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Top entrepreneurs discuss challenges for ICT statups

The cream of the European ICT entrepreneurial scene joined the recent Digital Action Day to discuss the challenges facing web and app startups.

What exactly are the challenges for ICT entrepreneurs seeking to drive Europe’s web and app economy forward? Heads of some of our most innovative and high-profile startups, from TransferWise to the makers of Candy Crush and Angry Birds, gathered in Brussels last month at the Digital Action Day to discuss this issue. Digital Single Market One issue that arose again and again throughout the day was the Digital Single Market. Or to be more specific, the lack of a Digital Single Market. As Alberto Onetti of Mind the Bridge noted, ‘We have an illusion of having a single market. The priority is to turn this into a reality – with single laws and regulations.’ Martin Mignot, of Principal Index Ventures, echoed this sense of discontent: ‘You have to set up a company in each country and comply with the labour laws there … If you could have one corporate structure and one labour law and create a single market for labour – this would be very important for a new phase of technology’. ‘Entrepreneurial training should begin in pre-school’ It’s not all about money, or even government support. According to Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio, creators of Angry Birds, there has to be a will from the innovators themselves, and education is key to that. ‘In Finland, it wasn’t the government or the EU telling us “you guys should create more startups”. It has to start with the people. If you don’t have grass roots activities, you’re not going to get anywhere … This is not something that is top down. It has to be the people doing it. It’s like the old saying – you shouldn’t give the people fish but teach them how to fish. Try to get more gatherings of people and information sharing. Get startups together and founders together. It’s about more information sharing and education.’ Vesterbacka also pointed to the importance of encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset from childhood. He noted, ‘It’s important to start early – we should be looking at entrepreneurial training already in pre-school. Half of all high-school students go through entrepreneurial training in Finland. We need to get that thinking into kids as early as possible. An entrepreneurial state of mind is important in everything you do. The earlier you start the better.’ Collaboration is key Jérôme Zois, Business Developer at Palantir Technologies, insisted that collaboration between big business, government and startups is key. He noted, ‘Culture has changed and it’s no longer the view that government is bad, corporations are evil, startups are good. It’s good to have a connection between corporations and startups. Government intervention can address market inefficiencies in tandem with startups. Let’s get away from segmenting.’ Creating space for trial and error We also have to be prepared for a high failure rate in order to see true success, as Simon Schaefer of Factory Berlin, a campus for founders and innovators, noted: ‘Startups are something entirely different than the companies from before them. We need about 20 000 new startups every year for 100 of them to be successful.’ Lars co-founder of King which created the international phenomenon that is Candy Crush also insisted that it needs to be easier for startups to try and fail. He says, ‘We need to make the initial phase of startups really, really easy so there are no hurdles and it’s not difficult to wind them down.’ We need role models Jérôme Zois added that it is important to see role models on stage talking about their experiences. He noted, ‘Events such as these are the most important. One thing that we’re lacking is role models – we have fantastic companies here in Europe. If you can identify the poster children of your community, you can celebrate their success. There are entrepreneurs out there that could infect people with the bug. In Luxembourg, entrepreneurs who have been successful are talking it up as a career path.’ For more information, please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/dad14eu

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Belgium