Connecting businesses across borders
At Euclid Network we have been matching social entrepreneurs across borders for many years. As the latest phase of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme (Feb 2017 – Aug 2018) draws to a close, we’ve taken a look back at where we’ve got to.
What did we do?
Along with our eight partners from around Europe (as part of the SEEDPlus consortium), in the last 18 months we have:
- Promoted Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs at 111 events around Europe, and received approximately 750 applications from 8 countries
- Welcomed 240 new candidates onto the programme — 130 new entrepreneurs, 110 host entrepreneurs. Of those recruited, 60% are under the age of 35. 25% are social entrepreneurs, approximately 20% work in technology and 20% in the creative industry.
- Matched 330 people, enabling 165 exchanges to take place between host and new entrepreneurs
165 exchanges: so what?
We sent a survey to the entrepreneurs managed by our consortium and had responses from 28 ‘new entrepreneurs’ (NEs) and 38 host entrepreneurs.
- 25 NEs (89%) said their match was successful
- 34 hosts (89%) said their match was successful
But what does ‘success’ mean, exactly? Digging deeper, we found:
- 40% of hosts said the NE contributed “significantly” to the development of their business (another 37% said they made a noticeable contribution). For example, Arno (from Latvia) was hosted by Adrian, the co-founder of Evolve Wellness Centre in the UK. Arno suggested radical changes to the way Adrian markets his business online, and with his social media marketing experience, he helped Adrian to substantially increase the company’s Instagram and Facebook engagement.
- 60% of hosts said they developed ideas to improve their company; 58% that they gained knowledge of new markets; 66% that they gained knowledge of new methods.
- 47% of hosts plan to help their NE in future. Andreas (UK) and Daniella (Sweden), for instance, continued to work together after their exchange on community participation and public space ideas.
- 68% of NEs said the host contributed significantly to the development of their business. For example, new entrepreneur Polly from the UK spent three months with Mariana’s co-working and culture space in Lisbon, gaining new contacts, improved communication skills, and new international funding opportunities, as well as support to develop her business plan. Polly describes it as a “life-changing experience”.
- 89% of NEs said the exchange had contributed to their ambitions to start a business; for most, the exchange had influenced their thoughts on marketing and on when to actually start the business. Some also rethought their products or services.
You can read more success stories from previous matches on our blog post here.
Our thanks to all those who participated in the survey.
So what have we learned from all of this? From the survey responses above as well as informal feedback we’ve had throughout the process, we’ve gained some useful insights in how to best connect businesspeople across borders:
1) For both parties get something tangible from the exchange, they need to have very clear goals beforehand. For us as coordinators, that means helping entrepreneurs to formulate quantitative and qualitative expected outcomes very early on in the matching process.
2) There are benefits to pushing new entrepreneurs a little out of their comfort zone, by visiting an unknown country. Many new entrepreneurs ignore (willingly or unwillingly) options to travel to Central or Eastern Europe – but, for example, a tech start-up could learn so much in Estonia; a business focused on refugee integration should really look at initiatives in the Balkans and in Greece. We’ve had some really successful exchanges where new entrepreneurs have ended up in unexpected locations – and loved it.
3) In selecting host entrepreneurs, we need to ensure they have an interest and some experience of business coaching, and that they use the exchange to develop this further.
4) In monitoring exchanges, we also need to make sure that alongside everything else, the two entrepreneurs also spend enough time looking at the new entrepreneur’s business plan. For many new and aspiring business owners, this feedback and improvement to their business plan is a really valuable outcome.
Erasmus for (Young) Entrepreneurs
This EU-funded programme brings together experienced and new/aspiring entrepreneurs to learn from each other. At Euclid Network, we lead a consortium (SEEDPlus) focusing on social, creative and tech enterprises.
Gathering to Grow: 6-7 December
On 6-7 December 2018 we’re hosting a hands-on, social enterprise-focused meetup for alumni from the Erasmus for Entrepreneurs programme, as well as other social entrepreneurs, investors and support networks from across Europe. Keep an eye on our website for details and registration info.