which they would like to drive the creation of new growth and jobs in Europe.

But why the hell would have they invited me and what does the Betagroup have to do with all of this? Well, one of their priorities is to strengthen the environment for web-entrepreneurs in Europe, facilitate the increase in the number of web start-ups, as well as support their growth. Ant that’s where we come handy :)

We have been invited, together with other experts, to submit “ideas on any actions in the area of ICT innovation for the benefit of web based entrepreneurship / web businesses, which could be undertaken and financed by the EU. These could cover technological research, innovation issues, as well as business environment aspects.” And this ideas should be focused on aspects related to funding/supporting measures and not regulation/legislation.

And the Betagroup Coworking Brussels, where does it fit in all this? Just like we did before with our ideas to improve the Belgian tech ecosystem, the information was distributed among the coworking members to get their input. This is what has been proposed:

  • Mobility aid programmes: give money to startups that hire from across the borders to bring talent over or create a sort of Erasmus program for workers, not just students and entrepreneurs. Education and adaptation to the new culture are important. This could strengthen the European vision and knowledge.
  • Create a subsidy only for incorporation so that it would cost the same all over Europe to incorporate a new web startup (SA, SL, cooperative…).
  • Use the financial and mediatic muscle of the commission to promote entrepreneurship and starters: it is good to be an entrepreneur. The image on starters and entrepreneurs is negative in a lot of countries of the Union. Showcase not only big winners, but also lifestyle entrepreneurs. A European week of entrepreneurship could be created and used to focus on entrepreneurship issues at diferent levels, from schools to companies. Same goes for the investors: without them financing risk we would be nowhere and cannot grow.
  • Give money to the entities that promote entrepreneurship to fund events (hackathons, events where something is done, barcamp style unconferences that promote the exchange of knowledge, not regular conferences) and to distribute to startups. The danger here is the definition of the kind of startup that would get the money.
  • Fund accelerator programs around Europe.
  • Fund collaborative working spaces where startups and entrepreneurship are being fostered.
  • Even if  the EU does not have tax competences, launch a debate about the convenience of creating a tax shelter for early stage investments in tech startups.
  • Support the promotion of  Agile Development & Lean Startup in ICT and business related studies. The traditional approaches are already settled and need no extra help, plus they tend to be to heavy and slow for web startups.
  • Support the creation of a cross European crowd-funding initiative.
  • One of the things that worries me the most about subsidies is that it can introduce a bias in the market and distort it. Maybe a way to neutralize this bias is by couopling the EU investment to that of private investors or banks so that it is the market itself that chooses and the commission just finances it.
  • Take some money from reseach grants from the research itself and use it to market the results.

What would you add to this list? Please be as concrete as possible. I will try to incorporate your ideas to the meeting on Friday.

About Ramón Suárez

Tech startups, entrepreneurship, & coworking; @Betacowork Coworking Brussels and Coworking Belgium @Cobelgium founder; President and cofounder of the European Coworking Assembly @CoAssemblyEU@startupsbe founder and board member; blogger; chocolate ambassador; Brussels lover. For speaking engagements, please contact my agent at Startups.be, Laura Ortiz: laura@startups.be / +32 484 10 74 69 Connect on Twitter: @ramonsuarez and Google+ Watch me talk about coworking & entrepreneurship on YouTube

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2 Responses to How should the EU € help web entrepreneurs?

  1. Valérie November 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    On this topic, on December 13th morning there will be an interesting conference organised by the EC and the Belgian government. They will discuss why e-skills are important for businesses competitivity.

    As for the speakers, they invited the “Belgian Digital Champion” Saskia Van Uffelen, also Stephan Wojcik who will talk about the digital situation in Belgium and Nicole Dewandre (DG Connect).

    Here’s the link in French http://economie.fgov.be/fr/modules/activity/activite_1/20121213_e-skills.jsp?referer=tcm:326-205703-64

    On twitter, #DA12be

  2. Nicolas November 30, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Set up cross border fund (Private/Public or only Private) to stimluate startups on EU level and decrease local set-up differences. Key is how to deal with Europe as 1 large market, like US. EU could set up a team which deals with these differences and eliminates them for the startups.

    EU should stimulate startups that are innovating in translation (automatic translation methods) which is key to reduce language barriers.