Startup Manifesto

The European Startup Manifesto is a document outlining 22 actions, which combined, should “increase the chances of success” for flourishing and already established technology businesses in Europe.

The document itself calls all stakeholders to share their views and opinions. Here, I state mine about four particular points.

Make it easy for companies to hire outside their home countries.

Four years ago, bringing talent from outside the EU was not easy, but doable. Today is almost impossible for companies to hire non-EU residents. It’s a long, bureaucratic process with close to none odds of success, so most companies don’t even bother trying.

But if developers don’t come to you, you should approach them. There’s a massive amount of talent in countries like Poland, Romania and Czech Republic, to name a few, where the cost of living is lower compared to the rest of Europe and could be very attractive for start-ups to establish technology bases or satellite offices there. Paying above average salaries, getting top-notch talent, keeping costs low and reducing burn rate.

I wonder why these countries have not taken further steps in that direction, they just stare perplex and watch the brain-drain.

Make it easier for companies to let employees go.

This could be a good thing for start-ups, but we are not there yet. What can you do? Improve your hiring process, customize it to your needs so the employee turn over rate decreases. No one has mastered the interview process and no one will.

In the US, is not uncommon to see up to $20K sign up or referral bonuses. Set that money apart for the worst-case. That is, if you need to pay an under-performing employee his or her severance package. There are no sign-up fees in Europe, establish a sign-out fee instead, but keep it to yourself. It’s the cost of doing business, if you do it well, you won’t have to pay.

Take risks, don’t be afraid to hire someone you are not 100% sure about hiring. As long as your recruiting process is good, the false positives should be minimal.

Re-structure your engineering team so that if people is needed to let go, the impact on productivity be minimal. You don’t need more than 4 months to know if someone is a good fit for the company. Hire fast, but fire faster.

Tax share options as capital gains, not income.

Regarding talent acquisition this is a non-problem. Why? Because ownership sharig in Europe is not as common as in the US.

Like the rest of the manifesto, this particular point is written with top management and founding members in mind. But what about the rest of the people? European start-ups need to be kind and give back. Set aside employee options when building your company, as much as you can. With time, this will become an important decisive factor for potential employers to invest in you.

The tax burden and legal fees in which companies have to incur to share the wealth is also significant. I don’t see that particular point in the manifesto, but is something that could also be considered.

Our cultures celebrate celebrities and athletes, musicians and actors. Entrepreneurs who make a real impact on peoples’ livelihoods need to be celebrated too.

Please, NO! Focus on your job, make your actions speak louder than your words. If you are doing it well, you’ll get there. Create wealth, well-being, innovate, change the world, but don’t aim to be a rock star from the beginning. That’s the wrong order of doing things.