Europe needs more successful data mining startups

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Silicon Valley can offer advantages to European companies but a move across the pond is not always the right move. EU proposals risk making the decision unavoidable though. [Shutterstock]

The European Commission’s proposed reform on copyright is preventing young companies from using text and data mining technology with full legal certainty, warns Michal Sadowski and Michał Brzezicki.

Michal Sadowski is founder and CEO of Brand24 and was awarded “Best Co-Founder” prize in the Next Web Startup Awards 2013. Michał Brzezicki is co-founder and vice-president of SentiOne.

We live in the age of the digital economy. Data is everywhere, and being produced by everything – devices, services, businesses, users. With data analytics becoming more valuable than ever, it has also become essential to ensure that everything can function smoothly: from local businesses, to universities, non-profits, and governments.

The Commission’s proposal on copyright reform could lead to a mass exodus of young, innovative businesses moving outside of the EU. Thousands of the most innovative companies in Europe will either relocate or face extinction. It will become much more difficult for the EU to produce future Skypes, Spotifys or Pipedrives, and be competitive, particularly vis-a-vis Silicon Valley companies.

We started our companies in Poland and we are proud to still be working from there alongside talented European teams. Despite all the benefits the Silicon Valley can offer us, we still prefer to run our business from Europe.

We leverage a huge talent pool based in this region. We promote a culture of openness and cooperation EU startups need so desperately to compete against well-funded Silicon Valley based companies.

Needless to say, it would be a drastic, unwanted and a last resort measure to move our business outside of the EU.

Moreover, it is not only startups that will suffer. The Commission’s proposed legislation can indirectly hit many other entities that leverage data mining to benefit public interest.

In the past five years, we have collaborated with many universities, non-profits, charities, etc. and we worked really hard to encourage companies from the US, Canada, Australia, Venezuela, Mexico, China, the United Arab Emirates and many others to have trust in European technology.

What we find even more difficult to understand is why the EU would jeopardise its efforts to support innovative businesses, particularly as it spends a significant amount of money in grants and subsidies helping the startup environment grow: many tech startups in Poland have benefited from EU funding as part of the Innovative Economy Operational Programme (supported by the European Regional Development Fund and the Polish government).

This programme helped us develop data extraction and analysis of text data on websites, or finance our first business trips to the US where we met our first customers. With this Directive, the Commission is pulling the brakes on our business after it helped us accelerate.

We all need to inspire young companies to go global. We need to show them that relocation to Silicon Valley is not the only possible move if you want to build a meaningful business. We all need laws that will empower them to be part of a brave new World of Data.

To be able to go global while working from France, Poland, Germany, Romania or the Czech Republic. We need laws that empower progress. Progress that is impossible to achieve if we cannot seize the opportunities that data mining technologies can offer us.

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