For the next edition of Entrepreneurs Days on 9 October, the House of Entrepreneurship will welcome Zev Siegl, one of three Starbucks co-founders, as its keynote speaker. Today, Starbucks boasts some 30,000 stores in 78 countries--not to mention $25bn in revenue. And it all began as a humble startup.
This edition is bound to be a success, if the figures for 2018 hold up: according to the House of Entrepreneurship, last year’s Entrepreneurs Days welcomed over 1,030 attendees--well over their initial target of 600.
But events are just one of the services provided by the House of Entrepreneurship. As its entrepreneurship director, Tom Baumert, explained, the mission and skill set of the 30-odd staff members (some 36 if factoring in Nyuko) are quite broad but aim to be a one-stop shop for entrepreneurship, consolidating a number of stakeholders in business creation.
“We had a big company that was here for two days and got appointments, one after the other,” Baumert says, describing one case. The company was able to meet with the Adem jobs agency, Luxinnovation promotion group and others all in the same short timeframe. “They basically got an overview on Luxembourg and in touch with the most important ministries for them, on the same day and same place…that’s something that didn’t exist before.”
Of course, most passing through their doors aren’t such large companies: Baumert states that some 99% of them are SMEs, about half of which are in the process of creation. And, while the House of Entrepreneurship doesn’t provide legal advice or create business plans, it has touchpoints with local partners and incubators, enabling it to serve as a facilitator. “We can bring them together with the right ministries, administrations, semi-public institutions,” Baumert says.
Baumert points out that the term “startup” is not always one which is agreed upon. “I think there’s a problem of understanding, because [some] thought of a startup as a new company, others are talking about startups, as in a startup nation. These are the ones that are more thinking about the unicorns--the Amazons and Facebooks of the world,” he says.
“I would say there are 300 startups in Luxembourg maximum. All the other ones, and we have 4,500 business creations, are traditional businesses.” While traditional businesses can normally approach a bank with a tight business plan and ask for a line of credit, innovative startups are looking for angel investors or venture capital, getting on the stock market, even planning a quick exit strategy and, as Baumert explains, it’s the former types of businesses which are more of their main customers.
While Baumert says he is pleased with what the team is able to offer, they are continuously trying to improve. “One part which is evolving is the viability centre (centre de prévention), helping companies that [are having difficulties]. That’s something we are trying to develop over the course of the year.”
Baumert also cites the Go Digital initiative as a success. Part of their challenge is general awareness-raising among traditional businesses--say, restaurants--in how they can embrace digitalisation, whether through the use of social media, customer relationship or sales management systems or other digital tools. Baumert says their initiative is “very hands-on, with over 7,000 people in our workshops,” adding: “There’s a voucher system behind it with the ministry of the economy to get funding to digitalise the company, and this is really important for us because as a chamber of commerce we are talking about the third industrial revolution, and so on.”
Once again, here the House of Entrepreneurship can point companies to the voucher system, but the implementation lies elsewhere. “We help them know the system and get into it and get basic information about digitalisation, but when it comes to the point really of an implementation phase, there are private actors that can do it better than we do and are specialised to do so.”