"Start-up companies are the DNA of modern industry," commented Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society at the opening of the international conference Startup Europe Summit 2018 held at Inter Expo Center on 15 November. "For the first time we have brought together more than 500 persons to attend this topic, so it is extremely important for me that this is happening in Sofia," she added. The event held on November 15, was joined by the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov, Dusko Markovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro, Ana Barnabich, Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of Macedonia and Yordanka Fandakova,Mayor of Sofia.
The European Commissioner noted the ambition to demonstrate the potential of Southeast Europe and the Balkans in the implementation of the global digital agenda for Europe of the European Commission. "What's in the nature of Startup companies? They are ambitious and grow rapidly, they are even willing to dominate, they have a further aim - to create products that are beneficial for modern society, and most importantly for innovators - failure is not a problem, it is an opportunity. They are the DNA of modern economy, the economy of the 21st century. They are crucial for the emergence of European digital champions or the so-called unicorns with a capitalization valued at $ 1 billion. Out of 224 unicorns in the world, just 13 happen to be European, which is only 3% of all. The venture capital invested in startups is only 20% of those invested by the United States and China, " she commented to the members of the public present.
As a major challenge to modern policies, Mariya Gabriel pointed the creation of a digital single market. The Commissioner expressed hope that by the beginning of 2019 the process would be completed. "With the implementation of the Juncker plan, the funding for start-ups has been increased from € 20 million to € 283 million, of which € 9 billion is planned to create digital innovation hubs. I would have liked to see more hubs established, and especially in the 13 Member States joined since 2004, "said M.Gabriel. Currently, there are trainings going in more than 30 hubs, three of which already in Bulgaria.
The public present were informed that at the end of this year, a new program was launched, which plans to provide € 8 million by 2020 to regions with certain potential, having no digital innovation hubs. Startup Europe has already helped 700 companies and has attracted EUR 160 million in private investment.
Southeast Europe - a strong Startup region
The launch of the event was the start of the establishment of a very strong Startup region, which could include start-ups from South Eastern Europe. An official declaration on stimulating entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe was signed at the event.
The presence of several political leaders from the Western Balkans is of great importance. This was a demonstration of the intention to search for more and more opportunities for turning the region into a driving force for start-ups across Europe. Startup Europe Summit 2018 was attended by Dusko Markovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro, Ana Burnabich, Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of Macedonia.
"The capital of the young people should be turned into a fruitful direction," Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said at the opening. "The aim is to create a platform for citizens from the region and across Europe to build a powerful European digital economy," the Bulgarian Prime Minister stressed.
"Today, the world is yours, the city is yours," Mayor Yordanka Fandakova addressed all young people, pointing out that it is they are the holders of a chance for a faster change. The Sofia mayor informed the public that there are 40,000 employees in the IT sector in Sofia, which accounts for 5.7% of the city's economy. "Sofia ranks second of the European cities of the future, the region of Southeastern Europe is in the top 10 of the regions of the future," she said, and reminded that Sofia was included in the Scale Entrepreneurial Platform, involving start-up organizations from 10 European cities. A guarantee scheme has been set up in the capital city, with 20 projects being submitted and the first of them are to be approved in early 2019.
Western Balkans with the potential for a quick recovery
"Over the past two years, Montenegro's economy has registered a growth of 4.7%, but our environment is still not suitable for developing this kind of business," Montenegro's Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said. One reason is the lack of sufficient public and private funding. His team, composed entirely of young people, is currently working on mechanisms to encourage Startups.
As of 1 January 2019, there will be a reduction of 80% of the profit tax for companies investing in innovation and development. This was announced by Serbia's Prime Minister Ana Burnabich. "Open data is a strong incentive for start-up businesses, which is why we are focusing on e-government," she said. Adding to the fact that in the local economies, the drive towards entrepreneurship is not very strong, while in Israel, 90% of children say they want to become entrepreneurs. "That's why, since October this year, all graduates have been given the opportunity to set up their own companies by being exempt from any tax obligations," Ana Burnabich informed.
"Our countries have the enormous potential to catch up quickly," Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, expressed his opinion. We have already established a support fund for start-up companies in our country. Thanks to 3 accelerators, Macedonia has gained practical experience in Startup funding policies.
For starting companies such as takeaway, it is most important to overcome fears of failure. "I myself have been just a few days away from bankruptcy," said Vladimir Davchev from takeaway. According to him, tax relief does not help businesses. "It is extremely difficult to enter European market because the legislation in each country is different and this is a major difficulty for start-ups. I found funding just when I established myself on a foreign market," he shared his own experience.
The Startup Europe Summit 2018 gave Startup companies the opportunity to discuss the benefits of the region and the opportunities for EU funding. Investors also presented their valuable point of view. The Startup Europe Awards were also awarded to the winners.