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A new entity called the European Startup Nations Alliance (ESNA) has been set up to help its members commit to ensuring that their startups have the best conditions to grow at every stage of their cycle.

Launched by the European Union under the Council Presidency of Portugal, the new entity will support the efforts of 26 member states, along with Iceland, to become a “startup nation”. This means a nation which seeks to encourage the nurturing of a friendly environment for start-ups and entrepreneurs to grow within the European Union.

ESNA will do this through sharing of best practices, as set out in the EU Startup Nations Standard (SNS), which was signed earlier this year on EU Digital Day. It will also provide technical support to countries to concretely implement changes, and monitor their progress.

The newly set up entity also support countries that hold the rotating European Council Presidency. It will do this via the ‘ESNA Presidency Board’ which ensures ESNA can align its actions with the priorities of rotating presidencies.

ESNA will work closely with the 27 European countries that have signed up to the EU SNS and support them in implementing the eight underpinning standards:

  1. fast startup creation and smooth market entry (e.g. setting up a new company within one day);
  2. attracting and retaining talent (e.g. an accelerated visa process for tech talent from outside the EU);
  3. stock options (e.g. no taxes for stock options before being cashed in);
  4. innovation in regulation (e.g. regulatory sandboxes allowing startups to experiment);
  5. innovation procurement (e.g. removing administrative impediments that would put startups at a disadvantage);
  6. access to finance (e.g. increasing the amount and diversity of growth capital);
  7. social inclusion, diversity and protecting democratic values (e.g. incentives to hire on diversity of gender, ethnicity, age and religion);
  8. digital-first (e.g. all interactions between authorities and startups via digital interfaces).

The signing was held live at the Web Summit, a flagship tech event organised in Lisbon, Portugal. It was officiated by the Portuguese Minister for the Economy Pedro Siza Vieira.

Portugal has been making overtures to tech startups in recent years, with Lisbon, in particular, having the ambition to become a “unicorn factory”, according to Carlos Moedas, its recently elected mayor and former EU Innovation Commissioner.

Maltese Minister for the Economy and Industry Silvio Schembri attended the launch of the Alliance,

During his intervention, Minister Schembri outlined that Malta is committed to implementing these best practices and the promotion of an entrepreneurial environment, as start-ups and scale-ups are key to Europe’s future economy and society.

The Minister also commended the work undertaken by Malta’s economic development agency Malta Enterprise through its Start in Malta initiative, which contributes to the supercharging of the Maltese startup ecosystem, firmly establishing it as the hotbed of several more startup success stories.

Minister Schembri also encouraged other member states to promote and implement tech standards and encouraged them to delve into the work carried out by the Malta Digital Innovation Authority. Earlier this year, the Authority established a technological sandbox aimed at guiding start-ups and SMEs to build a trustworthy tech arrangement in line with international tech standards.

Minister Schembri concluded his intervention by lauding Portugal and the EU Commission on the establishment of this alliance as, by coordinating efforts, more companies and entrepreneurs can flourish in the European Union.

Following the meeting, Minister Schembri attended the Web Summit to officially launch the alliance in the presence of several tech companies and start-ups which have travelled to Portugal to attend this event.

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