What happens at an "internationalisation bootcamp" for entrepreneurs?
You have an idea, you find a team, you work hard and you make it come to life with late hours, sweat and tears. Your startup is finally on the market, it picks up, it’s growing… But suddenly, you don’t know where to direct that growth anymore. The borders of your country seem too tight, you need to expand… However, you have no idea how to do that.
It is no secret that, compared to American startups, European entrepreneurs have access to a smaller pool of potential customers. Therefore, they need to think about internationalisation early on to exploit their growth as best as possible and avoid slowing it down too soon. That is no easy task: in fact, every European country has its own language, customs, habits, even laws – despite the efforts made by the EU to create a seamless environment for startups to grow within. Entrepreneurs need guidance, they need suggestions from experts in the country they want to internationalise to.
The Jean-Baptiste Say Institute for Entrepreneurship of ESCP Business School saw that gap, that need, and created a Startup Internationalisation Bootcamp with the Blue Factory, ESCP’s very own startup incubator. As one of the most renowned European business schools (ranked 8th in Europe by the Financial Times) and having six campuses across the continent, ESCP is uniquely positioned to provide entrepreneurs with connections and help them overcome the challenges of internationalisation. Within ESCP, the Jean-Baptiste Say Institute is dedicated to not only empowering the entrepreneurs of tomorrow but also helping the entrepreneurs of today thrive. As of today, the Blue Factory startup incubator has headquarters both in the Paris and the Berlin campuses of ESCP Business School, with the opening of a Turin office currently under discussion. ESCP is, in other words, a large European network of professors, students, alumni and professionals - so it seemed only natural that the Blue Factory would organise a Startup Internationalisation Bootcamp for interested entrepreneurs.
The first edition of the Bootcamp (27-28 October 2021) focused on four of the main European startup ecosystems: Germany, France, Italy and Spain. More than 20 selected startups had the chance to meet professionals from these countries and get advice on their next growth move, along with different market-specific insights. The main goal of the event was to provide young entrepreneurs with tools to enter foreign markets, as well as a network of mentors to support them in doing that.
The first connection that Blue Factory wanted to provide its guests with, was that with the software house 10Clouds. In some startup ecosystems (such as the German one), it is extremely complicated to find software engineers to build an MVP. In these cases, it can be helpful to rely on international help: Urszula Wawrzeniuk, Head of Product Development, and Anna Rogowska, Key Account Manager and Team Lead at 10Clouds, Agile Software House, conducted an interactive workshop to explain the pros and cons of such a choice.
The following day, country-specific workshops gave particular insights to the listening startups. For each startup ecosystem, the participants were able to connect with at least two professionals in the field (e.g. Philipp Kövener and Danny Stephens for Germany, Susana Jurado and Fernando Moroy for Spain, and so on: find out more here), get information on where and how to access financial support in a given country, and gather precious suggestions on what to do and not to do in a specific environment. For example, our guest speaker Nicola Lambert (Investment Manager at Oltre Venture, Italy) suggested internationalising in Italy only after having a stable starting point in another country. In fact, he pointed out that financing a startup in Italy is extremely complicated, but that there is huge growth potential in the startup and SME market.
The Startup Internationalisation Bootcamp fully met and even exceeded our objectives. All participating startups were not only able to connect with mentors and gather precious information about how to best internationalise but they also connected with each other, finding potential allies to partner with.
Internationalisation is a journey, and one which many European entrepreneurs will embark on at some point in the effort to grow their business. Committed to helping entrepreneurs seize this unique opportunity in the European startup ecosystem, the Blue Factory and Say Institute plan on hosting a second edition of the Startup Internationalisation Bootcamp in 2022. Follow the Blue Factory and the Jean Baptiste Say Institute on LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on the next edition.
Special thanks to Ronja Kirschning and Emma Laurent for their contributions to this article.