New generation: Future is in the palm of our hands
Before this great adventure called "StartupDelta" took off, we published an article about the startup mindset in Digital Minds for a New Europe. This whole publication breathed the beginning of a transformative era, sparked by a new way of thinking. It is above all this mindset combined with technological opportunities, which makes this decade the beginning of a transformative era. A transformation which will be decisive and will develop even further, far beyond what we would now perceive as possible. This evolution is initiated by a new generation and facilitated by technology. It is about the ways the new generation uses technological advancement; integrate it into their lives and developing it even further. Their world is mobile and hand-held, every single second of the day, so to say. It defines the way how they perceive the world, communicate to others and add things to it. They build their future on connectivity. It is about a generation that knows how to organise and take control of their own lives. How to make and create. How to reinvent themselves.
It is a generation that aims to solve things and wants to find new ways. It is a generation that thinks across borders, not only geographically, but also when it is about diversity, social inclusion, climate change or the future of technology. They literally hold the future in the palm of their hands and feel the urge to shape it.
Connectivity is what defines the new generation. They stay in touch with everyone and everything. Therefor: our future is not about the Internet of Things, because that is pretty much a limited outlook on life. We don’t want our future to be reduced to what objects do. Our future is about the Mobile Internet of Everyone. Our future is continuously defined by connectivity and what we do with it. The generation between 14 and 33 is the globally connected generation.
The upcoming generation is different in many ways: They are not interested in a job for life and devoting their lives to one employer who decides on their career path. They explore and establish their career paths themselves, by creating their own employment or changing jobs every 3 years. They are the mobile generation in many ways. And they don’t want borders or other limitations which hold them back from doing this.
This generation is denouncing old fashioned ideas of capitalism and possession, simply because technology is making them redundant. And they really don’t understand why legislation is preventing them from using and creating these new opportunities. Or why it takes three years or longer to test a new product and legalise it. This generation is about sharing and joining. They are the generation that is creating the sharing economy and society. And they want to do it overnight, because technology is making this possible.
This generation is not interested in strengthening vested interests and aiming to work themselves into a dominant position within the old systems, which are based on hierarchy and many layers of decision making. They want to develop the new models themselves, based on technology, which just ignore the old stakeholders and the vested interests. This generation is about defining the pace of innovation in society and economy rapidly. They reject multi-layered and control-based bureaucracy.
Furthermore and even more important: They don’t need politicians to take control. They want politicians to give them the freedom to take control themselves. Those will be the politicians they will vote for. They don’t want policy telling them what not to do. They want policy which creates space.
This generation also doesn’t need violence or hierarchal dominance to change the world. They want to change it with ideas, solutions and out-of-the-box thinking. They are willing and capable of reinventing themselves and connecting with others. And by doing this, overcoming polarisation and making it obsolete.
This younger generation is interested in diversity, because it creates more opportunities for everyone, new insights and establishes a smarter and involved community as a whole. When we look around ourselves, and this is not rocket science, how society is build up: male – female; black – white; old and young, we need to diversify. It is simply unacceptable and socially indigestible that decision making is still in the hands of just one very small part of society.
Diversity means ‘broadening your scope’. There is no longer a discussion if one can ‘multi-task’ or just focus on one goal at a time. The reality is that when you are connected, and when you are an ‘experienced connector’, you can handle any idea, influence, topic and contact at the same time and work with it. The connected generation holds the power about what to do with their lives. What Steve Jobs called ‘connecting the dots’ was just the beginning. Girls and boys in school are now continuously connecting digital information and knowing more about the world, weeks (if ever) before the teacher has brought it into the classroom. This generation deserves to be educated in developing digital skills, including coding, which will help them even more to create and take control over their lives and future jobs. And it will make sure that society will not be divided in the digital have’s and have not’s.
Beyond Google and Silicon Valley
The most frequently asked questions, when it is about startups, scale-ups and startup ecosystems, are: Why don’t we have a European Google? And: “How can we get a European Silicon Valley”. The answers are simple. We don’t, won’t and shouldn’t.
First of all, Europe, including the Netherlands has a lot more to offer than “silicon”. Our fastest growing scale-ups have a life science and bioscience background. Think of Dezima Pharma and Acerta. Furthermore, we have scale-ups like Elastic or Adyen that can compete with the potential of a Google, but on their own terms, which is a much better choice. The future is much more about cross-overs in tech, like IT and pharma or agriculture and IT. We have leading industries and universities in those fields and amazing startups and scale-ups.
Even more importantly: Copying makes you look at the past. All the platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have already moved into the next phase, which is all about investing in verticals. E-Health, Mobility, Energy, Cyber Security, FinTech, you name it. By using the technology and vast amounts of data they have required with these free platforms, they can now use the platforms and the data to develop and improve new services in economic sectors. So copying a Google or a Facebook is a backward strategy, because by the time we have accomplished it (if it happens) we are already years behind. Developing new business models on these verticals, which are based on platform thinking and data, would be a much better approach. In a way, this was spelled out to us during the Startup Fest Europe by Tim Cook, Eric Schmidt and Travis Kalanick. And some of us still keep asking why don’t we have a European Google or Tesla? We are really gazing in the wrong direction when asking these questions. Let’s wake up and speed up our efforts. Let’s use the energy and power of the connected generation and see what is already going on in Europe. Identify new opportunities and make these work for this generation at triple speed. Use the strengths within the European ecosystem with corporates, startups, investors and academia.
Recently one of the top CEO’s in Silicon Valley said that as a startup you didn’t need to come to the Valley any more. Things have become too expensive. However, he did recommend the scale ups to come over, especially since there is a lot of funding available. This is exactly what Europe should do now: make large funds available for scale ups to grow in Europe. Again: this is not rocket science. It is the most sensible thing to do to for investors, especially institutional investors. This is where the establishment can step in to helping to shape the future of this continent.
StartupDelta Model: linking up, changing the system and creating impact
With StartupDelta we aimed to foster this digitally driven startup-mindset in The Netherlands and to create a movement, instead of an organisation. Connectivity became the first priority. We didn’t want to develop another bureaucratic layer, which coordinates, controls and makes itself indispensable. We aimed to be a startup that energizes others to connect and to scale-up together. That is also why Neelie requested the Minister of Economic Affairs to let her be independent from the government for a period of 1 1/2 years and she received his full trust in developing her own way of working to boost the Dutch startup ecosystem.
StartupDelta started from her vision that the Netherlands has everything it takes, but that the ecosystem needed to cooperate much better within One Single Hub, raise the level of ambition and visibility and, last but not least: take Risks! And finally, appreciate failure as an important part of the learning curve.
With this vision we involved the change makers, the out-of-the-box thinkers and challenged them to take responsibility to move things forward. We involved the stakeholders – or better, they involved themselves enthusiastically -: corporates, universities, government and investors to start new initiatives and connected them to each other to speed up the learning curve. We searched for even more positive energy and were continuously amazed by the vast amount of great ideas of people, top notch quality of technology and all the inspiration we received. Together with all these people and our team, we created StartupDelta and the results which you can find in this paper.
What we have learned is that being a startup and starting from scratch with a limited budget, is a fascinating 24/7 hell of a job. Starting from scratch is also a very good way to invent yourself, to understand what startups go through and fight for your added value to earn your right to exist. If you are part of an established organisation the reason for existence almost becomes self-evident. It is a comfort-zone, which is probably the biggest hurdle for change and innovation. Success can only be continued if you evolve into the next phase.
The Netherlands is in the top 5 of many leading rankings, varying from WEF to OECD and of course Compass. The biggest challenge for the Netherlands is probably a cultural one: to skip modesty; profile ourselves globally; see digital skills, including coding as a necessity to the future of your children and not as an extra administrative burden in education; cut the red tape and bureaucracy; celebrate each other’s success and inspire each other to bring things to a top level in new fields; let diversity flourish, invest massively in scaling up and embrace failure. This country can easily be brought to the next level if we change the mindset. Let the younger connected generation lead the older one in this.
We wish our successors Constantijn van Oranje, Henriette van Notten, their team and the Dutch innovation hubs all the success, fun and inspiration to bring this great Dutch startup ecosystem to the next level!