So, this is it. You've got your brilliant idea, partners with a different set of skills, and you are ready to launch your (maybe first?) startup. Many factors need to be considered when building a startup. Today, I focus on locations / accelerators / networks. Here is the information I gathered about the startup ecosystem in Europe, from having worked in a startup accelerator in Hamburg, as well as online research about the topic. I hope this will be helpful!
CHOOSE THE RIGHT COUNTRY.
The European Digital City Index is a great tool to compare European cities' support to digital entrepreneurs. The first five cities of the list are, in order: London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen. You can customise the list according to your priorities - access to capital, business environment, market, entrepreneurial culture and more. The website, supported by the European Commission, was launched by Nesta at the European Digital Forum 2015 and is relatively up-to-date.
However, the first cities in the European Digital City Index list might be more of a burden to early-stage startups because of the living costs. If you are looking for a more affordable place in Europe, Funders and Founders has established a list of cheap European countries: Bulgaria, Portugal, Poland, and Macedonia.
Additionally, your choice of country matters if you want to integrate an accelerator programme (see below). The United Kingdom, France and Portugal are ranking at the top in terms of number of acceleration programmes, according to the Fundacity European Accelerator Report.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT ACCELERATOR.
Startup accelerators can be quite confusing. According to tech.eu, there are around 100 active startup accelerators across Europe. Most of them have the (approximately) same offer: a network of experts/mentors which can guide you, a support program that lasts between 3 to 6 months in average and a provision of pre-seed investment. The majority of accelerators doesn't charge anything but takes between 6 to 12 percent equity stake. They target early-stage tech startups mostly, each accelerator providing support in a different sector (health, Internet of Things, energy, cleantech...).
In 2014, €39.578.636 have been invested in 1588 startups by 76 accelerators, according to the Fundacity European Accelerator Report. The funding often comes from private capital (angel investors, private investment funds) and aims to create revenue from follow-on investments in the startup the accelerator supports. Some accelerators are publicly funded, and, therefore, have a different purpose; to boost European entrepreneurship and stimulate startup initiatives.
Sounds exciting, but how do you know which accelerator is the best for your particular project?
Before even applying, you have a lot of information to verify:
Is the accelerator programme related to your startup's field? The more similar your project's sector and the accelerator's, the better. They will provide you with the network you need, mentors that are experts in the field, and a like-minded startup community.
Who are the alumni? Contact them personally to get their own personal feedback on the accelerator. Do not only rely on the accelerator's website to gather information about the programme.
What are the terms? Often non-negotiable, terms can be substantial and can impact the development of your startup. Most of the accelerators require you to be located in the programme's location, and if not, to move there for the duration of the programme. Be very careful of reading the terms before applying, and not once you've been accepted!
CHOOSE THE RIGHT NETWORK.
Many entrepreneurial networks are available in Europe. With a bit of looking around online, you will definitively find meet-ups and networking events that match your field and your personal interests. The below networks are particularly note-worthy:
If you are a social entrepreneur, I'd advise checking out the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England. This year, the conference is happening from April 13th to 15th 2016. It gathers the world's most influential social entrepreneurs to exchange ideas, solutions, and information.
If you are a young entrepreneur, I'd advise checking out the European Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs (YES) in Brussels, Belgium. Becoming a YES member will allow you to take part in annual conferences, get access to best entrepreneurial practices and advice, and network with over 40.000 like-minded entrepreneurs.
If you are a female entrepreneur, I'd advise checking out Women Startup Competition in Budapest, Hungary. From May 30th to June 3rd, 2016, you will receive preparation training from the most prominent startup scenes in Budapest. Then, on June 4th, 2016, you will attend a Demo Day where you will pitch in front of investors and compete to receive great prizes. To participate, you need to send an application - deadline is May 2nd, 2016.
Are you excited about the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Europe? I can't wait to hear your thoughts in the comments!