I am convinced that although regulation is indeed an important element, we should focus our EU efforts on ensuring that Europe becomes the leader of the new wave of innovation around deep tech startups with a hardware component and focused on the SDGs. We need to look less abroad, and look more inside and support our great innovators and startups. We need to have more deep tech unicorns per capita than any other regions of the world.
To make this goal a reality, we need to build a pan-European Innovation Ecosystem where industry, universities, founders and investors work together. It would allow any founder to din customers and investors from anywhere in Europe. This ecosystem should ensure territorial innovation cohesion beyond big cities and into rural areas. The implementation of this ecosystem will require synergetic work among European, National and Regional authorities coordinating all EU Funds.
Every company and every individual has a role to play in fighting climate change, and at Zapp we decided very early on to utilise an all-electric fleet, forge local partnerships to reduce food waste, and invest in carbon tracking and offsetting for emissions we can't yet avoid. To further embed sustainability, and with the help of our new Head of Sustainability, we'll soon be launching our sustainability champions network made up of employees right across Zapp's various business functions.
It is amazing to see how the European startup space has evolved over time to become the vibrant ecosystem it is today. It is not all wins, though. Growth remains limited at pre-seed and seed stages, where the unicorns of tomorrow are created today. Women also continue to receive less funding than their male counterparts, and people of colour fare even worse. While there’s ample proof that diverse companies perform better, network, bias, stereotypes and pattern matching still drive VC decision-making. A more diverse environment in tech will foster innovation and raise the bar for everybody. There are green shoots that provide hope for the future, but we still have a long way to go to make the European startup ecosystem diverse and inclusive.
I am a big believer in decarbonisation. The next generation of decacorns will come from this space! There is no lack of funding here however, it is the companies that are missing so far. One thing is for sure: we will not recover from the Covid crisis by rebuilding the world as we knew it before. We must build new, and better. That’s why we asked European countries to invest 20% of the recovery money they would receive from the EU into their digital transition, and 37% into their Green transition. Because investing in those two transitions is the best - if not the only - way to come out of this stronger, more resilient to future crisis and more competitive on the global market. This isn’t just good thoughts, it’s concrete actions and hard measures.
At Depop we enable people to buy and sell, and to build a business if they want to, but in a bigger sense - beyond the transactional - we enable them to be part of a systemic shift in the fashion industry, and a more sustainable way to shop. We’ve seen a real appetite, from younger consumers in particular, to embrace not just our platform but what it represents - a move towards more mindful, creative, community-based consumption. Lots of the most successful consumer-focused tech businesses in recent years - from Bulb to Olio, Babylon Health to HURR - offer a new generation of buyers access to a new way of doing things, and to a mission they want to buy into. For me, this is integral to the future of consumer tech.
I think European consumers of technology are definitely looking for a higher purpose but both European demand and supply are aligning when it comes to electric vertical take off and landing technology. Our very first investors were European, we are building and testing our Jet in the heart of Europe, we are hiring engineers from across Europe, there are other eVTOL companies being built in Europe and National and local governments across Europe are promoting more environmentally friendly transport policies.
First, to build European companies that can become bigger than companies in the US or Asia, we must learn to leverage the collective European strength. Unfortunately separate Nation States with different agendas and a lack of unity, for example in the digital or labour market, are still reality for companies operating in Europe, especially those wishing to attract non-EU talent.
Second, I believe companies that go beyond just answering our needs as consumers have the perfect breeding ground in Europe. From childcare, education, to health and elderly care, or production line workers, Europe is championing one of the most progressive welfare systems globally. Yet, too big of a part of the workforce in these segments has so far been left out from the benefits of digital transformation. To realise a real European promise of progress for all and for companies to have a chance to innovate, the EU must learn to better align its regulation expertise with entrepreneurial freedoms.
Traditionally, European investors tend to be more conservative than US investors who place major importance on the founders’ vision and growth potential. Atomico has been a pioneer in helping to broaden and burnish the European tech scene by championing individual founders’ potential to create ground-breaking solutions that benefit people and the planet. Delivering on our ambitious plans to reimagine how food is grown in cities via a modular, data-driven approach to farming has required us to find forward-thinking, visionary partners.
The support we received from impact-focused VCs like Atomico and other early investors has been decisive in delivering on that vision. In the 5 years since we built our first in-store farm, Infarm has created the world’s largest cloud-connected vertical farming network. The capex that companies like Infarm require to scale did initially limit the pool of potential investors. However, we’ve seen a remarkable change in the past three years, as more and more investors are realising that if they want to future proof their portfolios and contribute meaningfully to combating climate change, they’ll need to broaden their time horizons, have more patience and take bigger swings.