Lack of cash, knowledge and confidence usually prevent small businesses to take off. With this in mind, the European Commission set to provide 1.5 million euros to co-finance the first two years of a brand-new project named Altfinator with the purpose of nurturing the European SME ecosystem.
The initiative aims to better the access to alternative funding for innovative SMEs by providing training and workshops to educate SME advisors, policy makers and alternative finance providers.
The project will be rolled-out by Civitta Estonia, CrowdfundingHub, Zabala Innovation Consulting, Innomine Group, Mediapark, University of Manchester, Politecnico di Milano, Loba, Docomo Digital, Pedal Consulting and ECWT.
“In Europe there are many innovative SMEs with great ideas but limited knowledge on how to get funded. In recent years, interesting forms of alternative financing have emerged, even though their distribution differs per country or region and this still hinders some SMEs. Financial SME advisors constitute the main bottle-neck in the process as they have both limited knowledge and experience in advising business owners on alternative finance opportunities. So we want to help them and, in so doing, give our contribution to better the whole industry.”
The courses will be implemented in various countries covering primarily Eastern and Southern Europe to eventually reach Portugal, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Ukraine.
We got in touch with him to find out more about the project.
Oliver*: Hi Ronald and thank you for joining us.
RONALD KLEVERLAAN: Hi Oliver* and thank you for having me.
O*: Ronald I would like to start asking you about the state of the art of the SME ecosystem in Europe and the political implications of this as to look at what role you can play to make a difference. President Macron called for multi-speed Europe as a way to reshape Europe in the post-Brexit era. How important is having consistency of speeds among European countries to nurture the European spirit in an era where localisms are putting at risk the whole European project?
R: In the coming years, it will be still very important to share best practices and experiences between member states in Europe. We have seen the potential of alternative finance for SME funding in a number of countries and can leverage that experience to help speed up the growth of alternative finance in other countries. This will provide better access to finance for innovative entrepreneurs and higher yield to investors from all over Europe.
O*: What are you doing to support a common speed standard in Europe considering that the current SME definition includes 99.8% of all enterprises in the European Union?
R: There will always be different speeds in different countries. However, 99.8% of them clearly shows potential and need for more and better financing for SMEs. To have the highest impact we will focus on advising SME advisors and not on educating/training the individual SMEs. From previous research we learnt that SMEs are very interested in using new types of finance, but the bottle-neck was with their financial advisors. Besides financial advisor we will also share best practices with policy makers and other stakeholders in the Alternative Finance industry.
O*: Crowdfunding and other forms of alternative finance are growing worldwide at a steady pace although they bring with themselves issues which have to be managed from a regulatory point of view in order to protect both entrepreneurs and investors. I think, for instance, at issues like due diligence, transparency of platforms in disclosing data, the illiquidity of the market, risk of scams and more in general at the absence of a common standard within the alternative finance market. So, how are you and other partners working together to address these issues to the EU regulator?
R: Very good question. This is also the reason why we will not only focus on collecting best-practices on training, but also requirements for building a healthier ecosystem. We will closely work together with policy by providing input as to build a strong alternative finance environment.
O*: How are you going to adapt best practices to be delivered in such local markets?
R: We will organize local events and workshops and start online training courses through MOOCS (i.e. free online courses available for anyone to enroll).
O*: Do you plan to enrich the list of countries which are benefitting from this project?
R: Yes, we do. We will first focus on Portugal, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. In the second part of the project we will be focusing on Greece, Latvia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Albania and Macedonia. Then, upon our learnings, we will continue to extend our reach.
O*: What should I do to join your programme?
R: The best way to keep in touch is to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and join us at our local events.
Find out more here.