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Where is Europe’s Steve Jobs? That was the question posed earlier this week to a panel of MEPs representing the largest political parties in the European Parliament at an event organised in Brussels by Debating Europe and the European Youth Forum.

Unemployment is going to be one of the key issues in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May, and our panel of MEPs was asked to explain how their parties planned to bring down sky-high youth unemployment rates across the Union.

One of the issues raised was youth entrepreneurship and whether it should be a priority for EU policy-makers. Gabriel, one of our readers, had some thoughts on this matter:

citizen_icon_180x180I unsuccessfully tried to create a business. I had big plans, big hopes, but was totally unprepared for the realities… Looking back on it now, I was destined to fail at that attempt (because of an unrealistic market analysis, among other flaws). It would have been different if I had help from an experienced entrepreneur, which I encourage would-be entrepreneurs to seek!

[...] If I had to suggest something, it would be a way – outside of expensive business ‘schools’ – to help new entrepreneurs to develop realistic business plans without the risk of having their ideas stolen!

To get a reaction, we took Gabriel’s comment to David Tennenhouse, Vice President of Technology Policy at Microsoft. His response seemed to highlight a difference in attitudes between the US and Europe, with Tennenhouse arguing that Gabriel should not consider his first attempt a failure:

We also took Gabriel’s comment to Maria Da Graça Carvalho, a Portuguese MEP who sits with the  Centre-Right European People’s Party in the European Parliament. She responded very positively to Gabriel’s suggestion of “twinning” entrepreneurs with more established mentors, and said that this idea was in fact already being adopted by the EU:

carvalhoI think that’s a very good idea. Actually, I’m one of the rapporteurs on Horizon 2020 – the EU’s Programme for Research and Innovation – and I know we have already included this idea of ‘twinning’ as a component of that. We will put together experienced universities, start-ups and SMEs with organisations or people that have less experience, and that helps a lot. It will really help the less-experienced partners not only to set up their company, but also to internationalise, to apply for European funds, and to carry out some joint-ventures together with their more experience ‘twin’. So, that’s a really good idea from Gabriel.

Similar to Tennenhouse, she also agreed that Europeans need to change their attitude toward “failed” entrepreneurs:

We also need to change the overall attitude in Europe toward risk. We are, in general, a society that is too adverse to risk and failure. And to start a business you have to run some risks, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you are not successful first time, you might be the second time… We need to cultivate more of a spirit of entrepreneurship in Europe, because this is going to be essential for growth and jobs.

Not everybody agrees. During our event on Tuesday, Mary Honeyball, a British MEP who sits with the PES party of  Social Democrats in the European Parliament, argued that

honeyballI think that’s an American myth, actually. I’m not sure that true at all, though they like us to believe it. I think it’s very tough starting a business, and it’s not something that most people want to do, so we shouldn’t place too much reliance on it. I think [...] young people could be encouraged to do it if they wish to, but it’s not really going to solve anything. And we talk a lot about Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and how they’re really going to save the economy [but] essentially they’re not. They’re very important [but] there’s just not enough of them – they don’t occupy enough of our economies in any European country to really make the difference.

I think they’re great and we should encourage them, but they’re ultimately not going to be a solution to the economic problems… The solution lies in those companies – and indeed the public sector – where most people are employed.

Phil Bennion, an MEP with the British  Liberal Democrats who also spoke at our event, disputed Honeyball’s statistics (and, indeed, European Commission figures suggest that 99% of all European businesses are SMEs and they account for almost 70% of total employment in Europe). Still, is it a mistake to rely too much on entrepreneurship as the panacea for Europe’s economic woes?

If you agree with any of the MEP reactions published here, then you can show your public support in our Debating Europe Vote 2014, that lets you show who YOU support in the European Parliament elections in May 2014.

JJ, another of our readers, wrote in to offer some ideas he thought the EU should consider in order to encourage more entrepreneurs:

citizen_icon_180x180I’d say the safety net put in place in some countries does seem to give people a bit too much comfort in unemployment when otherwise you would be required to set up a business to get by if you couldn’t find a job [but] I’m not sure we’d want that to change in the EU. The regulatory environment in some countries also seems daunting, though I suspect it is probably not as extreme as often portrayed (whilst still being enough to put some people off).

Education may help, in terms of teaching those in school how to set up a business. I’m in favour of some sort of programme that [would require] some – if not all – students to set up a company during their studies (regardless of whether it trades or not).

We put JJ’s comment to Marietje Schaake, a Dutch MEP who sits with the ALDE Party of  Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament. She thought there was a lot the EU could do in this area, and argued that if the EU wants to see a European Steve Jobs, it first needs to develop a European “Silicon Valley”:

What do YOU think? Where is Europe’s Steve Jobs? Are young Europeans too scared of risk and failure to make successful entrepreneurs? Should the EU develop a European “Silicon Valley”? Or is the solution to the economic crisis going to come from large, established companies that employ a lot of people? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

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IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – May Business School

37 comments Post a commentComment

What do YOU think?

  1. Jovan Ivosevic

    Europe’s Steve jobs is in America where (s)he could make much more money with the same talent.

  2. Christos Mouzeviris

    He’s bogged down with taxation, lack of opportunities, red tape and the lack of harnonization between European states.. We need a more harmonized European market and education system so that our youths can make the most of what Europe has to offer…

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      @Christos Mouzeviris
      The EU has been ‘harmonizing’ for decades and at the same time amassing red tape.

      Harmonization is not the issue, dropping the decent but flawed semi-communist mindset dominant in Southern EU nations and adopting some [not all, after all the USA has gone too far on some things] Anglo-Saxon business practices seems to be the key.

  3. Mario Garay

    Or we could actually have a new kind of public figure whose social engagement does not rely on heavy outsourcing to third world countries which aims for short term profits but yields economical and ecological ruin in the long term?

  4. Ana Georgieva

    We do not have access to your job markets. You said you do not need people like us, because you said we are: the most primitive, the most uneducated, the cruelest, the ugliest, the poorest, the unhappiest, also you said we are alcoholics and thieves. We are the worst people in the whole Universe!

  5. Rolando Van Velden

    I’m sure if you look you will find some examples, for instance the company Suitsupply rolling out all over the world?

  6. Jaime Martins

    Entrepreneurs whith what money?
    In Portugal we have young people with big ideas but no monetary power to put into practice and the money that comes from Europe continue to be distributed by friends of the same as always, the corrupt.

    • Marcel

      Because you keep voting for pro-banker political parties who want to keep you in the Euro.

      Portugals number 1 problem is the Euro, and the solution is to get rid of it and default on all your debt to international bankers. Then balance a budget and never borrow money again and youre far better off.

      Stop with the ‘we must be in the Euro’ mindset. The Euro is a form of slavery to bankers.

  7. Jovan Ivosevic

    Ivan, in an economy driven by manufacturing that is about to be revolutionized with 3D printing and where software development is king, you want more art? Good times.

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      @Petrines Kataskeves Boris
      AGREED!
      Why should the UK with a similar population to France lose £3billion/year in [in addition to its net EU contributions] relinquishing its fishing rights to Spain, Portugal etc.

  8. Venko Drumchiyski

    The world is global, uncertain, technological … Problem 1) is how to perceive the world and the information that we bay 2) how to act in it? Whether we are afraid to be wrong? – Yes. If you want to be creative, innovative and to redraw the map of the future need to reduce, but not eliminate completely the fear of mistakes – learn to sin in moderation. Here can help educational institutions.

  9. Michele Browne

    Financial support isn’t there. Our inventors, entrepreneurs almost always find support outside of Europe!

  10. Carlos V Arc

    It’s a big mistake to focus that question as you do “EU citizens are affraid to risk and fail to start new business projects”. Hmm.. Why you dont even mention beraucracy and politics statements smash you with a hammer when they ask you need sóoo much money and taxes to do so. Plus, banks are not giving any credit nor help. So, nobody is helping little entrepreneurs.

  11. David Fuzzey

    If there is one he or she is probably bogged down under 50 million tons of pointless eu rules and regulations.

  12. David Fuzzey

    If there is one he or she is probably bogged down under 50 million tons of pointless eu rules and regulations.

  13. Dinko Dinev

    Among other things like heavy bureaucracy, taxation and lack of money the young Europeans lack knowledge and courage. The Americans are thought at early age that failing at some initiative isn’t a big deal – it is more important that you have tied and to learn from your mistakes. In Europe, on the other hand, everyone is afraid of failing.

  14. Lilia Lozeva

    Steve Jobs is all the time around us, its matter of chance Europe, let give it of young and all people too

  15. João Ricardo de Mendonça

    If you ask me about top professionals, I may have an answer; if you ask me about «successful entrepreneurs», I don’t know at all what that means…

  16. Lino Galveias

    Jobs created those iphones and ipods in China to have cheaper stuff and make bigger profit. Where is respect of EU towards citizens’ rights of fair wages, fair taxes and dignity?

  17. Pedro Celestino

    No! Just create good conditions for small fair bussines (and tax heavy the big ones) and those how want to create bussines will create their own job and develop good ideas!

  18. Paul X

    I actually think this is one of the better suggestions I’ve seen on here

    We already have Enterprise Organisations in the UK where people with good ideas and business plans can go for advice and funding, to do it on a European level would open up a much greater market for them

    Where I have my doubts is whether Europe could deliver a system that is fair to all and gives everyone equal opportunity instead of just a select few who promise to fly the European Flag over their business

    • Marcel

      No you don’t. You can elect a new government that will take you out of the Euro. Why are you so desperate to stay in? The Euro is a form of slavery to French and German bankers. You will be better off without it, with a new lira, a balanced budget and never borrow money from banks again.

  19. Mia Lanyi

    I did not move to America to start my own business, but I am making a better living in America than I did in Europe.

  20. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Sim a Europa precisa de cérebros humanos inteligentes a Europa tem uma classe média forte e a existência dessa classe média forte é o sustentáculo natural da democracia

  21. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    A Europa precisa de cérebros humanos fortes a Europa tem uma Democracia forte e tem uma classe média natural da democracia forte a sociedade Europeia é das mais avançadas do mundo

  22. Avatar of zixoo
    zixoo

    I think a good start is supporting young farmers I believe this is an issue across the EU.

    • Paul X

      I think farmers get more than enough of my taxes as it is thank you

  23. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Sr . Steve Jobs a Europa precisa cerebros humanos fortes e com temperatura da Europa Porque o sistema Europeu esta ultrapassado a classe média forte exige a libirdade politica e económica

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