From Startup Manifesto to a truly unified European startup ecosystem, Karen Boers encourages us to get involved in a movement that serves entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs provide oxygen to our economy, creating new businesses and new jobs, new ways to look at the world and to interact with everyone around us. They invent and they build, they wreck and replace. In doing so, they often hit the boundaries of legislation and regulation not adapted yet to that emerging future. Although creative ways can often be found to get around such obstacles, this can slow them down considerably, allowing companies from more forward-looking regions in the world to snatch the market in front of their noses. Or they choose to flee the country or even the continent, moving to places where experiments are welcomed, and policy adapts in more agile ways to changing circumstances.
You may think that entrepreneurs would form a powerful lobby to counteract these pitfalls. But entrepreneurs are already slaving away 24/7 to safeguard and build their businesses and teams, while putting out today’s fires. Fighting for a better policy framework for entrepreneurs is often the last thing on their minds. They are scattered across smaller businesses, across regions, and tend not to be organised in a structured way, thus leaving the status quo unchanged…
In 2013, Neelie Kroes, as Commissioner for Digital Agenda, called upon the Startup Europe Leaders Club to craft a European Startup Manifesto, a set of high-impact recommendations to create a better entrepreneurial climate in Europe. Yet many of the recommendations touched upon areas in which the European Commission has little or no impact. It was up to the Member States to drive home the change. Still, the spark was lit and a small flame grew out of it. The startup community started rising up to the challenge and they got organised. An entire Startup Manifesto Movement emerged, with entrepreneurs in country after country voicing their solutions and suggestions.
Now three years later, almost every European startup community has created their very own Startup Manifesto – often crowdsourced – and many have had considerable impact on local policy makers, as testified by the Startup Manifesto Policy Tracker. Tax shelters were introduced, legislation on e-commerce was modernised, crowdfunding was eased, governments and corporations started buying from startups, the procurement legislation got adapted, and a startup test is being developed to stress test all new legislation for impact on startups.
The European Commission stayed on the same course, developing a Startup Europe programme to connect startup hubs across Europe and allow more business to start and grow in the EU – and ‘startup managers’ emerged at all levels of policy making, from the city level to the international. Some of the collaborations that grew out of these efforts grew into long-term sustainable platforms and networks. The European Startup Network currently unifies over 20 national startup associations to create a common voice and provide data analysis, facilitate an international go-to-market and build strong national ecosystems. Allied for Startups, for example, acts on behalf of startups worldwide. Entrepreneurs have also stepped up to the challenge individually and started sharing their stories of success, but also on (how to learn from) failure. Understanding that challenges were shifting from starting a business to fastgrowing companies scaling across Europe, a European ScaleUp Manifesto was once more crowdsourced from all those different communities, with clear action points for all involved at any level.
It is clear that the entrepreneurial voice is here to stay. And hopefully these voices will help construct a more inclusive world, a tolerant world, one in which change and diversity can be embraced rather than feared. We’re creating the framework for all those who wish to develop their passions into a profession; their dreams into reality. If you’re a dreamer, and have the drive to ensure no one holds you back, there is always a way to change whatever is in your way. Sign the ScaleUp Manifesto and join the movement.
For further details go to:
- www.europeandigitalforum.eu/ startup-manifest-policy-tracker
Karen Boers is the co-founder and Managing Director of Startups.be. Uniting hundreds of startups with all the incubators, accelerators, investors and public actors in the local ecosystem, Startups.be operates as a one-stopshop and matchmaker. The impact of the Belgian Startup Manifesto underlines the importance and potential of providing entrepreneurs with a single and strong voice towards policy makers and key decision makers. Bringing that experience to the European level through the European Startup Network is her current challenge.
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