By Sofia Esteves, Portugal InnoTour Participant
Early wake up on cold but sunny Monday, February 13 in Washington DC, heading to US Department of State for a promising day of meetings with federal government officials regarding advancements in innovation and the impact of US entrepreneurship on national and global economies. After crossing the beautiful entrance of the building, all flags in alphabetic order, we met with Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation at the Office of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Please Google his impressive bio and imagine the lively discussion on innovation in the US and Europe we had with him.
Alec Ross believes that the barrier to Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the US is lower than ever: there is a high tolerance to risk, access to capital, access to services and facilities, the right conditions that make today the time and opportunity to be an entrepreneur. “In Europe you think you lack the magical ecosystem but that is not true.” – Alec Ross considers that if we want to step up in Europe we need to take risks, to try and fail, even not taking the safe job and going to the basement, just how top innovators started in America. The Senior Advisor for Innovation added that we Europeans have major advantages that give us the right environment to innovate and succeed: we have a high concentration of a market place, we own a high skilled workforce, and we are better positioned geographically, comparing to other economies. He believes that if Europe is to be competitive, the government has to get out-of-the-way and facilitate, rather than control. Alec also mentioned: “There is a need to mobilize the communities by showing examples of success”. We do have what it takes to be innovative. Let’s change our mindset and believe in it. Let’s stop being afraid of the judgement of society (isn’t that what is holding us back?). Let’s rather teach society that try-fail-try is a faster path to success and that there are concrete ways to control risk. Let’s teach society that being an entrepreneur is not about guessing and faith, but about risking with very hard work and careful planning, and yes, lots of dreaming as well… Let’s do something (it really is about action), be proud of it and tell our story. I have been talking about this with the rest of the delegation, what we see as a real problem: Generally in Europe we are afraid that showing success equals arrogance. But once I’ve heard somewhere: “You don’t help someone by showing him you’re less than what you are”. Alec Ross says we have the magical ecosystem, although as we discussed with him there are several cultural and social issues leaving us behind. We clearly need to change our mindset in Europe to enable us reaching the potential that others recognize in us.