A continuing theme of this year’s Computer Weekly startup coverage was collaboration again, but this time with a particular emphasis on building ecosystems.
Across Europe, startups have been pushing to build collaborative ecosystems with partners in the public and private sectors.
In particular, Norway’s startup scene has taken an “ecosystem approach” to compete with startups in Sweden, which represented 50% of the Nordic region’s exit rate in 2016.
Even large corporate entities such as travel software provider Amadeus are opening up their systems to third parties as part of a “distributed innovation” strategy.
Outside of ecosystem building, there are many other startup stories that address specific technology use cases, as well as stories that highlight issues in the broader technology sector through a startup lens.
Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 startup stories of 2019.
1. Computer Weekly visited Oslo to see how entrepreneurs are building their ecosystem.
According to founders and investors in Oslo, Norway has lagged behind its Nordic neighbors in startups because it has focused too much on its historical strengths – fishing, oil and gas.
However, things are slowly changing after the Norwegian government organized several seed funds and startups to kickstart the startup scene.
As it stands, Norwegian startups are struggling to scale due to limited markets, so they are looking to export their technology internationally after testing it in Norway first.
2. Amadeus opens up APIs to distribute innovation.
Travel software company Amadeus launched application programming interfaces (APIs) this year as part of a strategy it calls “distributed innovation.”
Although less than half of its 19,000 workforce is dedicated to research and development (R&D), Amadeus sought to expand its capacity for innovation by retaining talent from outside the company.
“We know very well that the next big idea in travel will come from outside Amadeus, so part of our creative work is to look outside and facilitate startups and other actors to create these ideas,” said Marion Mesnaj, head of the group. Research, innovation and Amadeus, at the time.
This implies a shift away from viewing startups as competitors and something that can add value to the company’s corporate offerings.
3. Collaboration is needed to promote government technology
Despite the rapid spread of government technology across Europe, policymakers, civil servants and technologists are still developing best practices at this year’s second GovTech Summit to encourage government-to-government collaboration and private-public partnerships.
Delegates at the summit in Paris heard some of the obstacles to implementing government technology.
This includes the differences in work culture between the civil service and entrepreneurs, as well as how Europe is better placed than any other continent to deploy new government technologies.
4. Keys to B2B startup success
With it easier than ever for IT professionals to start their own businesses, Computer Weekly looks at what makes a successful business-to-business technology startup.
The top tips from the founders and investors we spoke to were to find a niche, build a defense around the product, and focus on people first.
He also pointed out the importance of good enterprise sales skills, which are often undervalued or neglected by startups who think the technology alone is enough.
5. 3D printing of medical devices relieves the pressure of clinical shortages
Medical technology startup Andiamo uses artificial intelligence (AI), 3D scanning and printing to create orthotic devices with greater speed and accuracy than traditional manufacturing methods.
Around 2.5 million people in the UK can be affected by conditions such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy, which use orthotics to correct the function of their limbs.
Andiamo has now been able to cut the time it takes to deliver orthotic devices to children from six months to just one week. With 300 qualified orthopedic surgeons in the UK, clinics are reporting that Andimo’s technology will help them see more patients and spend more time with them.
6. Freelancers prefer more flexible work, but the addition of gig work can create more uncertainty for employees.
A report by the BCG Henderson Institute, Boston-based consultancy group Strategy Thinking, supported by Research Now SSI, looked at the views of freelancers working in the so-called gig economy.
Freelancers are turning to digital labor-sharing platforms because of the autonomy and flexibility they allow, with 45% of gig workers saying the freedom these platforms offer is preferable to a full-time salaried job.
It also shows how diverse gig work is with freelancers using different platforms to take on completely different types of work, from drivers to software developers.
However, while digital labor-sharing platforms are emerging prominently in the economy, labor in general may be more of a concern, which calls into question whether these platforms should be regulated.
7. The start-up venture firm Public launched programs in three more European countries
In February, UK startup Public launched three GovTech programs in France, Germany and Denmark to support startups working to bring public service technology across Europe.
“Europe has the best potential to support ecosystems of dynamic and innovative startups that transform public services to empower public service providers and citizens,” said Daniel Korsky, CEO and Founder of The People. “We hope these new programs provide the first steps toward that reality.”
Again, the proliferation of startup programs across Europe shows that governments are increasingly interested in partnering with startups.
8. An information infrastructure provider uses a partner ecosystem to help companies collect and integrate information
The data infrastructure startup is helping companies unlock their hidden data stores to help them increase visibility into their customer engagement.
In the year Travelperk, a high-growth travel management software provider founded in 2015, realized after 700% year-over-year growth that it couldn’t effectively track customer engagement, which meant it couldn’t keep up.
Class Customer Data Infrastructure software helps companies collect, integrate, and connect their first-party data to more than 200 marketing, analytics, and data warehousing tools.
These tools are not provided by Segment directly, but by the 250-plus partners that make up its infrastructure.
9. Tech Nation launched its first cybersecurity update program
UK-based entrepreneurial network TechNation launched its first national cyber security outreach program in April.
Current Digital Minister Margot James said: “To stay ahead of cyber threats it is vital to support and promote our world-class cyber security industry.” “Tech Nation’s new program not only helps young businesses grow, but also ensures that the cyber sector continues to grow.”
There are currently over 800 cyber security businesses based in the UK, 89% of which are small and medium enterprises.
TechNation believes that accelerating the growth of the country’s leading startups will help boost the UK’s overall digital security sector.
10. The UK tech sector has seen its best year for investment yet.
According to data released in August, the UK tech sector is set to invest $11 billion by the end of 2019 if current trends continue.
This has been helped by significant foreign investment, with more than half of the $6.7bn raised this year coming from US and Asian investors.
On top of this, the UK is still one of the top European countries for homegrown funding, with 37% of technology investment coming from domestic sources. Only France and the Netherlands have more domestic funding than the UK.