Start-ups welcome the new EU Start-up Nations Standard

11 Mar 2020

Image: © rustamank/

The EU Start-up Nations Standard, which aims to accelerate the growth of high-tech SMEs and start-ups, has been welcomed by entrepreneurs.

On Tuesday (10 March), the EU announced plans for a new EU Start-up Nations Standard. The pan-European policy initiative in support of start-ups was announced as part of the EU’s new industrial strategy for a globally competitive, green and digital Europe.

In a statement, the EU Commission said that the aim of the strategy is to drive Europe’s competitiveness and strategic autonomy at a time of moving geopolitical plates and increasing global competition.

The initiative outlines a new approach to European industrial policy, setting out a range of actions to support both big and small companies, innovative start-ups, research centres, service providers, suppliers and social partners.

In particular, the Commission said it will work with member states on an EU Start-up Nations Standard to share and adopt best practices to accelerate growth of high-tech SMEs and start-ups.

The reception

The announcement was welcomed by Index Ventures, which founded the Not Optional campaign with the support of 500 European CEOs and founders.

Index Ventures issued a letter in response to the EU’s announcement, which was signed by founders from leading European start-ups. This included Stripe founder John Collison, Klarna founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski and BlaBlaCar founder Nicolas Brusson.

The letter stated that the Commission’s proposals mark “a major step towards unleashing the full entrepreneurial firepower of Europe”. It added that the new initiative will make it easier to start up and expand across borders, streamline visa applications for talent, and make it easier and more attractive to grant employee stock options.

‘For too long, the focus in Europe has been on taming US tech giants’

The voices behind the Not Optional campaign have highlighted the existing issues relating to stock options for employees as a “major bottleneck to the growth of start-ups”. Earlier this year, France announced some major changes to its policies on stock options – a move that was welcomed by the European start-up community.

Commenting on this week’s news, Martin Mignot, partner at Index Ventures, said: “We are pleased to see the European Commission recognise the contribution that start-ups make to Europe and its citizens, and pursue a pan-European policy initiative to support this growing sector.

“For too long, the focus in Europe has been on taming US tech giants. Today’s announcement confirms Europe’s ambition to create its own champions. The biggest challenge facing start-ups today is recruiting and retaining top talent.

“That’s why we are pleased that the EU Start-up Nations Standard address stock options, making it easier for start-ups to allow employees to share in their success.”

‘Level the playing field’

The co-signed open letter continued: “Europe’s ambitious tech entrepreneurs have the drive and ideas to build the next Google, Amazon or Netflix. But inconsistent regulations across the continent have left them without the foundations to achieve their full potential.

“That’s why we, as representatives of European tech businesses, welcome the European Commission’s plans for a new EU Start-up Nations Standard. By making it easier to start a business, expand across borders and attract top talent, this new standard will help to level the playing field with powerful global tech hubs in the US and China.”

The letter’s signatories said that they applaud the EU’s ambition, but emphasised that the proposals will only make a difference for start-ups if they are adopted and implemented by all member states.

“That’s why we are today calling on all member states to sign up to the EU Start-up Nations Standard, including a commitment to increase the attractiveness of employee ownership schemes,” the letter added.

“As the founders and CEOs of businesses that contribute significantly to the regional and global economy, we will support European governments as they take the steps required to become real ‘start-up nations’.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic