Europe discusses SMEs: Ideas for growth and youngpreneurs » SMEInsider

Europe discusses SMEs: Ideas for growth and youngpreneurs

Day two of the European Commission’s SME Assembly flaunted some of the continent’s brightest minds as they strive to help change the world for the better, and we spoke to 13-year old Lili Scout, an Australian teenager who is the face of a nationwide female entrepreneur campaign.

 

Technology bringing SMEs closer to global change

The second and final day of the SME Assembly was all about the power of ideas. The main conference room played host to the ‘‘Ideas from Europe’’ finals, with 28 entrepreneurs all from different European nations explaining how their SME is trying to change the world for the better.

From healthcare smartphone applications for the elderly in Greece, to analysing food on a molecular level in Ireland, to reducing obesity and diabetes in Estonia, there was huge amounts of innovation for all too see.

Representing the UK in the ‘Ideas from Europe’ event was WeFarm, a free peer-to-peer service that enables farmers in Africa to receive and share information via SMS, without the internet and without having to leave their farm.

According to WeFarm founder and CEO Kenny Ewan, ‘‘90 per cent of African farmers have access to standard mobile phones, but have no way to get online.’’

By sending a simple text message, farmers across the continent can ask questions on farming and receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers around the world in minutes.  Nine of the 28 SMEs were awarded a prize, with one ‘wildcard’ SME being decided to join the nine by an interactive vote from the smartphone-wielding audience.

 

Youngpreneurs’

With entrepreneurs getting younger and younger nowadays, particularly in the UK with 11 year-old Henry Patterson, it was inevitable that I would run into a so-called ‘Youngpreneur’ during the assembly.

I spoke with 13 year-old Lili Scout, a small business supporter based in Queensland, Australia.

Lili is the face of the ‘Tech Girls are Superheroes’ business, an initiative that encourages Australian girls to start their own tech business.

Lili revealed that girls as young as eight were showing an interest in becoming a tech startup guru; sharing their ideas via YouTube submissions as part of a Tech Girls nationwide campaign which tried to find young ladies who harboured a passion for business and technology.

Over 140 girls submitted videos this year, many of whom may go on to be SME leaders of the future. Look out for our full interview with Lili next week.

Technology was a prevalent theme throughout the day, with various seminars taking place on how small businesses could use it effectively for their SME.

One masterclass was called ‘Twitter for business’. Given that the social media application has over one billion unique visits every single month, it’s the perfect place for Europe’s small businesses to market their products online. Led by Viv Jemmet, head of digital at Hanover Communications, many SME owners began to learn of the Twitter’s huge business potential.

 

UK SMEs are going digital

After that informative seminar, I spoke with Julian David, another technology expert who was brought to Luxembourg to share his knowledge on the relationship between SMEs and the digital space.

Julian has spent over 30 years in the technology industry mostly working for IBM in various roles including vice president for Small and Medium Business in UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Africa and then for five years as vice president for Public Sector in UK, Ireland and South Africa.

After leaving IBM, Julian became CEO of techUK, an organisation that ‘‘represents the companies and technologies that are defining today the world that we will live in tomorrow.’’

Companies that are part of techUK range from FTSE 100 firms to hundreds of small businesses that are looking to upscale their technology.

We discussed the fact that over a million SMEs still lack basic digital skills, but David assured me that this statistic is decreasing constantly; with government initiatives and startup funding helping thousands of small companies attract a new audience online.

Overall, the SME Assembly is a fantastic event which brings together some of Europe’s hardest working SME owners and entrepreneurs who are trying to change the world with their ideas. Next year the European Commission will be rolling up in Bratislava, Slovakia, where I’m sure there will be just as much, if not more, to discover.

Look out for all our interviews conducted at the SME Assembly in full next week.