10 October 2014

#UnConv14 Day 1: Innovation Ecosystems, Access to Finance & Failure Acceptance

Unconvention 2014 Day 1

We had an incredible first day of Unconvention where we listened and discussed about innovation, local ecosystems, access to finance and, of course, failure acceptance as a key to success. Here is the summary of what went on. Find more, and follow it live tomorrow, on our Twitter account!

“Acceptance of failure starts incorporating failure in everything”. Bjoren Herrman, CEO at Compass, a company that collects data to help startups make better decissions, knows how failure in startups works. Prior to launch Compass, he and his team created Startup Genome, an in depth research of successful startup hubs around the world. According to him, “that’s the core” and, when it comes to the ecosystem itself, there is a culture of trust in the Valley that Europe lacks.

“Investors are more resilient to give money to companies that have faced failure before, when those are usually more succesful than first starters. There is a need to change policies, to push for failure acceptance in Europe”, he said during the first session about Policy Makers and Failure Acceptance, in which the diplomatic advisor to the Minister President of the Brussels region, David Zylberbeg, a member of the European Parliament, Pablo Zalba, and an entrepreneur, the founder of Doctor Anytime, Zourou Eleftheria, also participated. And how can policy makers push for that in the EU? Herrman shares his key. Policies should be driven by data – “cheaper, quicker and smaller”.

There’s not going to be another Silicon Valley”. Is there? Andrew Zarick, CEO of Digital DUMBO, explained the audience of the second panel, on how to buld local innovations ecosystems, how they actually built DUMBO – sharing with us insights on how to succeed. DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass and it is a neighboorhood in New York. Some years ago, Andrew Zarick realized that the area was changing and that a digital community was being born there Starting as a happy hour, DUMBO is now a company that does consultancy and events. He started with events for broader audiences and then move to specific events, that engage specific audience.Zarick finished by making the difference between building an ecosystem and building just a meetup: the key is to be inclusive rather than exclusive and to find the uniqueness of each city and hub. “It’s like the tennis court”, a participant added. “Members of the court fight in the court, but then, when they are out, they both work in building the tennis court”.

“The sharing economy is a huge opportunity”, according to Anthony Gardner, Ambassador of the United States of America to the European Union. He mentioned the example of Blablacar, the sharing car network that was recently funded with a 100 million round as one of the best successes of the sharing economy. What does Europe need to have more cases like that one? When it comes to the digital and startup economy, one of the issues on the debate was that Europe cannot afford such fragmented legislations and it needs to think globally. Just as the Internet is.

“People who are ssuccessful are people who have solved a problem, not people who sold stuff”, said Christian Heilmann. Heilmann, web evangelist at Mozilla, gave the audience at the Opening Plenary about ‘Why should young Europeans embrace failure to build their future success and how can celebrating success in Europe inspire and guide young innovators and entrepreneurs’ a different view on entrepreneurship and innovation, by actually separating them.

What’s success? And who’s successful? In his opinion, amazing success ‘garage’ stories are one of the things that might keep people back, because… what if they do not do it the same way? As for innovation, what policy makers should be looking for is for the innovation that solves problems, not just for the one that gets commercial successes. “Be in love with a product”, he advised, “not with being an entrepreneur”. And what if you fail? Embrace failure (and celebrate success) is this year’s Unconvention theme, so the plenary included an rich debate on that. “My advice is ‘Fail hard & fail fast’”, said Julien Codorniou, Director of Platform Partnerships at Facebook. “Failure is a double responsibility”, added Alexandra Roata, founder of Softlead. “It generates learning experiences” and it has to hurt. “Analyse it, be critic with yoursef”, continued Heilmann. “Find out why you fail is super important!”