We need clearer objectives to successfully regulate the European tech ecosystem. Are we trying to create sustainable employment and solve major societal challenges like health and the environment? Or is our chief objective to focus our resources on policing companies from other regions? These goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Major technology firms undoubtedly need sustained scrutiny. Still, the political world needs to define a European approach, which balances our ambitions for robust tech regulation with an understanding of what's needed for our companies to scale.
I think the approach in Europe differs from country to country. In countries like the UK, France and Portugal, while still recognising a need to regulate certain aspects of the tech community, there's greater openness to disruptive innovation. Whereas in Spain there's a distinct lack of trust at the government level. However, what we need is a new regulatory framework that focusses on the digital economy. I find it hard to believe there are some countries in Europe that fail to see the potential of the digital revolution and the long-term socio-economic benefits that come with it. At present, there are too many instances of governments trying to apply existing legislation - legislation that was drafted in a pre-digital age to respond to the needs of a different type of work and a different type of worker - to startups and new technologies. The digital age has brought about a sea change in the global economy - changing the ways in which we live, communicate, work and consume - and we need regulatory modernisation to really reflect those changes. Otherwise, we run the risk of slamming the brakes on the digital economy. Today, we see millions of people around the world signing up for platform jobs, and yet there's still no clear regulation that balances their requirement for flexibility and their need for increased social benefits. If we're going to move forward, then this cannot continue.
One of the shared responsibilities of all government – local and national - is to deliver key services in areas like health, mobility, housing and environment. The demand and the opportunities are huge: we have only just begun to see how public services can be improved when resources like public data sets are opened up and re-used. But startups/scale-ups and government services often have different priorities, sensitivities and timescales. They also have different ways of working. Both sides need to understand each other better. There are examples of this here and there - but it's far too underdeveloped. We must promote cooperation and dialogue.
There is still a wide gap between the world of policymaking and that of tech entrepreneurs. Policymakers genuinely want to help, but they don't know a thing about tech startups, and they usually don’t count tech entrepreneurs as friends or acquaintances, which makes it even more difficult for them to understand what's going on. On the other hand, tech entrepreneurs have difficulties reaching out to policymakers because they don't understand that world, where everything seems so slow and so bureaucratic; they rightfully prefer to focus on growing their businesses. This is the reason why, by the way, I think that venture capitalists have a key role to play in bridging that gap between the two worlds. Unlike entrepreneurs, venture capitalists don't have to focus on one single problem over the course of several years. They can embrace a long-term view of the market, identify the many regulatory obstacles that still stand in the way, and help policymakers understand technology and come up with sound regulations designed to boost local champions. It's both about providing entrepreneurs with the resources and the security they need to take more risks and about raising the bar for European tech companies, forcing them to get better on various fronts, and ultimately consolidating their competitive advantage at a global scale - an industrial policy for the Entrepreneurial Age.