Tech entrepreneurs: come back from U.S.

Nieuws | de redactie
5 september 2013 | Seizing the opportunities of an internet-driven economy is difficult when IT is still a rare feature in education, when students remain ‘dramatically risk-averse’ and when the U.S. siphons off the best European brains.

An independent group of founders in the field of tech entrepreneurship, among whom Zaryn Dentzel (Tuenti), Daniel Ek (Spotify) and Joanna Shields (Tech City UK) have come up with a manifesto in which they lead the way to more start-ups in Europe.

The growing importance of internet-driven economic growth could transform this gloomy economic picture by helping improve the lives of millions of people providing them with new jobs, new skills and renewed hopes for a better future. A recent study made up of 190,000 responses from 27 European countries  highlighted that 20 per cent of secondary-level students have never – or almost never – used a computer in their school lessons and IT training for teachers is inadequate. Accordingly, the authors of the manifesto recommend to:

“Make teachers digitally confident and competent to rise to the challenge

No longer confined to computers or telecommunications, digital technologies now underline every aspect of our lives, from history research to art education to advanced mathematics, geography studies and more. Our children are born into a digital world in a way their teachers weren’t. If we want the next generation to use digital technologies to build a better world, we need to ensure the individuals responsible for guiding and instructing them are as comfortable and capable using such digital technologies themselves.

Teach our children the principles, processes and the passion for entrepreneurship from a young age

If we want our younger generation to start their own business we need to teach them how to do so. We need to excite them and instill in them the passion and pride to do so. We can’t expect every 12 year old to start their own company. But every 12 year old should know what it means to take an idea, validate it and make something they can offer to other people as a product or a service. The tools and the knowledge are all out there. We just need to make sure the passion is present.

Encourage university students to start a business before they graduate

In the US many students start their business before they even graduate – 20% of the students at CalTech, Stanford and Berkeley. This gives students a taste of what it’s like to start and operate a business while remaining in a structured, supportive environment that acts as a ‘safety net’ in case their plans fail. By the time most students leave university their willingness to take risks drops dramatically, and with it the likelihood that they’ll start or join a startup. Universities should create more entrepreneurship courses and set up a network of Student Entrepreneurship Centres or Incubators, through partnerships if needed, that can provide students with support and funding to translate their ideas into reality.

Prepare graduates for a radically different marketplace

The skills required for thriving in today’s job market are very different from what they were even a decade ago, yet most universities have done little to change their curriculum or provide graduates with new tools and skills. In the short term (12-24 months), EU countries should offer a ‘digital certificate course’ that will help graduates acquire the basic digital skills to make them more valuable to prospective employers.

In the medium term (2-3 years) EU countries should ensure their universities add digital components to most of the subjects they teach. Greater consideration and structured support should also be provided to university students in finding part-time work experience, summer jobs and internships to supplement their academic qualifications. This will provide valuable experience of the workplace, enabling them to develop transferable skills and enhance their employability.

McKinsey has identified a growing gap between the needs of employers and skills of employees – 26 per cent of employers in Europe have difficulty filling jobs for lack of talent. Many aspiring entrepreneurs simply leave Europe to seek their fortunes elsewhere. There are an estimated 50,000 Germans in Silicon Valley, and an estimated 500 startups in the San Francisco Bay area with French founders. Accordingly, we recommend to:

Turn Europe into the easiest place for highly-skilled talent to start a company and get a job by rolling out a pan-European Startup Visa

This visa will make it easier for non-EU entrepreneurs to start a business in Europe and make it easier for EU companies to hire non-EU talent to join their startup.

Make it easy for companies to hire outside their home countries

Europe has done much to make the labour market fluid – any European can now work in any other European country. But the hiring market – a company’s ability to hire and employ in an EU country outside their own – remains complex and expensive. This form of remote employment, where a company hires one or more people outside of their home market is set to increase. We need to make it simpler to hire people without setting up a local subsidiary.

Make it easier for companies to let employees go

Businesses’ needs change. Market demand ebbs and flows. Employees don’t always fulfil their potential or deliver what is required of them. For European businesses to become truly competitive, we need to make it easier for them to let employees go and manage out and fire under- performers. For many businesses around the world considering starting a new office in the EU, a key constraint will be their hesitation of being left with a workforce that cannot be adapted to the realities of today’s and tomorrow’s markets.

Bring the best brains back home

Virtually every country in the EU has watched helplessly as some of its best and brightest minds leave for the US. This ‘brain drain’ has made a negative impact on all aspects of our economies, creating a vacuum in thought leadership, advanced research and basic academia, to name a few. EU countries must launch targeted campaigns aimed at bringing their talent back home, through research grants, logistical support and public recognition.”


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