Chasing the unicorn

An area of converted textile factories in London’s East-End is now known as Tech City and is the largest concentration of technology start-ups in Europe. Despite its prohibitive prices, the British capital has managed to become a favourable environment for young businesses. Setting up a company is easy, investors benefit of generous tax reliefs and innovation is bolstered by universities like the Imperial College. Plus, the financial centre hosts most European venture capital firms.

If London stands out, entrepreneurship is blossoming in the rest of Europe too. “In Portugal the start-up scene is taking off , perhaps because in a country with few employment opportunities, creating is better than waiting,” says Carlos Espinal, partner at Seedcamp, a fund in London that supports businesses early growth. “In Eastern Europe it is socially
less appealing to work in a small and new company than in a large corporation. But every country is waking up at the opportunity,” he adds.

According to Roland Berger, a German consultancy, in the first 6 months of 2015 start-ups in Europe have raised the equivalent of US$ 6.9 billion, an increase of 86 % compared to the same period in 2014. London and Berlin lead the way. Amsterdam, Stockholm, Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Helsinki, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Tallinn and Warsaw are all runners-up.

For entrepreneurs, start-ups are often synonymous for cutting-edge technology, disruption of markets and aspiration to do good. For investors, they mean risking on new ventures in the hope to find the unicorn, the label given to companies valued more than US$ 1 billion. As the name suggests, the creature is rare but there are well-known examples: Uber and Airbnb in the US, Spotify in Sweden, Blablacar in France and SoundCloud in Germany. Just not one in the renewable energy sector yet…

This article on how to set up a start-up in the energy sector was published on Sun & Wind Energy – English and German issues – in May 2016. The publications are available on subscription. Image: Domenichino, The Virgin with the Unicorn, 1604 – 1605, Fresco, Farnese Palace, Rome, via Wikimedia Commons.