The Future of Entrepreneurship panel debate on 26 June was part of a series of events organised by the European Small Business Alliance (ESBA). Hosted by MEP Anthea McIntyre and moderated by ESBA’s President David Caro, the event included a keynote from Kristin Schreiber, Director Director for SME (micro, small and medium-sized enterprise) policy and COSME Programme at DG GROWTH, European Commission, and further contributions from MEP Amjad Bashir, Ondrej Socuvka (Google) and Samuel Laurinkari (eBay). The panellists reflected on the current situation and the possible future of entrepreneurship as well as their personal and professional experience with it.
Anthea McIntyre has been an entrepreneur since she was around 18 years old, and so is very interested in the topic. In fact, she professed that she is at the Parliament “to ensure that the EU doesn’t stifle entrepreneurship”.
David Caro illustrated the different types of entrepreneurs through a quote by Shakespeare: “Some are born great, some acquire greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Now replace greatness with entrepreneurship.” He believes we have all three categories of entrepreneurs – some seem to be born with it, some acquire it, and some have no other options and might be swerved by circumstances.
Kristin Schreiber believes that “entrepreneurial mindset and skills are becoming essential in almost any field of activity” but sees the barriers, with lack of entrepreneurial skills as one of the main barriers in Europe. She says the problem starts at an early age when children should already be given more opportunities to acquire the entrepreneurial competence and the mindset to consider starting their own organisations; and the same time, it is important to encourage entrepreneurship among those not naturally inclined or not currently represented in high numbers, including women, as she praised important initiatives such as the EU Prize for Women Entrepreneurs. She was also pleased that, compared to even five years ago, more and more new centres of creativity and innovation are forming and thriving also in Europe, and this competitive advancement for Europe should be celebrated.
Both Mr Caro and Ms McIntyre had entrepreneurship experience in their childhood years already. Mr Caro would sell chewing gum, pencils and erasers at school and would franchise it out to children from other classes too; he has now owned his own business for 41 years. Ms McIntyre was born into an entrepreneurial family and can remember helping her father with accounts for his small business when she was about five already, operating the adding machine (predecessor of a calculator). Now she is involved in three different businesses, has been supporting young entrepreneurs in the UK, and is working hard to affect legislation and reduce the amount of bureaucracy involved in being self-employed, to leave as much time as possible for the actual main activity.
Amjad Bashir, another UK MEP, has been running a family business too, and he talked about the inspiring individuals he met around the world who could think outside the box and see solutions and worked hard on improving their lives through small-scale entrepreneurship initially, rewarded for their efforts with increasing success.
Ondrej Socuvka, Senior Public Policy and Government Affairs Manager at Google, founder of two NGOs and a “technology optimist”, talked, among others, about the relationship between technology and entrepreneurship as well as several tools developed for entrepreneurs by Google. He does not believe that we all need to learn coding – otherwise he would be in trouble himself – human creativity, problem-solving and all the other entrepreneurial skills is what we need to develop though. At the same time, he gave all participants homework to look up the machine learning crash course that Google engineers have developed and every Google employee is required to take to understand how it is applied, because machine learning is now present in everyday lives of nearly all digital consumers. He also emphasised the importance of lifelong learning to him, his employer and the general public.
Samuel Laurinkari, Head of EU Affairs at eBay, talked about the inspiring history of eBay, growing from a small side hobby of an individual dissatisfied with the opportunities and rules available. He also said that in Europe, there are hundreds of thousands of SMEs, with 95% of them doing export, often remaining relevant to their local communities while serving the global market. He would like to make small business trade across border easier, and would welcome policies for entrepreneurs that keep barriers very low, encouraging simple ideas such as the one behind his company – “sign up, start selling, and you have access to the whole world”. The idea and its potential were also illustrated through a short contribution from a German entrepreneur.
The event ended with a round of questions from the audience, and YouthProAktiv was happy to see the dedication of the panellists and the audience to not only discuss the future of entrepreneurship but also to actively shape it for the best.