All through Europe the volume and quality of support available for entrepreneurs and start-ups is increasing. It takes different shapes, comes from different sources and what it offers varies enormously – money, guidance, somewhere to work, a network to be a part of, and personal development for founders.
If any founder or entrepreneur said yes to everything offered in many European cities they would spend 27 hours a day networking, in workshops or pitching. It is therefore important to evaluate what it is that you and your company need – and then spend the time finding the best quality provision for you. This might mean visiting and meeting others involved, trying out some of what they offer or simply sitting down with them and having a frank and open conversation. Importantly, most needs can be catered for, but investing time in finding the right fit is critical as otherwise the effort can sometimes outweigh the benefit.
Common across Europe is the presence of Universities and within them the desire to encourage and support entrepreneurs and start-ups. The manifestation of this desire does vary, but almost everywhere it is improving and being invested in locally, nationally and at a European level. So it is a good place to start. Here are some of the ways Universities can support and partner you:
Many will have a department that run workshops, training sessions, pitching events, and networking opportunities. Make sure you are on the radar of the staff so they can keep an eye out for opportunities specific for you too. Attend some of the provision that is right for you and see if it is helpful. Remember to always give honest feedback, it is vital that the people designing and delivering the provision know what works and how they can improve!
The core of a University is the academic work it does and the research it carries out. This means there are many academics, great facilities and people with skills and experience at the cutting edge of many different fields. It is increasingly common that part of their responsibility is to work with outside organisations – like start-ups so that their research is put to use. If you are able to clearly articulate what you need, ask if there is someone that can support you. No harm in asking.
On top of enterprise provision, many accelerators are housed at a University. They can provide a full programme with added value from the wider University community. Make sure you research all the accelerators available but include these ones!
Whatever you need
If you know what it is that you need, do not be afraid to ask. Especially if you are an alumnus of a University they can be very helpful. This process is also useful for being clear about what specifically you need and for what reason. Then when anybody asks if they can help – you can answer straight away with the right answers.
We end with a simple message, actively define what support it is that you need and always tell people about it, you can’t know how they might be able to help. When you know what you need go and speak to a University, ideally one you have a connection with, they are as good a place to start as any!