Isidro Laso, the soul of the European Startups
The Spaniard has just been appointed Deputy Head of Innovation Ecosystems — European Innovation Council (European DARPA). For the last eight years, he was Head of Startup Europe within the European Commission.
It’s not every day you get the chance to talk so closely with a leader. Isidro Laso is one of the Spaniards with the highest responsibility in the entrepreneurial world. Fellow in Cambridge, unites the academic with the entrepreneur worlds from the heart of Europe, in Brussels. During the recent StartupOlé he explained his new role in the European Commission and his vision of how startups are an economic and innovation engine in the continent. “I would like there to be continuity, regardless of politics” he stresses.
Deseo que cualquier emprendedor pueda convertirse en un Unicornio sin salir de su ciudad - Citizen
Charlamos con Isidro Laso, Director de startups en la Comisión Europea.
In the latest episode of Citizen, TheVentureCity’s podcast, we review his trajectory and, above all, his plans for the future:
From Brussels he follows the changes closely: “In the beginning, with Neelie Kroes, the problem was financing. Now it’s more about talent. In those days the problem was being in contact with Silicon Valley. Now it’s more about connecting with other ecosystems. There is a lack of successful entrepreneurs, who are willing to give back to society after being successful. Another fact is that there are exits, but still in very early stages. We have to get them to sell at a more advanced stage. Or, better yet, that they become giants, stay in business, and become unicorns.
Europe looks to the future with Deep Tech as its motto. Under this umbrella fit artificial intelligence, IoT, Big Data, drones, biotechnology, new materials … “The sector is not as important as having a very important technological component,” he reiterates.
How to develop an ecosystem? A key and recurring question that Laso wants to solve:
“If you have a suitable talent pool, there is a direct correlation between the number of meetups and the number of startups. You have to create lots of opportunities for people to get to know each other.
And he talks about the next step: “We still don’t have empirical evidence to turn scaleups into unicorns. But we do find that in Berlin, Stockholm and so on, there is a very early internationalization, from the get-go. And in Spain, I do believe that entrepreneurs have a great opportunity with Latin America. They should think about Latin America from day one.
But how does the European Commission help entrepreneurs? Laso speaks directly of a new initiative, the European Innovation Council, where he has an important role, with funds of 10 billion euros to invest and promote startups. Out of this budget, 500 million are allocated to the development of ecosystems. And he announced changes:
“No more money will be given without having a face-to-face interview with the entrepreneur. And only a 14-page plan will be asked for. In this interview, investors and not commission officials, will make the decision. We are going to give up to 50 million in equity. For the first time, with a special vehicle, we are going to take equity as the European Commission. These eight years at Startup Europe have helped us to better understand the ecosystem. It’s a challenge for us.
“Following the Israeli model, the first ones to lose money are us. So the rest of the investors know that if there is damage, we take it on ourselves. This plan will go from the early stages, acceleration and scale. All the money will be accompanied by coaching and networking, which is very important for creating an ecosystem”.
Isidro Laso’s new role is focused on the creation of ecosystems: “I hope to have a higher, more positive impact. He is aware that in the startup world we have to eliminate the two-speed Europe: “The idea is to bring the startup phenomenon to any talented European city”. His vision is to make cities like Malaga or Salamanca, among others, move to the front line.
During the conversation, he did not forget the role of women:
“At TheVentureCity you are an exception, but unfortunately it is not the norm. We want to correct it. We’re looking into ways to make it happen, but unfortunately we still haven’t gotten there yet.”
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