A wake-up call for European entrepreneurs
“The entrepreneur is essentially a visualizer and actualizer. He can visualize something, and when he visualizes it he sees exactly how to make it happen”. Robert L. Schwartz
European entrepreneurs face challenges
Currently, the European startup community faces difficulties in actualizing their entrepreneurial vision. More specifically, the entrepreneurial climate in Europe experiences two challenges. First, entrepreneurial intentions as such are relatively low compared to other regions such as North America and Africa. In other words, fewer individuals aspire to start their own business. Second, entrepreneurial intentions are rarely converted into actual entrepreneurial activity. Equally important, entrepreneurs rarely scale their business across national boundaries, underutilizing the full potential of the European Single Market.
Understanding the challenges
In order to better understand why Europe is facing these challenges, a better understanding of the needs of European entrepreneurs is essential. The ePlus project under the Startup Europe initiative identified five priority areas that foster an optimal entrepreneurial climate:
- Attitude for entrepreneurship
- Access to knowledge and skills
- Access to resources and facilities
- Access to business opportunities
- Access to finance
Subsequent survey research revealed that entrepreneurs perceive their current access to finance and business opportunities to be very limited – this is all the more concerning as they indicated these aspects to be vital to the viability and scaling up of their business. In-depth interviews indicated that entrepreneurs either lack information on where they can raise funds internationally for their business or/and lack the relevant skills to actually obtain the funds. Currently, entrepreneurs only raise funds locally, not exploiting possibilities across different Member States.
Empowering the entrepreneur
To meet these challenges head on, entrepreneurs should aim to:
Inspire and encourage others to start their own business by exemplifying entrepreneurship and celebrating the success of European entrepreneurs such as the Swedish Daniel Ek (Spotify).
Enable themselves to adopt an international perspective on fundraising early on by, for example, signing up to digital portals listing potential funding sources and facilities across Europe. Exploit the Single European market to its full potential.
Empower themselves to raise capital from identified sources by using available mentor programs and workshops on relevant skills such as cross-cultural pitching and drafting business proposals for international groups – effectively empowering themselves to raise capital independently form public funds on the long term.
To assist entrepreneurs, promising first steps are taken under the ePlus project to enforce these policy recommendations: a database listing financers and facilities across the EU has been launched; a mentor programme is implemented; and dedicated consulting services providing 1:1 with experts in several knowledge areas are being developed.