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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 21 March 2013

EU says we should glorify our entrepreneurs:Skype; Spotify and Angry Birds creators advise EU – first stage of "Startup Europe" campaign

Most people think of Silicon Valley in the United States when they think about technology and entrepreneurs – the European Commission wants young Europeans to be inspired by home-grown entrepreneurs, so their bright ideas start and stay in Europe.

With help from the creators of Spotify, Angry Birds, Tuenti, Skype, SeedCamp, HackFwd, London's Tech City and TheNextWeb, the Commission is creating a platform for star entrepreneurs to tell their stories of inspirations and frustration, to wake-up young Europeans and leaders to the potential of entrepreneurial careers.

"Europeans need to be creative and fearless. That's how dozens of the world's most exciting web and tech companies were born in the EU, and I want the world to know it," said Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President, "I want young entrepreneurs to have role models, and for them to have a real digital single market to grow their ideas in."

The Startup Europe Leaders Club is the first part of Startup Europe, the European Commission's 6-part plan to accelerate and connect local entrepreneurship ecosystems in Europe to help tech start-ups to start and grow in Europe and to scale up to a global level.

Members of the Startup Europe Leaders Club are living proof that web entrepreneurship can be a hugely rewarding career. Neelie Kroes said "These people didn't just talk about doing something, they went and did it. That's why young people and leaders should listen to them."

For example, Spotify is now in 23 countries; Skype handles one third of international calls; Angry Birds is bigger than Twitter, with over 250 million monthly active users. And yet our numbers of ICT graduates are falling and our unemployment queues are growing. Entrepreneurs can help us fill these gaps.

The leaders (in alphabetical order, see annex for full biography) are:

  1. Zaryn Denzel, (@Zaryn), born in California, founder of Tuenti, Spain's largest 'invite-only' social network

  2. Daniel Ek (@eldsjal) and Martin Lorentzon (@MartinLorentzon) – founders of online music streaming service Spotify

  3. Kaj Hed (@RovioHQ) – Chairman of Rovio (Angry Birds)

  4. Lars Hinrichs (@LarsHinrichs) – founder and CEO of HackFwd, a pre-seed investment company

  5. Joanna Shields (@TechCityUK) CEO and Chair of Tech City Investment Organisation

  6. Reshma Sohoni (@rsohoni) – partner of SeedCamp, a catalyst for Europe's next generation of entrepreneurs

  7. Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten (@Boris) entrepreneur - founder of The Next Web

  8. Niklas Zennström (@atomicoventures) – co-founder of Skype, Kazaa, Joltid and Joost and Atomico

The other elements of Startup Europe are:

  1. The Startup Europe Partnership, to unlock expertise, mentoring, technology and services

  2. EU Accelerators Forum to increase awareness of the existing accelerator programs

  3. EU Crowdfunding Networks, to link up existing crowd-funding platforms, especially those specialised in Web start-ups

  4. Making Venture Capitalists more aware of Web Business by sharing success stories and through networking activities

Fostering Web Talent by:

a) Expanding the role of online education platforms (such as “Massive Online Open Courses”) to combat the shortage of Web developers;

b) Using barter platforms as marketplace for sharing and trading skills Europe-wide among Web entrepreneurs; and

c) Exploring the viability, at European level, of twinning senior, experienced people with young entrepreneurs to share ideas and experiences.


Web entrepreneurs worldwide have an enormous impact on the economy and society.  The majority of new jobs are created by start-ups and 45% of Europeans would like to be their own boss if they could.

Collectively, start-up companies create three million jobs in the US in each year during their first year of business, a level of dynamism we would like to see matched in the EU.

Useful links

Digital Agenda site on StartupEurope

Social Media: @startupEU and #StartUpEurope Agenda

Neelie Kroes

Follow Neelie on Twitter

Contacts :

Ryan Heath (+32 2 296 17 16), Twitter: @RyanHeathEU

Linda Cain (+32 2 299 90 19)


Biographies of Leaders Club members

Zaryn Dentzel is founder and CEO of Tuenti, Spain's largest 'invite-only' social network with over 12 million users. Dentzel originates from Santa Barbara, California and had his first go at social networking aged 21 when he co-created the political social network Essembly in the USA. He went to Spain at age 15 as an exchange student, to study diplomacy and Spanish Literature and has now become one of Spain's wealthiest and most famous young entrepreneurs thanks to the success and fast growth of Tuenti. His ambition is 'to change the way people consume information in Spain'. Tuenti was acquired by Telefonica on August 4, 2010 for €70 million.

Daniel Ek is a serial entrepreneur and technologist who started his first company in 1997 at the age of 14 and co-founded Spotify in 2006, together with Martin Lorentzon. He was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden where he still lives.

As the CEO of Spotify, Daniel's role is to guide the vision and strategy of the company as it grows. Leading the management team, Daniel is also responsible for nurturing a passionate working environment for everyone at Spotify.

Prior to Spotify, Daniel founded Advertigo, having previously held senior roles at Nordic auction company Tradera (acquired by Ebay). Daniel was also CTO at Stardoll, the fashion & entertainment community for tweens.

Kaj Hed is the majority owner and Chairman of the highly successful Rovio / Angry Birds. Kaj is a serial entrepreneur with extensive experience of the international software business. He founded Trema (acquired by Wall Street Systems). A Finnish citizen, he was born in 1955. His first directorship was in 1995 with Trema Consulting Limited.

Lars Hinrichs is founder and CEO of HackFwd, a pre-seed investment company designed to support Europe´s software developers to launch great ideas. HackFwd supports Startup companies by accelerating "the route to beta, profitability, and success". HackFwd has an award winning portfolio and invests in companies such as Cobook, Infogram, Hike, Fantasyshopper and Yielkdkit. Lars' early passion for all things digital kick-started his entrepreneurial streak which began with "", an award-winning platform for new media politics, launched when he was 22. His third major effort, XING, is a highly successful business networking platform. As Founder and CEO, Lars oversaw its 2006 IPO, making XING the world's first Web 2.0 company to go public

Martin Lorentzon first struck up his partnership with Daniel Ek when Tradedoubler, Europe's largest affiliate sales network (founded by Martin), acquired Daniel's company Advertigo in 2006. Previously, Martin held senior roles at Telia, Altavista, Cell Ventures and NetStrategy. Martin studied Economics at Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden and has extensive knowledge of building companies. As chairman of Spotify, Martin has been on the company’s board of directors since July 2006.

Joanna Shields is CEO of Tech City Investment Organisation. An American-British businesswoman, she was named UK's Business Ambassador for Digital Industries. Previously she was VP and Managing Director of Facebook Europe, Middle East and Africa. Previously, at AOL, she was Executive VP for People Networks, extending the global reach of AOL's social networks, by integrating Bebo, AIM, ICQ, and AOL's other community platforms, Goowy Media and Yedda,- reaching a combined 80 million users worldwide.

Reshma Sohoni is a Partner of SeedCamp, a new kind of incubator which aims to provide a catalyst for Europe’s next generation of entrepreneurs through the provision of seed capital and a world class network of mentors. Before SeedCamp, Reshma was part of the Venture team at 3i. Prior to 3i, Reshma spent over 3 years at Vodafone in their Commercial Strategy team, working across the Europe and Japan footprints in marketing strategy and pricing functions. Reshma's career started in the US in investment banking (Broadview) and venture capital (Softbank)
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten is a Dutch serial internet entrepreneur. He started his first company, V3 Redirect Services, in 1997. Two years later V3 was sold to which was about to go public on the Neuer Markt. In 2003, Boris started a Wi-Fi Hotspot operator in the Netherlands, HubHop, which he sold to KPN. He is one of three founders of The Next Web Conference, Blog and Incubator. He co-founded PressDoc and TwitterCounter
Niklas Zennström is a world famous internet entrepreneur who co-founded Skype, Kazaa, Joltid and Joost among other high-profile technology companies. He currently serves as CEO (and founding Partner) of ATOMICO, the international technology VC firm based in London. He also serves on the boards of Fon, Jolicloud, Rovio and Rdio.

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