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What is standing in the way of start-up businesses taking on Europe?

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What is standing in the way of start-up businesses taking on Europe?

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Business Planet takes you to Belgium this week to talk about the help you can get to allow your start-up to thrive.

Karen Boers is the CEO of the European Startup Network. She told us why she think it is that only 3% of startups created today in the EU scale up”

“I see two main reasons why European start-ups don’t scale to their full potential. First of all, the fear of failure which is very much part of our European DNA, and secondly, the fragmented markets. Start-ups need to conquer 28 different business environments before they can be fully pan-european.”

Not far away in Ghent, there is a start-up which, thanks to Karen’s network, has managed to overcome these obstacles.

It’s one the biggest success stories of the past few years in Belgium. Created in 2012, this company offers subscriptions to cloud-based software for customer relations and project management, as well as invoicing.

Its CEO, Jeroen De Wit is proud of the progress made.

“In five years we went from Belgium out to six European countries. We’ve now got 170 employees and we are supporting 40 to 50 thousand people who log in daily on the Platform, where we try to help them work smarter.”

Scaling up in Europe

  • Europe is not short of innovative ideas or entrepreneurial spirit. Yet, only 40% of new companies make it beyond the critical first seven years.
  • Only 3% of start-ups go on to scale up, but when they do, they are Europe’s job creation champions: 6% of businesses create 50% of all new jobs. Start-ups scaling up into bigger companies form a large share of these businesses.
  • Start-ups and scale-ups report that access to finance, complying with regulatory requirements and finding the right business partners are the main obstacles when doing business in Europe.
  • The EU is making continuous effort to create the right ecosystem for start-ups to help them grow and scale up in Europe. This includes initiatives supporting innovation, improving access to finance, giving honest entrepreneurs a second chance or simplifying taxation.
  • Bottom-up initiatives supporting start-ups are booming too – for example, the European Startup Network helps entrepreneurs start, scale up and succeed in the EU.

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The company can no longer be called an emerging start-up, but instead is now well established in its market. It’s turnover has grown ten-fold over two years and has overcome the critical threshold, too often fatal to start-ups. Jeroen is targeting lots more new markets and aims to create more jobs.

“Thanks to the European Startup Network, we can go to international conferences where we have access to potential customers, talents and investors and next to that they put us in contact with local ecosystems who will help us grow in the future.”

Back in Brussels, Karen Boers talked of the ideal environment for a start-up?

“The ideal start-up ecosystem has critical mass in four different areas. First and most importantly, customers. Second, talents to hire. Third, other start-ups and entrepreneurs to learn from and fourth, investors to finance the continued growth.”

To create those conditions, the European Union is providing start-ups with a full range of aids to innovation and access to finance. The aim is also to give entrepreneurs a second chance if they fail and to simplify taxation.

If anyone with a start-up wants to become involved with Karen’s network, you just need to sign up with your national start-up association.