The 2nd Annual EYIF Young Innovators Unconvention Unconvention 2013 audience witnessed fruitful and inspiring discussions on the state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe on the 6th and 7th of June in Brussels at the European Parliament, the magnificent Palace D’Egmont and EYIF HQ at Science14 Atrium.
The Unconvention was not just another technology conference, nor a policy or business event; it was all three at the same time, and that’s what made it unique. The Unconvention brought innovative and entrepreneurial youth from across Europe together with established entrepreneurs, global business leaders, investors, experts and leading policy and decision makers, joining forces to mobilise for innovation and growth.
Under the High Patronage of the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, the Unconvention was a unique two-day event featured motivational keynotes by prominent speakers, lively panel discussions, interactive workshops, and informal networking opportunities to meet with leaders of innovation and entrepreneurship from Europe and the USA. The Unconvention also hosted the final of EYIF’s InnoPitch competition for European Young Innovator of the Year.
Watch short videos of the Unconvention to get a feel for what it was like, here.
First set of Photos are available too, here.
Read below to immerse in the great Unconvention spirit! Why is Europe lagging behind and what are the outcomes and lessons learned from the Unconvention 2013 to address this?
DAY 1, 6th June: Morning at Science14 Atrium | Afternoon in the European Parliament (Video – Day 1 Morning, Video – All of Day 1)
It all started with the InnoCoffee on Thursday morning at Science14 Atrium in Brussels. Moderator Nina Fowler from Venture Village, asked how could we improve the innovation ecosystem in Europe. “You need 1 or 2 game changers, they get funding and develop the cycle, start the ecosystem”, said Derek Holt of the Startup America Partnership. Projects such as Seedcamp and Startup America Partnership help young entrepreneurs to develop the ecosystem collectively. Networking is crucial: “Get out of the building and meet people, don’t just read the website. You have to act”, advised Mr Holt. Do not focus on the impossibility of your idea, be passionate and take a shot: “Failure is a means to an end. Micro-experiments and micro-failures are part of the process to success”, concluded Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp.
Three workshops followed after the InnoCoffee, one being the Big and Open Data Workshop (video) with EYIF open data expert Johann Stan, Université Jean-Monet and Matthew Bassett, Universal Pictures. The InnoPitch Workshop was reserved for the InnoPitch – competition for the European Young Innovator of the Year – finalists, where they acquired valuable advice on their startups and upcoming pitches from Carlos. The third workshop featured Jack Lang, University of Cambridge, who explained why he named his $25 computer a Raspberry Pi: “Computers and similar have to have a fruit name – look at Apple and Orange.” His recipe for success is straight-forward: “You have to make what people want rather than what you think they want”.
Only a short walk away, the European Parliament hosted the afternoon’s political and policy sessions. Bearing in mind the ongoing crisis in the EU member states, the high-level political panel discussed innovation, youth unemployment, growth and whether the US is still a role-model for innovation-driven growth? After encouraging opening messages fromMartin Schulz, President of the European Parliament and Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, MEP Sean Kelly enquired how can politicians encourage people to be more innovative. He reminded the audience of the current EU initiatives and said: “EU will be there to support you, so go for it.” Click here (blog post) for more on the opening panel.
The Innopitch Finalists then presented short previews (blog post) of their start-ups in front the risk finance and venture capital leaders panel – Anne Glover from Amadeus Capital Partners, Carlos Eduardo Espinal from Seedcamp and Bjorn Tremmerie from European Investment Fund, chaired by MEP Eider Gardiazábal (who is chair of the European Parliament’s Youth Intergroup). Mr. Espinal described the ingredients for enhancing the entrepreneurial culture: “1. Entrepreneurial education, 2. Highlight best company methodology, 3. Supporting programmes, 4. Better angel networks”.
Kicked off by Harri Koponen, Rovio Entertainments (creator of Angry Birds), the next panel discussed the implementation plan for innovation ecosystems in Europe. Mr Koponen advised young people to “love, believe and think big, find resources inside yourself to be the greatest”. He said Angry Birds “have fans, not customers, we delight and excite them and they come back!”. Martin Bruncko, World Economic Forum, added that Europeans are “too modest, which leads to poor performance”. Both MEP Maria Graca Carvalho and Gavin Starks, Open Data Institute, agreed that what we lack in Europe is the celebration of success, we need to highlight and cherish our top companies and start-ups.
After that it was time for networking and socialising over a cocktails and dinner. An informal InnoPitch session ensued over glasses of wine and then everyone set off to Place du Luxembourg to enjoy the – not so often – warm Brussels night!
DAY 2 (Video – All of Day 2)
Intense sun and historical Egmont Palace created beautiful surroundings for continuing the discussions on Friday. Big and Open Data coupled with Digital Social Innovation session featured several inspiring speakers. Emphasising the scale of this topic, Bruno Schroeder, Microsoft, stated: “This year we are producing every 10 min the same amount of data that entire humanity ever produced until 2003.” Sharing their insights on the safety of online content, Ulrich Atz, Open Data Institute, said: “If you do it properly, you can find ways of anonymising data”. Transforming data into trusted, governed information that leads to smarter and faster decision is an action to be pursued. “Use statistical algorithms helping machines get better insight, the amount of volume is an issue for humans”, recommended Herman Nielens, IBM. Tiit Paananen, Skypeshared the story of Estonia becoming a fast adapter and leader in digital services: “Estonian government services are completely digital, voting, ID, tax declarations, census…Technology creates transparency! People started to trust the tax system and the government in Estonia. We show that you can change stuff if you want!”
Smart Cities and Space Services for citizens were the topics for the next expert panel, with speakers including Maryline Marilly from IER. Cornelis Eldering, European Space Agency, creatively started his presentation about space and start-ups with a riddle, bringing matches, pins and candles, asking the audience about the so-called Candle problem. Smart cities from the energy point of view were touched upon by André Bouffioux, Siemens: “Energy production is the most important condition for investment”. In order to succeed he claimed “you have to be either much better, or much sexier than the rest”.
The Unconvention also hosted the presentation of the World Economic Forum Innovation and Entrepreneurship project through the panel “Fostering innovation-driven entrepreneurship in Europe”, chaired by Nicholas Davis, World Economic Forumand moderated by Christophe Leclercq, EurActiv.com who identified the four general barriers to success to be “finance, culture, motivation and engaging people.” EYIF is co-leader for the work-package on “Promotion of Entrepreneurship” of the project. EYIF leaders Kumardev Chatterjee and Nicholas Zylberglajt emphasised the need for bottom-up engagement coming from young people and the role that policy makers must play to support the building of this ecosystem through focused, concrete actions. Martin Bruncko explained one of the drivers behind the work package “Access to Capital”, when he said “WEF identified lack of information about seed capital and angel financing even out of large financial centres.” Co-Founder of the StartUp Britain initiative and CEO ofEnternships, Rajeeb Dey, talked about the options for the best UK practices being extrapolated to the rest of the EU. He considers “relaxation of access to seed finance, accessible loans of up to 10k, tax breaks encouraging SME to hire” to be key success stories that should be extrapolated.
The much awaited European Young Innovators Awards Finals followed after the lunch. Our venture capital jury observed five-minute pitches of all Innopitch finalists, asking them afterwards targeted questions about the feasibility of their projects. Being the first,Lukas Kampfmann presented Mentor Works, an application inspiring people to change their habits with a social context through a community. Sharebox is all “about sharing your passions and doing what you love”, said its founder Sébastien Vandersteen. Christian Nielsen presented Vidzor, an interactive easy-to-use video platform. “A secure knowledge-sharing platform may sound like a dream, but Stample have turned it into reality”, was the topic of the Stample pitch by Edward Silhol. With Urban Grow’s João Melo the Innopitch went green and he talked about growing your own vegetables at home using hydroponics. Finally, helping young people find more quality employment and overcoming the young professionals trap is the mission of InternsGoPro, presented byPierre-Julien Bosser.
An easy task to decide who was the best? Not at all! The jury even extended their allocated decision time, later admitting they had real difficulties on agreeing just one winner. More on the award ceremony here but sincere congratulations to the winner Vidzor, the runner-up Mentor and Urban Grow, selected by the audience!
All good things come to an end, and we were soon at the last Unconvention session. Whoever expected just a few summing up remarks and thank you speeches was disappointed as the closing panel was full of energetic debates and great recommendations!Harry Van Dorenmalen, Chairman Europe of IBM pointed out the importance of young people in changing the mindset: “The bottom dictates. And the bottom is you!” Change of culture was also the concern of Kai Engel, A.T.Kearney: “We should have more young innovators in Europe. This Unconvention has the potential to become a movement of thousands of EU innovators.” Tiit Paananen, Skype, added: “You are giving a voice to those who do not usually have it. Unconvention is lobbying for guys who cannot afford lobbyists. That’s great!” In the presence of Leo Sun, President for European Public Affairs and Communications at Huawei, Kumardev Chatterjee announced the launch of a new pan-European app competition in collaboration with Huawei and Microsoft, managed by EYIF. Anne Glover, Co-Founder and CEO of Amadeus Capital Partners, concluded on a very positive note “It is a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur!”
The overall message of this year’s Unconvention is that young Europeans need to be more daring and pursue their vision despite the fears of failure. Connecting with others is the key to success! Thus, we would like to invite you to keep up with our upcoming activities on our Facebook and Twitter .
We would like to thank all our participants, speakers and partners for helping us make the Unconvention happen! Special thanks go to our supporters and partners, the European Parliament, European Commission, US State Department, US Mission to the EU, European Investment Fund, Brussels Region, Microsoft, Facebook, A.T. Kearney, Science14 Atrium, Siemens, IBM, Amadeus Capital Partners, Seedcamp, IER, Quruu and our media partners Euractiv, Venture Village, Whiteboard Mag, Horizon Media and Grupo de Medios TV.