From theory to practice: policies, tools & experiences to support company scaleup

//From theory to practice: policies, tools & experiences to support company scaleup

The partners of the SCALE(up)ALPS Alpine Space project meet & share with the stakeholders
Turin, 21 September 2018 

The growth Hacking bootcamp have been identified by the project as special occasion to share and discuss specific issues and project results with the goal to involve all actors and stakeholders in activities. The Torino Bootcamp was focused on the dissemination of experience already developed by other partners and on the attempt to link issues that companies are facing during the scaleup process with potential public support intervention.

Claudia Fassero, from Città Metropolitana di Torino, welcomed the audience and gave an overview of the project introducing the partners and participants.  After a short introduction each partner presented its own experience, outlining both positive and negative aspects of the implementation of the “NITRO Format”.

In extreme synthesis the NITRO format is based on the capability to identify the relevant targets i.e. SMEs that potentially could scale-up, understand the target needs, design the support scheme (the event), select a test population and communicate the existence of the support scheme. The NITRO approach has been already realized in the period 2016 – 2017 in different location and is a two days event dedicated to European start-uppers willing to develop more quickly and acquire new skills through a series of 3 hours workshops (business development, negotiation, PI, project management, pitching, investment readiness…). On the second day, they have the opportunity to pitch in front of 10-12 Business Angels &/or VCs, and meet some of them individually.

Ivan Boesso from Veneto Innovazione is organizing one of the 3 pilot planned in the context of Wp3Scale(up)Alps project. He described what is on-going: first issues and opportunities they are encountering and willing to face. The idea is to organize a first launch event open to  everyone: startups, scale-ups and companies to identify and collect the main problems relating to scaling up. This is because the topic of scale-up itself would not attract a big audience. Then, a second event will then accurately organized to help only the interested audience. He emphasized that it is not sufficient an unbiased startup/scale-up selection, made by experts, but it is essential to unveil the willingness and commitment of the startups to succeed in the scale-up process.  The approach is strongly based on the identification of company needs and situation through a fruitful interaction with Confartigianato Vicenza based on different meetings taking in consideration the specific conditions of craft firms usually based on manufacturing in the context of subcontracting value chains or with a b2c approach in case of services, family owned and with the direct involvement of the entrepreneurs in the day by day activities.

Jean-Michel ÉNÉE, from CCI Nice Côte d’Azur, focused the attention on what they found to be the primary needs encountered by startups and scale-ups companies. Actually, they look for talent acquisition, skilled resources, networking and concrete contacts. He pointed out the need for high level and high competence coaches to guide the acceleration process in a customized way: individual face-to-face meeting with experts instead of general principle coaching in a standardized program.

There was a discussion regarding the definition of scale-up: while for start-ups there is a clear shared definition, for scale-ups there is not a standard shared definition. The criteria to define a scale-up company differ a lot according the corresponding ecosystem. The OECD definition may works well in some contexts but not in others and is completely different from Japan or New York Trade definitions. This can be easily explained by looking at differences in numbers of scale-ups between US and Europe.

This lead to confusion and difficulty in the management of public funding. What has been suggested in the meeting is to identify simple and clear criteria and definition to evaluate scale-ups which are eligible to receive funding. These criteria should be adapted according to differences between countries.

Andreja Hlisc, from the Technology Park Ljubljana(Slovenia), told about the successful event they organized in Ljubljana with many participating companies, that were mainly young start-ups committed to scale-ups and she showed a video of the event. During the event the startups had the opportunity to pitch their own stories, share their experiences and meet with potential partners and sponsors or/and stakeholders. Andreja told that many companies had the chance to join other programs within the event. Thus, a good idea for boosting the scaling up would be to organize a transnational dimension event which would be beneficial to SMEs willing to growth in a global reality and reach broader markets.

 Sophie Koschit, from IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems (Austrian) focused the attention on a lesson-learned: the importance of analyzing the ecosystem before organizing the event, which should be suited on it, taking into account its peculiarities, needs and interests. She gives examples: Vienna is an urban and likely innovative area where is easy to attract audience; whereas in Krems, a rural area the situation is far different and what they learned is the importance to focus on the right topic and the right speaker: the key opinion leader, the best in the region will guarantee the power to attract audience. Sophie pointed out that a hot topic to be attractive is access to funding. Then they also decided to narrowed down the event: small audience, few and specific topics, face to face meeting and they succeeded  because in this way companies were able to share and discuss common issues directly with an expert.

Fabrizio Conicella, General Manager of Bioindustry Park Silvano Fumero S.p.A., has tried to sum up and generalize the experience through a review of different issues that a scale-up company can have and the identification of actions that from a local public administration point of view can be implemented. Different issues are influencing the capability for a company to scale up: innovation, management, resources, sales, market access, product development, operational effectiveness, human resources, diversity and inclusion of talents, cultural differencies, networking capability, ownership and shareholders relations, fear to fail, etc. For each issue it will be possible to identify a role for a support scheme particularly in term of capacity building, training coaching and access to expertises. Financing to training initiatives and vauchering system are only two of the possible intervention path. Each actions that will ameliorate the local environment (e.g. cluster support schemes, guarantee funds, financing for internationalization, etc) are useful and important.

The international experience outline that there is a strong role for “public intermediares” (e.g. incubators, accellerators, science parks, cluster managing companies, development agencies, innovation agencies, internationalization agencies) both to speed up the process and maximise the capability of actions to be effectives on targeted companies following a sectorial approach or a more general goal. Some issues are still existing from a public policies point of view:

  • Sectorial/smart focus vs general approaches
  • «Pick up the cherry» or «pick the winner» paradigm
  • Medium to long term to asses the impact
  • KPI to identify (input/performances/output/impact)
  • Startup focus vs SMEs focus
  • Trust on specialistic actors vs “open access” approaches
  • Availability of funds and/or access to funds
  • Coherence with synergistic policies (e.g. internationalization)
  • «Need for speed» vs bureaucratic issues to lower opportunistic events
  • …………..

A more general issue is linked on the timeframe of actions: maximise impact of scale up support schemes means medium term policies that in some cases are not compatible with political goal.