Today Europe is in a difficult place. We're in a bad economic crisis: we must innovate our way out.
Entrepreneurs are our secret ingredient. I don't need to tell you that. Nor do you need reminding of the many problems Europeans face on their way to start-up success.
Our "Startup Europe" initiative is about overcoming those difficulties. So that European innovators get the rules, resources, and recognition they need to succeed.
We've already set up the "Startup Europe Leaders' Club". So the big names on the European start-up scene can get together; share and celebrate success; and inspire a new generation.
But it's not just about recognising the great contribution you make, nor just about bringing networks and communities together. I know that. There are many other resources essential to start-up success; and this year I want to make progress on a number of them.
First, for accelerators, to raise awareness of what is already out there and increase the number that are “web-friendly”.
Second, for venture capital, to make investors more aware of opportunities online; and to boost VC investment in web start-ups, across Europe.
Third, for crowd-funding, to look at what's already out there; make existing platforms more visible, accessible, and networked; and strengthen the crowd funding on offer for web start-ups.
We launched a range of calls for tender in all these three areas, and others. Contractors like Seedcamp, GigaOM Pro, or Bethnal Green Ventures are already hard at work. I'm sure many of those will be well-known names to you; and I want to work with partners who understand the ecosystem and respond to start-up needs.
Those are just some of the ways we are going to help start-ups start in Europe, and stay in Europe.
But today is about celebrating the best of the best. With the first ever Europioneers awards.
Our competition has had a huge response, with hundreds of nominations. Hundreds of people from across Europe, contending to be named European Tech Entrepreneur of the Year; and Young European Tech Entrepreneur of the Year.
By the way, I notice that none of Europe's excellent female talent made it onto the shortlist. I'll be speaking more about this issue at the European Parliament tomorrow. There is so much female potential and success out there; although not always so visible. I hope next time they'll be some talented women here on this shortlist, too.
Anyway, none of that detracts from the achievements of these talented men on our shortlist. Well done, guys! And very soon we will know who the winners are.
I'd just like to spend a moment thanking everyone who took part.
First, all the members of the public who took part in nominating and voting.
Second, our dedicated panel of expert judges who narrowed down the field. I know that cannot have been an easy task, given the very high quality of entrants.
Third, thanks to The Next Web for helping us in the European Commission organise this contest.
And most of all, thanks to all you innovators and entrepreneurs out there. To all of you who came up with all these amazing and inspiring ideas. Seeing them all fills me with a lot of hope: Europe has what it takes to succeed. You are showing others the way.
To all of you, well done, congratulations, and thank you.
When people think about start-ups, they often think about America, and the American Dream. Well, I have a European Dream, too. That Europe becomes a place where entrepreneurs and innovators start and stay – before growing globally.
To be honest, the role of the EU is just modest. The real ideas and inspirations come from you guys; innovators. But I'm convinced we can support, and I'm determined to do so in every way I can.
So let's bring to an end the myth, the fairy tale, that all of the good ideas come from Silicon Valley.
To all the talented nominees, finalists and winners here today, I say: well done. I salute your talent and tenacity.
To all the others out there trying to develop their bright ideas: I say: keep trying, and don't be deterred.
And to everyone out there who's thought about giving it a go, I say: don't be afraid, Europe needs you to innovate, and I'm right behind you.