Navigator presented a paper entitled "Starting a Web 2.0 dot com in Europe: A Practitioner's Perspective", at the EFMD's Conference on Entrepreneurship which took place in Tallinn, Estonia in February.
This paper explores the background, objectives and achievements of the two entrepreneurs, Philip Ammerman and Pambos Solomonides, in setting up European Consulting Network.
The European Consulting Network provides an online business intelligence and networking platform that solves these and other issues relating to contract management and online collaboration. ECN is an example of process innovation: taking the fragmented, disparate state of information, and transforming into an integrated, structured and accessible content. In innovating at the process level, ECN follows the tracks of other innovators, such as Google, LinkedIn and the EIU, and develops unique innovations relevant to the sector.
A foundation in developing ECN is Metcalfe’s law, which states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users. The system design of ECN had to incorporate Web 2.0 values such as social and professional networking, online collaboration and connectivity, in order for it to be relevant and valuable to its members.
A summary of the main decisions we had to make is seen below: This will serve as a guide to the core part of this paper, illustrating the challenges in process innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe from a practitioner’s perspective.
The first challenge was to decide on a business location for our corporate headquarters. As a small, flexible company comprising 5 staff (2 principals and 3 analysts), the entrepreneurs had the flexibility to host ECN in any of the 27 EU Member States. The two main metrics we used to make a decision were the following:
Ease of Corporate Set-up and Management
Direct and Indirect Taxes
The second basic challenge was to gain financial resources to start the business. Here, choices were extremely limited, and little help was provided by various EU initiatives at the international or national level. The lack of relevant and customised financial support for business start-ups remains an important barrier to entrepreneurship.
The third basic challenge was to contract skilled database and software designers to develop and maintain the platform. This particular service industry offers a global choice.
The fourth, and partially-unresolved challenge, was to protect our intellectual property through patent applications. Here, some progress has been made, but in Europe a complete patent registration is expensive and time-consuming, and totally unsuited to entrepreneurial companies.
The total start-up and launch process (including the complete platform design, testing and launch) took 16 months in elapsed time. Of this, only about 8 months involved intensive, full-time work: the remainder was a start-stop process of dealing with lawyers, banks, software partners, and the myriad other issues which must be dealt with to start a company.