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  • Announced at World Economic Forum in Davos by Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for digital agenda 
  • Founding Partners Include Telefónica, Orange, BBVA with the institutional support of the European Investment Fund/European Investment Bank Group, Cambridge University, IE Business School and Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society 
  • The work programme will be driven by Mind the Bridge Foundation and Nesta

Launched this morning at a press conference at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Startup Europe Partnership (SEP) is the first pan-European open platform dedicated to supporting the growth and sustainability of European startups able to compete and raise funds at international and global level. This accelerator will help startups break through the glass ceiling into maturity. Founding partners include Telefonica, Orange, BBVA, European Investment Fund which is part of the European Investment Bank Group, Cambridge University, IE Business School Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Nesta and Mind the Bridge.

The initiative is one of the six actions for web entrepreneurs defined in the Commission Communication Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan (European Commission, January 2012): it has been developed in partnership with leading corporations and education institutions and conceived to realise some key recommendations included in the Startup Manifesto. The work programme, promoted by the European Commission, will be led by Mind the Bridge Foundation, a non-profit foundation based in Italy and United States, with the support of Nesta. 

The SEP is the first Startup Europe initiative aimed at scaling up startup companies and will debut officially in occasion of an event to be organized in Bruxelles in March 2014.

Vice President Neelie Kroes today launched the new accelerator at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "Europe needs thriving startups and global internet companies to become a global growth centre again," Kroes said "politicians don’t create jobs, entrepreneurs do.  We’re going to support that mindset and push European startups beyond their comfort zone. And then we’re going to get out of the way. Sometimes the best thing a political leader can do is get out of the way.”

“Startups need to break the early stage barrier and burst through the ‘glass ceiling’ at the startup/seed level," commented Alberto Onetti, Chairman of Mind the Bridge Foundation, "this to initiate a mentality shift across Europe in terms of how we define success: the ability to grow big and create economic value through a viable exit strategy. The ultimate goal is to have a tsunami of startups able to become global champions (and not just local players). In this context the SEP platform aims at concretely bridging the startup ecosystem with the large corporate and investment community”.

The SEP programme will be based on three main actions, revolving around a unique, scalable format (the Job Creator Tour, JCT)

  • Matching: a series of same-format international events that will take place in different startup hubs across Europe. Each event will be a real marketplace where selected startups and corporations from all over Europe will meet. The goal is to enhance the procurement and investments from corporates into startups as well as pave the ground for potential acquisitions/acqui-hirings.
  • Mapping: a “map” of the hottest European startups/startup hubs and the celebration of success stories of startups/spin-offs able to scale up. The goal is to provide international visibility to emerging startups and promote role models.
  • Sharing: a repository of best practices in use from European leading companies re: intra-preneurship and corporate venture/startup support initiatives as well as by international game-changing companies (i.e. from Silicon Valley). The goal is to reduce the cultural divide and favor 'startup cross-fertilization'.

The Secretariat, composed by Mind the Bridge and Nesta, will be supported by a Steering Committee composed by the Founding Partners - Telefonica, Orange, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) - and the Institutional Founding Partners - Cambridge University, IE Business School, Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society and European Investment Fund which is part of the European Investment Bank Group.

The Startup Europe Partnership will also closely follow the guidance and advice of the CEOs council composed by the CEOs of the top European corporations, plus the European Commission itself.

Institutionally, the SEP will enjoy the patronage of the European Commission in general and its European Digital Forum in particular. The latter is the Commission's response to the action 22 of the Startup Manifesto, drawn by the Startup Europe Leaders Club, with the main task to defining in detail the 22 actions of the manifesto and to lead towards the swift execution of these actions.

José María Álvarez-Pallete, chief operating officer Telefónica, said: "Our vision is that European corporations – big and small – can work together with Universities to transform society and the economy to achieve growth in digital skills and entrepreneurship in a sustainable way. This initiative will play a key role in boosting Europe's competitive momentum in all areas of digital innovation."

“We are extremely proud to be associated with this program. This way, we will be able to scale-up European startups and SMEs, especially through our start-up accelerator program Orange Fab and our venture Capital fund Iris Capital. By supporting them during this key development stage to become European leaders, Orange seeks to encourage job creation in Europe and helps future talents”, Stephane Richard, Orange’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said.

“At BBVA we are fully committed with the development of digital businesses," Angel Cano, president and COO of BBVA, said, "we are one of the financial institutions leading the technology-driven transformation of the financial services sector and that is why we support these initiatives, to help European ideas become global projects.”

Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), commented: “Digitalisation is a major driver stimulating economic development and growth in a globalised world. EIB Group’s recognition of this fact is borne out by our substantial support for the sector in Europe through investments in infrastructure, R&D, education and last but not least in SME’s. As Digitalisation continues to transform our world, the EIB Group is pleased to reinforce as an institutional Founding Member those Smart Initiatives such as the European Digital Forum and the StartUp Europe Partnership.”

Richard Pelly, chief executive of the European Investment Fund (EIF), added: “As the most influential cornerstone investor in European Venture Capital, EIF has already committed  EUR 4.000 million into VC funds and Business Angels, helping to mobilise over EUR 40.000 million of mainly private investments into European Technology SME’s. EIF is in the process of further scaling up its investment activity in digital innovation and technology, seen not only as a key socio-economic driver in itself but also as an indispensable enabler for virtually every business and industry.”

“The University of Cambridge has been extremely successful in supporting spin-outs, and last year invested a record £2.3 million in seed funds to support such enterprises," Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge, said, "this has helped build Europe’s most successful technology cluster, with 12 companies valued at more than $1 billion. That is why we welcome this initiative, which is key to the future economic growth of Europe.”

“Startups cannot afford to forget that the final aim is to sell their product or service," Juan José Güemes, President of IE’s International Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, explained "That is why we are keen to facilitate open dialogue between large organizations and startups in order to increase the possibility that those large firms will support the startup sector and even become the startups’ client.  Here at IE we have been connecting startups and MNCs for sometime via programs such as Pasión>IE and the Spain Startup & Investor Summit.” 

"Profound research over a longer period of time is elementary in order to identify factors that enable or hinder the development and growth of startup," Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Schildhauer, Director at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society stated, "At the HIIG, researchers work in startup-clinics closely together with founders. Building on the data generated by the clinics the research group improves knowledge of every phase in a company’s life by closely following and monitoring the specific challenges founders face and the ways they overcome them. On the macro level, the research analyses the relevance of a startup’s environment."

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