Startup Europe: Skype, Spotify and Angry Birds creators advise EU

Most people think of Silicon Valley in the United States when they think about technology and entrepreneurs – the European Commission wants young Europeans to be inspired by home-grown entrepreneurs, so their bright ideas start and stay in Europe. With help from the creators of Spotify, Angry Birds, Tuenti, Skype, SeedCamp, HackFwd, London’s Tech City and TheNextWeb, the Commission is creating a platform for star entrepreneurs to tell their stories of inspirations and frustration, to wake-up young Europeans and leaders to the potential of entrepreneurial careers.

“Europeans need to be creative and fearless. That’s how dozens of the world’s most exciting web and tech companies were born in the EU, and I want the world to know it,” said Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President, “I want young entrepreneurs to have role models, and for them to have a real digital single market to grow their ideas in.”

The Startup Europe Leaders Club is the first part of Startup Europe, the European Commission’s 6-part plan to accelerate and connect local entrepreneurship ecosystems in Europe to help tech start-ups to start and grow in Europe and to scale up to a global level.

Members of the Startup Europe Leaders Club are living proof that web entrepreneurship can be a hugely rewarding career. Neelie Kroes said “These people didn’t just talk about doing something, they went and did it. That’s why young people and leaders should listen to them.”

For example, Spotify is now in 23 countries; Skype handles one third of international calls; Angry Birds is bigger than Twitter, with over 250 million monthly active users. And yet our numbers of ICT graduates are falling and our unemployment queues are growing. Entrepreneurs can help us fill these gaps.

The leaders (in alphabetical order, see annex for full biography) are:
– Zaryn Denzel, (@Zaryn), born in California, founder of Tuenti, Spain’s largest ‘invite-only’ social network
– Daniel Ek (@eldsjal) and Martin Lorentzon (@MartinLorentzon) – founders of online music streaming service Spotify
– Kaj Hed (@RovioHQ) – Chairman of Rovio (Angry Birds)
– Lars Hinrichs (@LarsHinrichs) – founder and CEO of HackFwd, a pre-seed investment company
– Joanna Shields (@TechCityUK) CEO and Chair of Tech City Investment Organisation
– Reshma Sohoni (@rsohoni) – partner of SeedCamp, a catalyst for Europe’s next generation of entrepreneurs
– Boris Verldhuijzen van Zanten (@Boris) founder – of the founders of The Next Web
– Niklas Zennström (@atomicoventures) – co-founder of Skype, Kazaa, Joltid and Joost and Atomico

The other elements of Startup Europe are:
– The Startup Europe Partnership, to unlock expertise, mentoring, technology and services
– EU Accelerators Forum to increase awareness of the existing accelerator programs
– EU Crowdfunding Networks, to link up existing crowd-funding platforms, especially those specialised in Web start-ups
– Making Venture Capitalists more aware of Web Business by sharing success stories and through networking activities

Fostering Web Talent by:
a) Expanding the role of online education platforms (such as “Massive Online Open Courses”) to combat the shortage of Web developers;
b) Using barter platforms as marketplace for sharing and trading skills Europe-wide among Web entrepreneurs; and
c) Exploring the viability, at European level, of twinning senior, experienced people with young entrepreneurs to share ideas and experiences.

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