It's a pleasure to be here.
Innovation matters. And from the first I've been inspired by this community.
When I started this job a lot of people asked if I wasn't disappointed to have "just" digital issues.
But I soon realised. This portfolio is not just about ICT, or just about telecoms companies. It's about the things that matter to every European, the boost that matters to every business, the ingredients essential to innovation. Not just big global giants – but millions of tiny startups, any of who could become the Next Big Thing.
Digital is everywhere. And it matters.
Politicians go on about jobs and growth. But who is out there actually creating those jobs? And building that growth? Not people like me – but people like you. Entrepreneurs and innovators.
That is why I have made this a priority of my mandate. Partly because I get so much energy and inspiration from this community. Partly because I realise it matters so much to our future.
I've had three goals. First, to give recognition. Europe doesn't have a Silicon Valley and it doesn't need one. But we have so many great ideas, so many talented people, so many parts of Europe that bring that together. It's time we shared and celebrated that success – it's time to make startups visible. It's time people understood why we need innovators – for parents, professors, policy-makers. It's time we understood that failure isn't a black spot on your career – it's a sign that you were innovating.
So we have new prizes to recognise Europe's top startup talent – those who succeeded, and those still on their way.
And we had a Startup Europe roadshow. In ten different events, in ten different European countries, dozens of inspiring young people have told their story. Others asked the questions they've been dying to ask – why should I launch a startup? Where can I get funds? What should my business model be?
It's by sharing that we really learn. Sharing both triumphs and uncertainties. And I know you've been hearing from some of those who took part – it's great to be reminded just how many great women there are working as tech entrepreneurs.
Second: we have given resources. Our future internet programme is making available the building blocks for the apps of the future, the smart cities of the future, the smart businesses of the future. We're not just making them openly and freely available – we're investing 80 million euros, helping over 1000 teams turn their bright idea into a workable innovation. And that's just one area invested in by Horizon 2020, our 80 billion euro programme for research and innovation. For the leading parts of that programme, about one fifth of funding will go to smaller businesses delivering innovations to market. With detailed plans to promote entrepreneurship – like contests in universities and schools for the best business ideas. Like summer academies for budding ICT innovators. Like entrepreneurship labs.
Plus we are working to bring together the people who matter– a European assembly of accelerators. A forum for web investors. A crowd-funding network.
But third, alongside recognition and resources – I know you need the right rules. And I've set out to change those too. Like to open up public data across Europe. Ensuring net neutrality. Ending roaming charges. And more. I know there is still much further to go – like reforming our ancient copyright laws: dated, pre-digital, different in every country. But that's just one thing we need to change. In fact, one group of entrepreneurs put forward 22 actions – 22 ideas to make life easier for European startups. They call it the startup manifesto: almost 8,000 people have signed up.
But here's what I know Europe needs most of all. The right mindset. People prepared to take a risk. People prepared to do things differently. People prepared to be "Unconvention-al". People like you.
That's a culture we don't have in Europe. Not nearly enough. The fact is – every company you can name started with a failure. But the founders didn't give up at that first hurdle. They kept on going and that's why we have Facebook, Google, Apple. Failure is something you learn from.
Even if you realise that - too often the people around you don't - your mentors, your investors, your friends and family. In Europe people look at a CV with a list of unsuccessful ideas on it and think it's the person that is a failure. In Silicon Valley they realise that if you didn't ever fail – you can't have been trying, and you certainly weren't innovating.
That's an attitude we need to change in Europe. At the same time – we can improve the environment in Europe. To make it so that being an entrepreneur isn't such a risk. To create the rules, the environment, the culture, where it's the most normal, natural, easy thing in the world.
I think we've come a long way in 5 years.
5 years ago people thought "Europe didn't do innovation". That startups were for Silicon Valley. That risk-taking was not for us.
But that's not true. Many well-known names were born in Europe: Skype, Spotify, Skyscanner, Shazam, Swiftkey, Supercell. That's just the ones who begin with S. I could give you many others, from Angry Birds to Zendesk.
And there's an ecosystem to go with it. For example: there are dozens of accelerators in Europe. Between them they have graduated nearly 740 startups – and created thousands of new jobs.
And pockets of talent all over the continent. It's not just in the UK, Paris, Berlin. Those are the well-known places, the "usual suspects", but today we have people from places like Greece and Romania too. Some of them get more support than others. But all of them are amazing and inspiring people.
And this community is starting to find its voice. We have a great startup manifesto: now many countries are starting to take the manifesto seriously. Some have taken the idea and come up with their own national equivalent. Others are starting to adapt and implement the ideas in it, starting to listen to the voice of startups. Don't stop making a noise!
Let's make sure everyone in Europe knows what you need for startup success. Educating younger people about entrepreneurship. Creating the environment where your idea can flourish and grow. Less red tape, more awareness, better access to resources and investors. Showing the world that failure isn't a disaster – it's part of a journey. And sharing and celebrating success: recognising the role these rock stars play in our economy.
But I don't want to spend ages talking at you. It's a privilege to be surrounded by you. So I want some answers from you. The next Commission has prioritised creating a digital single market. But what should that look like? What are the challenges you've faced, and how can we or others make your life easier? How can a digital single market help you grow, innovate, invest, create jobs – or other EU support? What kind of cultural change would you like to see? And would you do if you were in charge of the EU's digital agenda? I'm listening!