By Ruud De Jonge

Look at the glass – what do you see?  Is it half full?  Is it half empty?  To a lot of start-ups, neither matter because they see a third way. Maybe they can do something totally different with the glass and on a big scale.  And it is this ‘out of the box’ thinking that is behind a whole new generation of start-ups, who if we give them a chance, could bring revenue into Europe and create jobs.

Despite economic conditions, we are in the midst of an unprecedented period of technology innovation.  Technology is revolutionising the way that consumers and businesses innovate, work, play, learn, think and communicate on a massive scale.

And that is proving to be a big catalyst for European start-ups to launch use the latest technologies, clever business models and to make an impact.  In fact, small businesses are arguably in a stronger position, because they can be more agile and flexible, whereas big established companies may be hindered by legacy processes, technologies and thinking. 

For example, all the time I’m seeing small businesses build solutions in the cloud that disrupt the status quo.  Using cloud, these start-ups can ‘dream big’ from day one and can go from idea to global launch and revenue generation in a much shorter time period than previously possible.  Take for instance the two BizSpark start-ups at our CIC Conference:  Atomblock’s Electronic Software Distribution platform means that even small games publishers can sell online, without big up-front investment.  MailTalk’s clever solution overcomes the problem of having lots of separate communications tools by integrating them in one place.

But innovative technology doesn’t make business easy.  We have a collective responsibility to help new entrepreneurs to build tomorrow’s economies.   We need to foster innovation by giving start-ups easy access to technology and support, plus help them find funding and customers.

That’s why I’m passionate about some of the initiatives within Microsoft, such as DreamSpark and Imagine Cup, which are both aimed at students.  Our BizSpark program gives start-ups free access to technology, support and visibility for up to three years.

Of course we are not alone and some other technology companies, plus governments and academia are increasingly waking up to the need to nurture those people who have the vision and courage to start their own companies.

It is often said that some of the most successful companies of the past three decades were started during a period of recession.  Whether or not that is true, there is no doubt that Europe’s economy needs to help today’s bright sparks to become tomorrow’s technology leaders.