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Help for young Innovators

Anyone who wants to be successful as a young entrepreneur needs more than just an innovative idea. You need the right contacts and enough capital and resources to launch your own startup. Economic development programs like the European Young Innovators Forum provide support in all those areas.

16 Feb. 2015

The path from that initial idea to a successful business could be like a 100-yard dash – or it could turn into a grueling marathon. For 90 percent of all startups, financing in the seed phase is one of the biggest hurdles that has to be taken, as is revealed in the findings of the Startup Barometer 2014 put out by Ernst & Young. 63 percent of the startups surveyed reported that better access to loans and financial aid programs would considerably strengthen the German startup scene. And the problem here is not necessarily a lack of willing investors.

The European Union's "Horizon 2020" program, for example, provides financing for innovative startups and SMEs to the tune of between € 50,000 and € 2.5 million. The amount depends on the phase which the company is currently in, whether in the seed or the growth phase.

"However, the big run on EU money hasn’t started yet,"
says Kumardev Chatterjee, president and founder of the European Young Innovators Forum (EYIF).

The Forum works on bringing together providers and companies. "The trouble with programs like 'Horizon 2020' is the application process," says Chatterjee. Anyone who applies for a financial aid or funding scheme that doesn’t fit with their company status will not get the support they were hoping for, he maintains. This is where help is needed. After all, it's not only the lack of capital, but also the lack of contact persons that stop young entrepreneurs from getting ahead.

Aid: More innovation makers for Europe

For companies in the founding phase in particular, it is difficult to build a wide-reaching network of contacts and investors. As a result, important innovation potential remains unused across Europe. Programs like MassChallenge , Portugal Ventures and EYIF are trying to counteract this trend: They want to create a pan-European ecosystem that supports innovations.

EYIF, for example, provided some 4,000 young entrepreneurs with access to internationally leading innovation networks on a non-profit basis last year. Particularly tech-based startups, in the fields of "Big Data" and "Smart Cities" for example, will get support in mentoring programs. EYIF is about "driving change in Europe, through developing a risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit and culture amongst young Europeans and European society, governments and businesses as a whole," according to its mission statement.

Benefiting from vast experience

The support is provided in a multi-stage process: as a first step, EYIF provides the startups with important information – online as well as offline, at events with cooperation partners, such as Microsoft. Experts give the young entrepreneurs tips on strategy and initial financing.

As a co-founder of the Netberg startup, Michele Cuccovillo profited from the help that EYIF had to offer. Netberg is an online platform that enables any company to create its own website in just five minutes – and it's free of charge. "Particularly as a young entrepreneur, you are confronted with many different opportunities," says Cuccovillo. "It's a curse and a blessing at the same time: The freedom of decision-making is good, but there is also the risk of making mistakes. That's why exchanging thoughts and ideas with experienced entrepreneurs is incredibly important – to hone and refine your own way of thinking and to make sure that you stay on the right path. It's exactly these contacts that EYIF provides and it also has the power to generate the corresponding media attention."

By 2020, EYIF aims to support approximately 10,000 new startups a year across Europe – from the idea to the founding of the company. This is expected to create some 250,000 new jobs. With the startup Assisto , Lionel de Somer has already contributed to this goal. The idea behind the startup: an app that makes it possible to collect information on any type of damage or loss (for example a rear-end collision or theft) in just a few steps and pass along this information to your insurance company, thus eliminating the need for applications on paper and time-consuming phone calls. The app has been on the market since 2013. "What I really like about working together with EYIF is that we share a common goal," says de Somer. "The goal is to promote entrepreneurial spirit across Europe. Thanks to EXIF's support, we have been able to establish contacts to decision-makers on the EU level and have profited from the positive PR."

Interested startups and young innovators can obtain information on the available support measures directly from EYIF at the new SCALE11 display sector – and come into contact with potential investors and other startup entrepreneurs at the same time. Learn more