On the 5th of May, I was invited to participate in a panel and dinner discussion by Anthony Luzzatto Gardner, US Ambassador to the EU in Brussels — all organised in cooperation with The European Trade Association for Early Stage Market Players (EBAN). The programme focused on a US-Europe Dialogue on Making Ventures Grow. Ambassador Gardner hosted 50 high-level policymakers, academicians, business Angels, VCs, accelerators, and representatives from stock exchanges and non-profit organisations from the both the US and the EU.
The initial concept came from EBAN President Candace Johnson, and Ambassador Gardner found the idea beneficial for the entrepreneurship and investment ecosystems of the US and the EU.
Among the invitees were the Vice President of the European Commission, Executives of the Eurochambers, EBAN Vice Presidents, EVCA Executives, the President of the Business Angels Association of Turkey, the President of the DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SME Executives of the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament, Editors of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, the European Crowdfunding Network’s President, the CEO of the London Stock Exchange, the Director of the Istanbul Stock Exchange Private Market, Executives of Google Ventures, Former Vice Presidents of the European Commission, Executives of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Executives of Microsoft, the CEO of the Global Accelerators Network, Executives of Cisco, Executives of EIF – European Investment Fund, the CEO of the European Business & Innovation Centre Network, the Director of the Association for Financial Markets in Europe, and the CEO of the New York Angels.
Following two intensive panels on broadening Europe’s capital markets and stimulating alternative financing & facilitating the growth of Ventures in Europe, discussions continued over dinner with rapporteurs at each table; I was the rapporteur for the table 6.
Belgium’s strongly globalized economy and its transport infrastructure are integrated with the rest of Europe. Its location at the heart of a highly industrialized region helped make it the world’s 15th largest trading nation in 2007. The economy is characterized by a highly productive work force, a high GNP and high exports per capita. Belgium’s main imports are raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, and oil products. Main exports include machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, and foodstuffs.
The Belgian economy is heavily service-oriented and shows a dual nature: a dynamic Flemish economy and a Walloon economy that lags behind. One of the founding members of the European Union, Belgium strongly supports an open economy and the extension of the powers of EU institutions to integrate member economies. Since 1922, through the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, Belgium and Luxembourg have been a single trade market with a customs and currency union.
Belgium experiences some of the most congested traffic in Europe. In 2010, commuters to the cities of Brussels and Antwerp spent respectively 65 and 64 hours a year in traffic jams. Like in most small European countries, more than 80% of the air traffic is handled by a single airport, the Brussels airport. The ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge share more than 80% of Belgian maritime traffic, Antwerp being the second European harbour with a gross weight of goods handled of 115,988,000 in 2000 after a growth of 10.9% over the preceding five years.
Serving as the centre of administration for Europe, Brussels’ economy is largely service-oriented. It is dominated by regional and world headquarters of multinationals, by European institutions, by various administrations, and by related services, though it does have a number of notable craft industries, such as the Cantillon Brewery, a Lambic brewery founded in 1900.
Brussels has a robust economy. Its GDP per capita is nearly double that of Belgium as a whole, and it has the highest GDP per capita of any NUTS 1 region in the European Union at €62,000 in 2011. That being said, the GDP is boosted by a massive inflow of commuters from neighbouring regions; over half of those who work in Brussels live in Flanders or Wallonia, with 230,000 and 130,000 commuters per day respectively. Not all of the wealth generated in Brussels remains in Brussels itself, and as of December 2013 the unemployment among residents of Brussels was 20.4%.
The United States has maintained diplomatic relations with the European Union and its forerunners since 1953, when David E. Bruce was appointed US Observer to the Interim Committee of the European Defense Community (EDC) and US Representative to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The US Mission to the ECSC formally opened in Luxembourg in 1956. Institutional changes brought about by the 1957 Treaties of Rome (which created the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community, EURATOM) led to the establishment in 1961 of the US Mission to the European Communities in Brussels.
Landing in Brussels at about 10 a.m., I took a taxi from the airport with Recep Bildik, the Director of the Istanbul Stock Exchanges Private Market. After half an hour’s drive, I was at the EBAN Headquarters with our dear President Candace Johnson, and EBAN’s super team – Ana, Pablo, Jacoppo, Emmanuele, Juan and Ivan. Around 1.30 p.m. we went to the US Embassy. Following a short welcome reception, the event started with the opening speech by Anthony Luzzatto Gardner, the US Ambassador to the EU, and we immediately moved on to the panels:
Panel I: Broadening Europe’s Capital Markets & Stimulating Alternative Financing
The proposed EU Capital Markets Union (CMU) seeks to broaden Europe’s capital markets as well as to move towards a more integrated pan-European market for capital.
Regulatory fragmentation needs to be addressed to develop a single market for capital in Europe. Today, many of the successful European start-ups move to the United States to grow and take advantage of the more liquid debt and equity capital markets. The European Commission has requested feedback on proposals, including the creation of a European private placement market for debt and equity, changes to the Prospectus Directive, and facilitation of high-quality securitization.
- What can be done at the EU level and by US and European investors to broaden the instruments available, particularly to innovative, high-growth firms?
- What must be done to facilitate the development of Europe’s debt and equity capital markets?
- What role can intermediaries such as crowdfunding platforms play?
- Is there a need to stimulate other forms of alternative financing?
Moderator: Peter Spiegel, The Financial Times
Panel II Facilitating the Growth of Ventures in Europe
Much effort has been made in the United States and Europe in recent years to encourage the creation of start-ups. Incubators, accelerators, seed funds and early-stage market players on both sides of the Atlantic have helped to catalyse a stronger entrepreneurial culture. With Europe’s priority being jobs and growth, entrepreneurship is high on the agenda. Young, innovative firms are significant job creators, but ventures need to scale in order to be sustainable engines of growth.
- What can be done to support the scaling of start-ups and innovative, young firms?
- How can the EU support the further development of venture capital and angel investment?
- What role can US and European corporations play in facilitating the creation and scaling of start-ups? What can be done to boost the flow of institutional investment into venture capital?
- What might be the implications of the Digital Single Market on facilitating financing and growth of firms?
Moderator: Stephen Fidler, The Wall Street Journal
After the panels, Karen Wilson, Senior Fellow of Brueghel, gave a summary of the discussions followed by a presentation by Jyri Katainen, European Commission Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. After a short cocktail, we discussed the findings of the panel discussions over dinner. I do not want to reveal the findings of the panels here because I want you to think about the questions listed within the abstracts of each panel. But I will put the whole findings a few weeks later here.
Findings of panels comiming soon
The closing remarks of the event were made by Ambassador Gardner and the rapporteurs. Here I will share with you the letter our table decided to write to the EU. I included it in my closing remarks:
- Please reduce decision-making times.
- Please start supporting entrepreneurship actively instead of simply talking about it.
- Please recruit commissioners in Brussels who have experience starting and failing in businesses.
- Please bring better tax incentives for angel investors.
- Please make equity investment simple.
- Please move from grants to equity and share the risk.
- Please create a favourable ecosystem for start-ups.
- Please trust more in Europe and go for a more European approach.
- Please become positive and develop your communication skills.
- Please, in order to foster the entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem in Europe, resolve the EU membership issue of Turkey.
With our best wishes from the US EmbassyJ
Ari, Leslie, Oliver, Tom, Daniel, John & Baybars
Ambassador Gardner and the invitees enjoyed the 10th item of our letter very much. Regarding this request, Peter Jungen, Emeritus President of EBAN and President of Germany’s Peter Jungen Holding, approached me with a comment, ‘Number 10 is OK but only on one condition!’
Anyone who wants to learn this one condition of Mr Jungen, please find me in an event or give me a call and I’ll tell you his conditionJ
After dinner, Jacoppo – the marketing manager of EBAN – took Candace Johnson, Ari Korhonen and me to Eindhoven, where EBAN would hold their 15th Annual Congress. It was a lovely 2-hour drive from Brussels, during which time we were able to test the driving skill of JacobboJ and discuss the outcomes of the event.
Here are some additional resources:
- The European Commission’s recently-announced Investment Plan for Europe.
- The European Commission’s Green Paper on building a Capital Markets Union.
- A European Commission staff working document with initial reflections on the obstacles to the development of deep and integrated EU capital markets.
- The European Commission’s consultation document on the review of the Prospectus Directive.
- The European Commission’s Communication on Crowdfunding.
A hearty ‘thank you’ goes out to Ambassador Gardner and to EBAN President Candace Johnson for one of the best-organised and best-focused events I have ever attended.