(Editor’s note: this is an opinion piece published by multiple signatories from across the European tech industry, which are named at the bottom of this article.)
A few days before the launch of the movement 'Tech4Values' in San Francisco by emblematic European entrepreneurs, BlaBlaCar co-founder and co-president of France Digitale, Frédéric Mazzella, explains its vision of the European tech scene and its capacity to attract top talent through purpose-driven startups.
In European tech, purpose has become a powerful differentiator.
Consumers and tech talent alike are demanding companies to think about more than commercial success. In January, the World Economic Forum in Davos hit international headlines with impact topics and put purpose-driven leadership and climate responsibility at the front and centre of the conversation.
Today, the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands are home to the highest number of purpose-driven tech companies in Europe, and know that to solve the biggest problems, we must be able to attract the best people in the world. We believe that purpose-driven technologies have proven to be profitable and are increasingly attractive to investors and, more importantly, to top talent.
Leading purpose-driven policy and innovation
Europe is a global trendsetter on tech and environmental regulations. Last November the European Investment Bank (EIB) proposed significant change so as to become the “climate bank” of the European Union. Half of the institution’s lending will be allocated to climate and environmental sustainability related projects by 2025. The EIB agreeing to phase out its multibillion-euro financing for fossil fuels within the next two years sends a clear message to the world: Europe is at the heart of this transformation.
European regulations increasingly affect how business is conducted and what consumers expect. Legislations such as REACH (chemicals) and GDPR (privacy) contribute indirectly as benefiting companies’ brand values in the long run and act as a major driver of innovation. In the Tech scene, European entrepreneurs seek greater transparency and a more privacy-driven approach to create trust and boost consumer confidence in technology.
European founders are trying to solve some of the world's most endemic challenges, achieving transformative impact on environment, health issues, inclusion and other imperatives of our generation outlined in the UN SDGs and Europe’s new Green Deal. Some of the most promising recent startups were born to respond to European common preoccupations, values and lifestyles.
Would companies such as BlaBlaCar (carpooling), BackMarket (refurbished electronics), Olio (anti-waste community) or Vestiaire Collective (pre-owned fashion) have been as successful if they were launched in the US or China?
The success of these companies “Made in Europe” is probably related to a strong European DNA that drives purpose-driven founders to create businesses that echo the concerns of their European customers.
Top talent want meaning
It’s a very good moment for talents to join the European tech scene. In today’s economic environment, people pursue jobs and careers that matter to them. Millennials are likely to stay at a company for longer if they’re satisfied with that company’s mission. Тhe latest State Of European Tech report by Atomico shows that only 14% of founders don't believe that societal and environmental impact it's relevant for their company.
We know that startups who have a clear purpose-driven mission also have easier time recruiting and retaining the best talent. As major startup organizations, we are excited to see entrepreneurs driving a more sustainable, more resilient, truly long-term approach to better business, society and the environment: what we call Tech4Values.
And the good news is that money is following this trend.
The number of deals involving purpose-driven European tech companies has been increasing steadily over the past five years as VCs have demonstrated greater concern about the potential societal or environmental impact of their portfolios. There is greater focus than ever before from investors and consumers alike on sustainability.
An example being the French insect farming startup Ynsect which raised $125 million in Series C funding in 2019; the largest early-stage agtech funding deal on record in Europe. We believe that the Old Continent can take a leading position in development and investment in the ethical use of technology.
Talent is the major fuel of this new approach. Tech associations and entrepreneurs in Europe believe that the combination of our values and the relentless commitment to solve environmental and societal issues, makes Europe the attractive alternative to international talents looking for purpose.
To support this, European countries are adopting startup-friendly regulations - such as better ways to offer company stock to employees and Tech Visas. This could turn out to be a game changer for Europe and the planet. These small changes are leading us to compete with US rivals and global corporations in attracting the brightest talents to join us.
Frédéric Mazzella, BlaBlaCar founder & Co-President of France Digitale
Christian Miele, German Startups Association
Nils Beers, TechLeap
Pierre-Charles Grob, D-EDGE
Stanislas Niox-Château, Doctolib
Florent Malbranche, Brigad
Thibaud Hug de Larauze, Back Market
Eric La Bonnardière, Evaneos
Florian Douetteau, Dataiku
Bertrand Fleurose, Cityscoot
Philippe de Chanville, ManoMano
Axel Dauchez, Make.org
Image credit: Pixabay