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TWIST DIGITAL Report Summary

Project ID: 644021
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TWIST DIGITAL (Transregional Web Innovative Services for Thriving Digital and Mobile Entrepreneurship)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2015-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

TWIST- Transregional Web Innovative Services for Thriving Digital and Mobile Entrepreneurship- connects four of the most interesting ecosystems in the European panorama characterized by an interesting liveliness of startups in their early stage and seed phase but that usually face difficulties in growing and remaining on the market.
In this stage, It’s generally recognized that the main support to startups is represented by the provision of soft skills and opportunities to facilitate the:
- Access to market;
- Accesso to further knowledge and
- Access to finance.
In this context TWIST has been designed and developed with the two main objectives:
- Creating any opportunity of mutual exchange among European startups through the organization of webinars and vertical programs in the four ecosystems of the project;
- Providing international chances for startups to facilitate access to financial capital through pitching events and new markets through the cooperation with Large Company adopting the concept of Open Innovation.
TWIST digital, through its actions starts a positive mechanisms aiming at:
- Improving the quality of startups through a dedicated and advanced mentorship program;
- Internationalizing startups through exchange programs and international events;
- creating more opportunities between startups and investors in the ecosystem;
- Facilitating access to new clients through the cooperation between startups and Large corporates.

In respect to the objectives above described, it’s to identify the four ecosystems developing TWIST actions:

Rome, project coordinator, is, together with Milan, the most interesting ecosystem in Italy characterized by the presence of
• 8 Accelerators and incubators
• 29 Co-working spaces
• 6 Fab-labs
• 4 Institutional investors
• 3 Crowdfunding platforms
• 316 Innovative startups
Despite some strengths as the presence of human capital and a good presence of resources for micro seed phase, the Rome ecosystem still lack of business angels to finance the phases of seed stage and following stages of startups. In this respect the cooperation with richer ecosystems (Stockholm and Lillè) and the participation to a rich and complex network such as Startup Europe aims at closing the gap of financial instruments for local startups.

Lille is labelized as a leading French Tech city, and that’s happening for a good reason. Being at the same time an academic centre as well as an entrepreneurial hub for young people, the number of new and fresh startups based on the digital industry has increased constantly throughout the last few years.
The Lille Region plays a key role in driving economic growth in Northern France and Europe through digital economy. The multifaceted metropolis has a taste for experimentation and is inventing, with digital industry, daily living and the economy of the future.
Facts and figures:
For Lille Urban Area (European Metropolis of Lille - MEL):
• 7 Universities
• 30 Colleges
• 300 labs
• 160k students
At first glance Lillè provides startups ecosystem with the most relevant services for their growth: its central position ( one hour from Bruxelles and Paris) simplifies the access to financial opportunities but the same proximity requires that Lillè finds its own specialization to compete with the major European towns.
For this reason the ecosystem is devoting its efforts to define its own identity tailoring expertise and opportunities on niche segments.
In this perspective the activities for startups designed and implemented during the Annual International Conference for Cybersecurity , organized since 2008, support the research of specialization of this ecosystem.
The purpose is becoming the focal points for all the startups operating in this sector.
Similar actions are carried out through the cooperation with large companies in the automotive and retails.

Warsaw is definitely considered the country’s entrepreneurial hot spot, gathering young people from all the surrounding regions in very creative and productive hubs, accelerators and workshops.
Warsaw’s startup scene, like its economy, is booming thanks to the presence of high levels of innovation, relatively low costs and a strong talent pool showing all the necessary requirements and potentialities to become one of Europe’s digital heavyweights.
The economic growth of Warsaw has been supported by the Polish Agency of Enterprise Development (PARP), the national agency managing € 7.2 billion EU funds.
The Agency is to seed the startup ecosystem supporting a venture from the idea to enterprise when founders and early investors can cash out.
In this context 43 business incubators have been funded: the incubators give fledgling companies coaching, contacts and up to €200,000 in seed capital. In exchange, the startups hand over an exorbitant amount of equity-up to 50%-giving both sides a stake in success.

Some facts and figures explain more in detail Warsaw growth:
• 19 Accelerators and incubators
• 15 Co-working spaces
• Booming ecosystem: ERDF grants + Angels for web entrepreneurship & startups
• Highly educated tech community
• Google Campus Warsaw opened in 2015.

Stockholm has started conquering the startup and entrepreneurship scene in Europe and worldwide. Being the biggest entrepreneurial hotspot in Scandinavia, it comes as no surprise that some of the most successful startups and entrepreneurs have started straight from Stockholm.
Stockholm is one of the most booming entrepreneurial cities in Europe and the tech industry finds it really easy to find talent and potential in Sweden’s capital.
Around Stockholm, startup hubs, activities, spaces and accelerators are now emerging, matching innovative companies with big industries’ need for innovation and new talents.
Facts and figures:
• $330 million invested in Stockholm startups in 2013 + 60% from 2012
• Microsoft bought Minecraft for $2,5bn in 2014
• Blizzard just bought King for $6,5bn
• Sweden has 33% of the world’s over $1bn exits
• 22,000 tech companies
• 30 incubators, co-working spaces and accelerators
• 850 active startups

Notable Swedish founded companies: Skype, MySQL, Klarna, Mojang Dice, King, Spotify, SoundcloudAround Stockholm, startup hubs, activities, spaces and accelerators are now emerging, matching innovative companies with big industries’ need for innovation and new talents.
A key added value for the TWIST project will be the participation of Johan Gorecki, CEO of Globe Forum and former member of the Skype founding team.

Each ecosystem is represented by different players covering complementary and integrated aspects:
Investors (Lazio Innova (IT), MetaPolska (PL), Media Delas UG) capable of creating matching between Startups and Investors’ network;
Accelerators (Luiss Enlabs (IT), Euratechnologies (FR), FNM (PL), MoreTime (S)) with a proven track record of several acceleration program completed and startup invested after their pre-seeds investments.
The cooperation among accelerators supports the project in the selection of services, management of advisors and mentors, and in the organization of all the TWIST services.
Intermediaries/Facilitators (SpringFellow (S), Media Deals (D), Media Deals ) cover the crucial aspect of connecting startups with investors and relevant players both at local and European level.
The consortium has been improved and supported from the new entrée of Hugin & Munin, expert in communication and branding whose role is to guarantee the most relevance to the project actions.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The first eight months of the project can be considered under three different aspects:
- Creation of TWIST community;
- preliminary work for the effective actions of the project;
- a first pilot test for TWIST actions
In this perspective, during the first period the activities have been focused on three main actions:
1) Promotion and dissemination of TWIST project purpose, objectives and services;
2) Definition of the TWIST methodology for the co-working, co-learning and co-living;
3) First pilot test of the project actions.

1) Creation of TWIST community: Promotion and dissemination of the TWIST project
As reported in the Description of Work, the activities related to the workpackage 2 aimed at creating the first links among the startup ecosystems through a direct and indirect promotion of TWIST to a wide community of identified stakeholders.
The main objectives of this WP can be summed up as follows:
• Identification and involvement of local stakeholders of the four ecosystem and creation of synergies for common actions;
• promotion and launch of TWIST project within big international events.
The main outcome of WP2 has been the creation of a first TWIST community (the “twisters”) at local level both through networking events and through all the relevant social networks/channels ( Facebook, twitter, and the project website ).
The initial “get together” phase had the objective to identify the purposes and functionalities of the TWIST platform as a tool for exchanging experiences, bring successful examples and find possible common ground of collaboration.
Each ecosystem organized a local event with the purpose of:
• presenting TWIST DIGITAL and future activities;
• defining TWIST platform functionalities and on line services;
• involving coaches and mentors;
• understanding startups need and wishes.

Main results of the action

The events provided a unique opportunities to understand the concrete needs of stratups already oriented towards internationalization strategies and on the basis of interviews and discussion actually supported TWIST partners in the definition of the objectives of the TWIST digital platform.
It was clearly expressed the need of a closer cooperation not only between startups but also with mentors and corporates and it appears clear that TWIST should be leading challenge driven web-based Innovation platform, to facilitate user community to connect and grow Europe’s Startup ecosystem.
A crucial role, in fact has been identified with the possibility to get in contact Corporates as well as Medium companies with technologies and innovative solutions coming from startups.
Large part of the development of TWIST platform has been therefore dedicated to the development of this functionality.
The platform has been implemented during the first months of the project and has been piloted for the management of the first bootcamp of the project that was organized in Lillè in January.

2) Definition of the TWIST methodology for co-learning;

The mentorship program is one of the milestone of TWIST since it has been designed and developed to provide knowledge not easily available on local basis for startups.
The methodology is the result of the analysis of regular offer of local accelerators that, even though recognized at European level, don’t provide mentorship programs for startups in their growing phase and with specific vertical
Startups in the growing phase actually need a more detailed knowledge of markets, capitals and management considered crucial to have access to the next step of investments.
The concept behind the TWIST mentorship program has been , actually, to understand the specific needs of startups in the four ecosystems and to define a successful path in cooperation with mentors from accelerators and vertical experts .
In order to elaborate the TWIST mentorship programme, the Consortium has organised focus groups, interviews, and questionnaire within the 4 TWIST ecosystems.
Questionnaires, published on Google were organized in 22 questions and three main areas:
- Part 1: Characterisation of the institution
- Part 2: Access to knowledge/mentorship
- Part 3: Access to finance
The objective of the on-line questionnaires were to get a large number of answers to identify needs of startups. The questionnaires anyway just provided a quantitative analysis that needs to be integrated with a more qualitative understanding of the results.
In this perspective, TWIST partners decided to integrate results with ”focus groups” where startups were asked to validate findings coming from the questionnaires and identify a specific program for their development.
The focus groups were conducted through an open-loop discussion where all participants were given time and opportunity to express their views in a balanced way.
The objectives of interviews and focus group were to go deeply in startups’ expression of their needs and to check if answers we propose would be a solution for them. It was also the opportunity to go further in subjects they would like to be mentored as startups had the opportunity to express their point of view.
Starting from the needs expressed during focus group and questionnaire the TWIST consortium has defined a common basis to allow startup to enjoy its tailor-made mentorship program. TWIST mentorship program consists in a compilation of the four action-plans provided by the partners from the four ecosystems. Indeed, each ecosystem has built its own mentorship program based on its specificities, its strengths and its own network of experts and/or mentors they would like to be in contact with. As a result, a startup is able to pick up the TWIST session that he prefers to attend and/or to get involved in within the large offer proposed by the mutualisation of mentorship programs of the TWIST ecosystems.
One of the particularities of TWIST is to allow all ecosystems to exchange with each other.
Each ecosystem has defined a catalogue of mentors
The strength of TWIST mentorship program is to put in common each ecosystem’s mentorship program, in order to create a mutualized one.
TWIST mentorship program has been set up for startups, as a result, it is based on startups needs and takes into consideration their points of view.

The major findings from the questionnaires and focus groups show differences among ecosystems mainly in terms of sector of activities ( cybersecurity and Retail in France; E-Health in Sweden; Big Data and Fintech in Poland; Smart cities and gaming in Lazio). Starting from this, the partners of TWIST considered that the mentorship programs would be revised taking into consideration horizontal topics (management, marketing, internationalization…).
Questionnaires confirmed both the importance for startups to be in contacts with private companies to improve their knowledge of the markets and the relevance of collaboration with corporates considered crucial under different aspects related not exclusively to finance.
These aspects emerged from the questions about the relevant sources of finance where most of the companies stated that more than 40% come from direct sales/services.
The analysis carried out tell us that co-operation with private actors are the preferred way to access to knowledge.
The gathered data confirmed that most of the startups are looking for funding and even though generally oriented to international markets, the majority of them ( more than 60%) are not capable of accessing new European markets.
In the light of these evidences, the TWIST consortium has defined three main area to focus its efforts:
- Accesso to new markets
- Access to finance (in the double definition of venture capital and new clients)
- Access to knowledge through horizontal programs covering general aspects related to Communication/PR ; Access to finance/ Capital advisory ; Strategy/ Market positioning/ Go-to-market ; Business development/ Export advice.
Starting from this results a list of mentors have been identified and organized in a catalogue that has provided an initial project for the development of the mentorship program in each ecosystem.
The catalogue provides a snapshot of the state of the art of the local ecosystem in a specific momentum.
The regular debate with startups actually supports partners in a continuous revision and definition of programs and mentors to be involved.
3) First pilot test of the project actions.
From July TWIST has implemented the first actions of its mentorship program in the four ecosystems.
Due to the summer break this action started slowly but registered any case a certain number of good results.
Each ecosystem organized at least two mentorship sessions.

This number has been successfully increased and in October TWIST had already organized 23 webinars/off line events registering the involvement of more than 100 mentors and experts.

Communication and marketing
In parallel with the technical activities of the project, TWIST has implemented its own communication strategy defining the brand and organizing the various channels already available in the daily activity of the partners.
The Communication strategy has pointed out that TWIST need a single entry point capable of bringing the stakeholders of the project from the four ecosystems in a unique repository of the project results and in particular of the webinars.
The initial purpose of the communication plan was to define instruments and tools to:
• Raise TWIST’s online brand awareness
• Make TWIST be acknowledged as the key project in connecting startups with useful mentors and access to finance through knowledge sharing and high level networking
• Give TWIST a fresh new dynamic look, communicating on multiple channels such as the partners’ websites, blogs, social media channels and on TWIST’s own social media channels.
During the course of the project and with the entry of Hugin & Munin the purpose of the TWIST communication is becoming more and more part of the Startup Europe brand.
The TWIST digital Platform is becoming the instrument for the management of bootcamp and challenge and to create the TWIST community.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Several studies emphasizes that early stage support is a key intervention for the development of a startup ecosystem. TWIST project has been designed to support early stage entrepreneurs by providing them with business development support (through a set of mentoring sessions designed according to their needs) and network support (e.g., access to potential customers, investors, mentors).
The actions of the first period of the project have been implemented in due time and in accordance with the Description of Work.
A deep analysis, included in the deliverables 4.1 and 4.2, will present how the 4 TWIST ecosystems are in an initial phases of their development (taking as benchmark Silicon Valley considered the most advance ecosystem in the world).
In particular in this stage, the three TWIST ecosystems (Warsaw, Lillè and Rome) are recognized as vibrant and growing ecosystems but they don’t register any unicorn. The three ecosystems are mainly characterized by a an integrated community of startups, accelerators, co-working and public actors.
In particular, their weak point can be identified in a lack of financial investors due either to the closer presence of more important ecosystems (Milan and Paris) or to the very new creation of the ecosystem itself.
In this context, according to the lifecycle of the ecosystem defined by the Compass “One of the best ways to foster a vibrant, entrepreneur community is to nurture it with many types of events: conferences, meet-ups, and events such as Startup Weekends”.
Many analysis agree on the fact that one of the most important factors consists in gathering players, and in particular startups, in positive environment where they can meet face to face and share knowledge and experiences.
Starting from this perspective, the work done in this first part of the project has created the conditions for the definition of the following activities.
The part of the project, in fact, is mainly devoted to network startups and startups with different players with the purpose of improving their performance and try to improve their quality and their success rate.
The second period will be devoted to actions of the ecosystems and we expected to have a concrete and miserable impact.
In particular, the project will evaluate network capability of the ecosystems in terms of:
1) Links to with other ecosystem members (experts, serial entrepreneurs);
2) Links to the local and international investors
3) Links with other markets through international actions and access to new clients/ corporates.

Related information

Record Number: 190373 / Last updated on: 2016-11-15
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