How to realize the old continent's digital vision
Start-ups Start ups thriving on digitization are the new heroes of industry industry - if they successfully deal with disruption.
Europe is catching up
Let’s assume Hollywood is pondering a script for “From Start-up to Unicorn – The Movie”, the storyline would read as follows: A dozen or so people, in a warehouse in a not quite up-and-coming part of town, have persuaded investors to part with serious cash to fund a venture which burns money fast but is such a great idea that it wasn’t on the market the day before yesterday. This is a start-up.
And tomorrow, if they play their cards right and persuade more venture capitalists to part with another round of financing for that really great idea, then they will have grown up into a unicorn. All ride into the sunset. The end.
So far, so Hollywood – the script seems apt enough, yet the story is starting to gain an international cast: start-ups and unicorns are no longer a phenomenon exclusive to the US. True, the US is still at the top of the tree when it comes to funding brilliant ideas, but Europe and the rest of the world are playing catch up fast. Let’s have a look how and why.
Cracking the start-up code
The digital economy and its new icons of the business world are rapidly going international. The start-up heat map is sending particularly strong signals this side of the Atlantic: entrepreneurship is busy re-defining itself in "old" Europe. And, digital is rightly described as an enabling technology as Roland Berger CEO and study co-author, Charles-Edouard Bouée, argues: "The power of software is no longer what sets innovations apart. Putting together intelligence and data is what makes winners because it drives transactions and efficiency." In this context, our study epitomizes the mindset of the start-up world.
How start-ups start through
There is work to be done to help fledgling start-ups get off the ground. No Europeans in the world’s top 20 Internet companies – European corporations need to change their mind-sets fast. It's not just about technology, but new ideas, new forms of production, flat structures, agility and open-minded thinking. In response, Roland Berger created Terra Numerata™ with the aim of fostering an innovative and efficient digital ecosystem to boost Europe's market share in the digital economy.
Keen to shine a light on the specific features of European start-ups, experts from Roland Berger and our cooperation partner NUMA, one of the most influential start-up accelerators in Europe with a 15-year track record, have analyzed the start-up scene in various hotspots across the continent, asking influential players about their motivation and goals along with the challenges they may be facing. France was first on the list and the results are summarized in the new study - an incisive look at how start-ups start up. It makes for compulsive reading.
French Embassy and "Spielfeld" host EUnicorns Day
Under the Terra Numerata™ umbrella, Roland Berger has begun a number of strategic ventures and co-founded the " Spielfeld" digital hub in Berlin. An example of the way in which "Spielfeld" plays a key role in fostering the start-up culture was an event designed to foster the growth of European unicorns – those young companies valued at over USD 1bn. At the Franco-German EUnicorns Day in conjunction with the French Embassy, key players from French and German start-ups, investors and corporates participated in a workshop program covering cyber security, mobility and industry 4.0. The fruits of their efforts were then presented and discussed at a high-level reception held within the French Embassy on the same day.
Charles-Edouard Bouée revealed that one of the key challenges facing start-ups is finding the right investor to help them grow their business model. “This is why we came up with the idea of the EUnicorns day in the first place: to provide the European digital economy with better and stronger support from investors and established corporate players. This is the start of a journey.” If it’s your journey, walk this way…
A tale of many nations
Europe in start-up fever? Not quite perhaps. But if we stay with the metaphor of the moving image, the script looks like it has been waved through by the backers. Initial casting has been conducted and some undiscovered/fresh-faced talents found. It is time to let the cameras roll.
A Digital Hub for Vienna
Start-ups are innovative – they reflect back on the culture of their origin and while Vienna can tick many of the boxes required for start-ups to grow, it has thus far not quite sparked a start-up revolution within the Austrian economy. However, experts at Roland Berger recognized the resourcefulness and talent simmering below the surface of the Austrian capital and, as part of the Terra Numerata™ program, entered into partnership with "Pioneers", a Vienna-based international relationship builder in the tech and start-up environment. At the same time and after conducting well over four dozen interviews with key players in and around the Austrian start-up scene, Roland Berger’s Vienna-based team came up with a five-point plan that will take start-ups to the next level. To find out more about the start-up scene on the Danube, check this out:
A new player in our network
Startup Lisboa, Portugal's largest start-up incubator and significant digital innovator is a new member of the Terra Numerata ™ ecosystem, one of almost 40 partner enterprises to join forces with Roland Berger. With expertise available in consulting excubation, i.e. the smart separation of corporate innovation activities from the core business to enable the effective build-up of new and more radical business models, in consulting digital ecosystems and digital think tanks, the partnership has benefits extending well beyond Portugal’s borders. António Bernardo, Roland Berger Lisbon Managing Partner, sees the partnership as a "historic landmark for the Portuguese digital ecosystem”. Here’s how:
Lessons from the start-up nation
The Israeli tech hub in suburban Tel Aviv goes by the name of "Silicon Wadi". The pun is intended – global multinationals are converging on this Middle Eastern digital start-up hot spot. Mid–size companies, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs from all four corners of the globe are coming to Israel to invest, find partners and, in turn, accelerate their own digital transformation.The numbers are astonishing: a population of 8 million created 1,400 technology start-ups in 2015; in terms of tech company stats, Israel lies in third place behind China and the United States. To find out more what makes this particular digital valley so special, check out our Think Act Book. Roland Berger experts know they are on to something here: "Diversity breeds innovation.”
Every start-up needs a Sherpa
So you had that idea, you’ve gone through the feasibility stage, you’re surrounded by your team, you’re all agreed on the best route, and everybody is just raring to go. But before you leave base camp, think hard how mountaineering really works. Yes, it’s a team effort but how well do you know the terrain, the local conditions? Sherpas are regarded as the elite squad of mountaineers – they are also the local experts – and none is more famous than Tenzing Norgay who conquered Mount Everest in 1953.
Roland Berger Tenzing is the start-up venture Sherpa that accompanies a business proposition from base camp to summit. Tenzing is focused on ventures relating to RB’s industries and client network in the Netherlands. What makes RB Tenzing unique is its ability to adapt to the requirements of the venture being supported (after all, no single business proposition is identical) and the deep knowledge that RB Tenzing has of Roland Berger’s client network and industries. In this way, RB Tenzing forms an integral part of Terra Numerata and is a pre-requisite for any start-up. Let’s go and conquer that mountain.