Rise Europe, a European alliance to promote technological entrepreneurship

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The goal of Rise Europe? Create a pan-European platform of knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship that strengthens the muscle of old Europe to solve the new global challenges that we must face. Discuss innovation, technology, artificial intelligence, sustainability and climate change, among many other challenges; as well as promoting cooperation and the creation of emerging companies with the knowledge and essential tools to be competitive in a global market. An alliance that has the participation of IE University and that, barely a year old, met this week in Madrid to continue shaping a project that, each year, will also recognize and promote the best emerging companies.“ We need a new culture of entrepreneurship in Europe to address challenges such as the climate crisis, the energy transition or new technologies,” says Helmut Schönenberger (Germany), founder and CEO of Rise Europe. A culture, he maintains, of necessary collaboration and shared knowledge, because the solution to such challenges (and others such as health or financial infrastructure) cannot come from a single country, but will require the collaboration of international entrepreneurial teams that include the entire talent that Europe has. «In any other way, we would have 50 million people in one market, 20 in another, 30 in another… while the United States manages a single market of 300 million and China of 1,000,» adds Ikhlaq Sidhu, dean from the School of Science and Technology at IE University. Entrepreneurship, the academic maintains, is at the root of all these challenges, but in order to participate, Europe must first take a series of fundamental steps that harmonize the market, regulations, politics… “If we don't do it, we will be left with a lot of small players but incapable of competing on a global scale. And then we will only have to depend on other people to do it and create the technology that is needed,” says Sidhu.

Key 1: entrepreneurship and technology

“Many of the startups we support are working with disruptive technology, with things that will change the way we do business in the future,” says Lisa Ericsson, director of KTH Innovation, in Stockholm, Sweden. “Many of these startups have this new AI that tremendously speeds up processes because they can use it to make simulations, which saves them from spending time building small prototypes and helps them reach the market sooner.” And both Ericsson, Schönenbeger and Sidhu are clear: emerging companies are the driving force that makes these initiatives possible (new, scalable and eager to make a difference), many of which take their first steps in the university environment. Sin Going further, the 20 institutions that make up Rise Europe teach 30,000 students each year; a whole network of centers that act as startup factories. “What we will do here is connect the dots where we are really strong (for example, with the infrastructure in Sweden, or the educational programs in Madrid). And by pooling our strengths, we can balance these startups much better than if, for example, we do it alone in Munich,” says Schönenberger. Collaboration between startups and large, established companies is also of vital importance. regarding research and innovation: “Larger companies have an entire portfolio of products and a great knowledge of their customers and their markets, but for them any change involves risk. Entrepreneurs are the ones who run that risk: if they are successful, they will find their place in the industry, as a disruptor or by being acquired by another company,” says Sidhu. A perfect synergy.

Key 2: why a European alliance?

Developing an alliance like Rise Europe offers, in addition to the advantages already mentioned, another series of opportunities (talent, capital, market, infrastructure) that result in greater competitiveness and international relevance. It makes it possible for a Spanish, Swedish or English entrepreneur, for example, to go to a market beyond their national borders and obtain financing for their company; “Understanding how to navigate the different markets in Europe, understanding who the investors are in different places and being able to gather support in any of them,” explains Sidhu. Joining forces can also positively influence the defense of a more harmonious regulatory framework between the different States, so that the differences between them can be prevented from being a brake on entrepreneurship; and even to establish a common agenda: “Being part of Rise Europe has empowered me and determines what I do every day, because having this truly European mentality is not something that happens naturally. But I think it's crucial to be part of a network like this and push a common agenda. Because, sometimes, you feel a little alone in your own ecosystem,” says Ericsson. For the Swedish academic, it is necessary to have an open stance to talent that may come from outside, so that universities do not work in isolated silos, “ because many do: they see themselves as ivory towers of education and research, and they are not that connected.”

Key 3: Develop the right mindset

If the talent base, experts recall, is one of the strengths of the European ecosystem when it comes to researching and developing innovations, some of the biggest obstacles have to do with the lack of a unified market and the difficulty in creating companies that are truly global. “The problem,” says Sidhu, “is that there is no common market, because regulations change from country to country. So maybe you can sell something here, but not across the street. Sometimes there are regulations that are in some way protectionist, which causes confusion and insecurity when creating a company.” And then, he adds, the mentality of investors, who may even prefer to invest outside Europe, rather than within, also changes from one place to another “I think that, in Europe, sometimes we tend to think small; We don't see the world as a market. [Una empresa sueca] looks first at Sweden, then will expand to Germany and then beyond. But we don't have a global mentality from the beginning,” Ericsson reflects. The expert remembers a trip to Boston (USA) before Christmas in which she was able to meet many entrepreneurs, “and anyone she spoke to was creating incredibly complex companies in a really short period of time. Speed ​​is something we have to work on in Europe, and Rise Europe can help with that.”Having an innovative mentality is, without a doubt, one of the essential elements when creating your own company. Now, what does it consist of? “It's about how you think about things and how you recognize opportunities. Imagine that I show you this paper cup [que sostiene en la mano] to someone in Silicon Valley, and I say, “Did you see that glass?” They would probably say to me: “Oh, how interesting. How much does it cost to manufacture it? Could you make a million?” But if you show it, in Europe, to a normal person who thinks in the old way, they will answer that they can use it at the party next weekend,» says Sidhu. The first, he maintains, is a non-linear exponential mentality. ; the second, very operational, as if trying to fit it into something that is going to happen. And there he places the future of education in Europe: in a combination of business understanding, technical knowledge and that right mindset. Few, he adds, will possess all three characteristics, but at least two of them.

Key 4: overcome the gender gap

Promoting greater representation of women in entrepreneurship ecosystems is, the academics consulted point out, a true necessity: “At the end of the day, if you think about the figure of the entrepreneur, the innovator, you will see that it is normally a man who invents things.” and creates and raises companies (…). But we have to make sure that everything we do is equally open to everyone, because if not, we will be leaving out half of the workforce,” warns Ericsson. The solution, Sidhu points out, is to increase the number of women among investors. , “so the more there are, the more they will be able to see opportunities that maybe others couldn't see.” But achieving adequate representation, Ericsson claims, also means overcoming unconscious biases that still persist: “For example, investors ask different questions of female entrepreneurs, something that should be easy to change. Why do they ask them if they have a family, or if their husband supports them? These types of questions are not asked of men, and they are probably also parents and have a wife.” Visibility is also one of the factors that is most claimed, for example, by taking successful female entrepreneurs back to university. “We had a conference where a founder gave the talk with her baby in her arms. That was the best promotion of female entrepreneurship, because it showed that it was possible to have a happy family and a super-successful company at the same time,” recalls Schönenberger. However, becoming a model for others is a double-edged sword, “because it is assumed They have to be, and very early in their entrepreneurial career they make them participate in all the panels. Imagine the pressure they feel… Sometimes I argue that women need to be average, not upwardly promising; They need to make mistakes and have stupid ideas too, because that's how we learn,” concludes Ericsson. TRAINING EL PAÍS in Twitter and FacebookSubscribe to the EL PAÍS Training newsletterRecommended training