Calling all entrepreneurs: EIC offering services to help your company grow

Sponsored by: EIC
06 Jun 2024 | Sponsored Report

The European Innovation Council’s Business Acceleration Services are helping scores of innovative companies network, train, sell – and grow

Mali M. Baum, entrepreneur, investor and EIC board member.

As serial entrepreneur and investor Mali M. Baum sees it, there are two kinds of investors in the world of innovative growth companies: “dumb money” and “smart money.”

The dumb money just invests the cash: that’s necessary for the company to grow, but not sufficient. The smart money supplies cash plus much more: advice, mentorship, networking, access to contacts, training, community and all the other things that a smart investor can help a company’s founders find.

And that’s what the European Innovation Council’s Business Acceleration Services are now providing to many promising innovators across the European Union.

For many who use the services, “this is a game-changer,” says Baum, founder of a Berlin-based networking company for women entrepreneurs called WLOUNGE, and a member of the EIC’s governing board.

The EIC is best known as Europe’s biggest single funder of innovative companies – with a €10.1 billion budget now helping hundreds of companies across the EU as part of the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. But in recent years it has also been expanding its “smart money” services – and making them available to its beneficiaries.

High impact

The impact is already clear. For instance, through its match-making services in the past three years, it helped its beneficiaries score a total of 103 deals with big companies, investors and procurers. Through participation in trade fairs, its beneficiaries have lined up an expected €50 million in new revenue. Its coaching and training services helped its women entrepreneurs boost their business skills by 32%, and doubled the odds of central and east European applicants winning EU funds. Its networking services connect its beneficiaries to more than 1,000 corporate investors and public procurers, 140 ecosystem partners, 600 coaches and mentors, and 100 experts in intellectual property and other fields.

From her own experience, Baum knows the importance of this kind of assistance. She started her first company in Israel, when she was 26 years old. It developed and produced innovative toys for kids.

As a founder, she says, “I did everything myself. You are the face of the company, and leave the kids at home, and you are absolutely on the mission of your life.” She successfully raised capital, set up manufacturing in China, grew the company globally, and arranged a sale after eight years. But, she says, it could have gone faster. “Imagine if I could have had something that’s called a community, that I can look to, to connect me to customers in the US, open doors for me, connect me with investors and help lead the way to growth.”

And that’s what the EIC’s Business Acceleration Services are trying to provide. BAS “is a mass producer of what we need to have as a founder” of an innovative company, she says. “Its network of services and beneficiaries attracts investors, VCs and corporations to co-invest with us. That’s gold for the founders. We are always thinking from the founder perspective.”

Learning to speak Californian

Another example: bridging the cultural divide between European entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley investors. Generally speaking, the way you pitch investors is a local art: in the US investors want to see energy, showmanship, brash confidence. That’s not the normal mode for a more-reserved European entrepreneur – and it has to be learned, fast.

Veronika Oudova, a Czech co-founder of an innovative skin-care company, recalls the problem. “In Europe, we have the passion; we just aren’t able to present it” the way a US investor expects, she explained at a recent EIC conference. But, as an EIC grantee, her company benefitted from professional training and contacts through the EIC Scaling Club. It “really accelerated us into an exit” in 2022, when Germany’s Beiersdorf bought her Belgian-based company, S-Biomedic.

Indeed, says Baum, through another Business Acceleration Service called the Soft-landing Programme, the EIC last month took 15 of its beneficiaries to California for a week to meet key investors. “The way they pitch on the first day, versus the fifth day – it’s magic!”

What are the EIC Business Acceleration Services?

EIC support goes beyond funding alone. It also provides EIC top-notch innovators with access to a range of tailor-made, high-quality Business Acceleration Services. These support the commercialisation and scaling-up of EIC-funded innovations through valuable contracts, contacts and skills. More information here.

The goal, Baum says, is to do whatever it takes to arm European entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed globally. Of course, the EIC isn’t alone in Europe in providing these kind of services; many member states and private companies also offer assistance. But the EIC is aggregating them – 140 partner organisations so far – into a huge network of entrepreneurial aids that span the continent. “There are some (services) available here and there, but nothing so powerful, with so many levels” of service as EIC is now offering.

At present, these services are available mainly to EIC beneficiaries. Next step, Baum says, is monitoring which services are working best, and considering expansion to more potential participants and non-EIC innovators. “Right now, the goal is learning and reshaping, understanding that the BAS can be available for more people. We see it as a game changer for Europe.”

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