EU for all its lethargy, its flaws and its fetishization of bureaucracy, is, in the end, a good idea. It may be 64 years since the formation of the European Common Market, but it has been 29 years since the formation of the EU in the Maastricht Treaty, and this international entity still acts like an undecided millennial, happy to hover around the technology startups policy. It’s high time for this digital nomad to engage in a ‘place’ about how he treats startups.
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s a unique moment in time. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the acceptance of the technology globally, particularly in Europe. Fortunately, tech companies and startups have proven to be more resilient than much of the established economy. As a result, EU political leaders began to look to the innovation economy for a more sustainable future in Europe.
But that time did not come soon enough.
The European tech scene still lags behind its American and Asian counterparts in terms of the number of startups created, talent in the tech sector, funding rounds and introductions / exits. It does not help, of course, that the European market is so fragmented, and will be for a long time to come.
But there is absolutely no excuse for the EU’s obligations to reform legislation on startups, taxation and talent development, to “level the playing field” against the American and Asian giants of technology.
But, to put it bluntly: the EU cannot pull itself together around startups.
Consider this litany of propositions.
As early as 2016, we had the initiative to start up and scale up. We even had the Scale-Up Manifesto the same year. Then there were the Cluj recommendations (2019) and the non-optional campaign for options reform in 2020.
Let’s face it, the community of VCs, founders and startup associations in Europe has been saying the same thing for the most part since years, to national and European leaders.
Finally, this year we got something close to a sum of all of that effort.
Portugal, which has the European Presidency for the first half of this year, has taken the bull by the horns and created something approaching a final draft of what the EU needs.
After, again, intensive consultations with stakeholders in the European ecosystem, it identified eight best practices to level the playing field covering the whole range of issues such as the rapid creation of startups, talent, stock options, innovation in regulation and access to finance. You name it, he has it covered.
These were then integrated into the Startup Nations Standard and presented to the European Council during Digital Day on March 19, in collaboration with DG CNECT of the European Commission and its Commissioner Tierry Breton. I wrote about it at the time.
Would the EU eventually take control and endorse these obviously workable proposals?
It seemed, at least, that maybe we were going somewhere. Some 25 member states signed the declaration that day, and perhaps for the first time, political consensus seemed to be forming around this policy.
Indeed, an organization set up to pilot the initiative (the European Startup Nations Alliance) was even announced by Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa who, he said, would be responsible for monitoring, developing and optimizing standards. , collect data from Member States on their successes and failures, and report on its findings at a biannual conference aligned with the change of presidency of the European Council.
It looks like we can open a chilled bottle of DOC Bairrada Espumante and celebrate that Europe could finally start implementing at least the basics of these suggested policies.
But no. While the pandemic still raged, it seemed that EU leaders still had plenty of free time to reflect on these topics.
This is how the Scaleup Europe initiative emerged from the mind of Emmanuel Macron, bringing together a select group of more than 150 of the main founders, investors, researchers, CEOs of companies and European government officials to reflect more on the startups. And then there was the Global Powerhouse Initiative of the DG’s Research and Innovation Commissioner, Mariya Gabriel.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we were about to start this process over again, with the EU acting as if it had the memory of a giant goldfish.
Now, I am not saying that all of these collective actions are a bad thing. But damn it, European startups need more decisive action than that.
As it stands, instead of implementing the very reasonable Portuguese proposals, we will now have to wait for the EU’s wheels to slowly turn until the arrival of the French Presidency next year.
That said, with a bit of luck, a body responsible for overseeing the implementation of technology startups policy mandated by the European community, made up of organizations like La French Tech, Startup Portugal and Startup Estonia, could finally seem within reach. hand.
But to anyone on the outside, it again looks like the EU’s political gnashing will have to continue even longer. The French calling for a “French Tech for Europe” and the Portuguese having already launched the ESNA, the efforts seem far from coordinated.
In the final analysis, tech startup founders and investors don’t really care where this new organization came from or what country is launching it.
After years of contributions, years of consultation, the time has come to act.
It is time for EU Member States to agree and move forward, helping other Member States to catch up on the basis of established best practices.
It’s time for the long-awaited European tech giants to flourish, take on the US-born tech giants, and for Europe to finally gain weight.