Remember? #Startups urging European Commission to put digital first

Taking stock: 638 days into the EU’s Digital Single Market Strategy


This Wednesday more than a dozen Commissioners will meet to discuss and to take stock of the Digital Single Market Strategy under the leadership of Vice President Andrus Ansip. We wanted to take this occasion to recall a letter we wrote on behalf of 13 European Startup Communities on May 4th, 2015 asking our VPAA to put innovation at the heart of the DSM proposals.

So where do we stand nearly 2 years after the DSM proposals in Europe? Communities across Europe are optimistic. If we would send another letter today, it would be signed by more than 30 communities. We have reason to look forward because conditions for startups have never been better. More and more communities and entrepreneurs recognise their responsibility in speaking to politics and governments.

Looking at the legislative side of things, we see more of a mix. While the number of startups, the amount of funding and the number of EUnicorns has grown, rules and regulations for startups and VCs to consider have followed suit.

Our letter asked to keep innovation at the centre and cut red tape instead of adding bureaucracy. Whereas paying VAT is still a pain in Europe, we’re optimistic now that new and simpler rules will come. With a collective push from Member States, we might even get a lavish VAT free threshold for startups.

Data protection is another key issue for startups in Europe. Especially for earlier stage companies, the stated ambition of protecting smaller entities has not translated into reality. The Commission just reminded businesses that they will have to abide by the rules or pay hefty fines.

What else is there? In many ways, rules have been introduced that didn’t exist before. For digital contracts (including free apps), a warranty period of 2 years was proposed. Further, the copyright proposal just added an enormous risk to collaborative and data mining startups.

Many more topics were discussed in the last 2 years and joint efforts like the Scaleup Europe Manifesto united entrepreneurs around a cri de coeur for a truly Single Market.

Advocacy efforts have their effect on a changing landscape in Europe. Entrepreneurial optimism and courageous Commissioners like Andrus Ansip, Carlos Moedas together with many Members of the European Parliament have stood up for putting digital entrepreneurship to the centre of things.

Shortcomings in proposals on the Digital Single Market should rather be seen as first steps in the right direction. Europe needs to get away from its toxic urge to chain seemingly dominating players with rules that hit startups hardest.

Our letter today would certainly argue along the same lines. Additionally, we would praise the confidence of European entrepreneurs and encourage political leaders to embrace the spirit of these startups. Policy makers: Be bold, visionary and have trust in your and Europe’s strength and creativity!

Good things happen when Startups speak to policy makers.