At this high-level forum, European venture capitalists, tech entrepreneurs, digital start-ups and investment sector leaders discussed the needs of the burgeoning European start-up community. The overriding question was: how can Europe take forward its brightest ideas and help them grow to scale?
Rather than attempting to copy ‘Silicon Valley’, Europe should be true to itself and find its own model.
Europe needs to avoid the ‘brain drain’ and fund not just innovation but also growth.
The Commission and the European Investment Fund are launching a pan-European venture capital funds of funds to attract private capital back into the market
During the discussion, there was acknowledgement that the US appears to have overtaken Europe in recent years in terms of leading in innovation but that, rather than attempting to copy the ‘Silicon Valley’ model and becoming ‘the new US’, Europe should build on its own values. “We worry more than anywhere else in the world about inequality. We are sensitive to climate change. We are a beacon of the circular economy. We should see it as a strength and be proud of it,” said Carlos Moedas, the EU’s Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation.
Michael Collins, Invest Europe’s Chief Executive, took a similar line. As he put it, “today Europe should not fight against innovation but instead evolve and be at the forefront of it. If we do so we will have more control of these evolutions and be able to promote innovation which is in line with our traditions and values”. He added that “policy should not be there to protect certain companies and stifle innovation but instead to foster greater innovation”.
A key issue to emerge was how to ensure that Europe focuses on avoiding a ‘brain drain’ and encouraging entrepreneurs to grow businesses in Europe by ensuring that they have financial options available to them. In that context, the European Investment Fund has accumulated a lot of experience with venture capital.
As Uli Grabenwarter, Deputy Director, Equity Investments, European Investment Fund, put it: “In the last 20 years in Europe we have confined ourselves to financing innovation and not growth. As a result we have become a powerful incubator for the United States. Europe is now coming to realise this and the need to keep the growth in Europe”.
In this context, the European Commission is working with the European Investment Fund on a different approach to supporting venture capital. “Our aim is to establish one or more pan-European venture capital funds of funds, managed independently, with a fund size of at least 500 million euro and a majority of private capital, and operating over five or more European countries,” said Commissioner Moedas. “The Commission’s fund of funds proposal is a great initiative ,” said Michael Collins.
‘Financing Growth and Growing Finances: How New Vehicles and Collaboration Will Power Startups, Scale ups and Disruptive Innovation' hosted by the European Digital Forum, on Monday 28 November
Paul Hofheinz, President and Co-Founder, the Lisbon Council
Michael Collins, CEO, Invest Europe
Marie Ekeland, Vice-President, France Digitale; Co-Founder, Daphni
Uli Grabenwarter, Deputy Director, Equity Investments, European Investment Fund
Alberto Onetti, Director, Startup Europe Partnership; Chairman and President, Mind The Bridge Foundation
Alexander Rittweger, Founder, Payback; Board Member, AppCard, Inc.
Matthias Ummenhofer, Founder and Managing Director, Mojo Capital
Francisco Velázquez de Cuéllar, Founder and Managing Partner, Axon Partners Group
Klaas de Boer, Managing Partner, Entrepreneurs Fund
Eric Forest, Chairman and CEO, EnterNext