Tag Archives: European Commission

Startup Europe: European Commission wants to foster Web Talent through MOOCs

As part of its Startup Europe initiative, the European Commission announced the launch of a network of MOOC providers to foster regional web and app skills.

The network aims to map the demand for web-related skills across Europe and to promote the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for capacity-building in those fields.

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Open Education Challenge – European EdTech Incubator in Partnership with the European Commission

The Open Education Challenge is a new 12 week incubator program that operates in partnership with the European Commission and aims at keeping education startup founders in Europe.

When speaking about the exodus of European founders to the United States my first thought was a quote from Xavier Damman, CEO at Storify, in an interview he gave EurActiv

“In Europe, the best thing we can do is send our innovative, entrepreneurial talent to the US. That way, they can develop things.”

Though I would generally disagree that all hail could only be found in the US, I agree with Damman that it can’t be about establishing a European competing environment, but rather about focusing on what Europeans are good at.

Let’s get back to the promise of the Open Education Challenge incubator initiated by p.a.u education and the Armat Group.

For this first badge 10 European teams can apply for the program that will take place in different European cities. The selection process comes in four different steps, idea submission, shortlist, semi final and final.

The selected teams will get 20.000 Euros initially with a 6% stake in the respective companies for Open Education Challenge which is certainly in line with other (edtech) incubator programs although it should be said that the money is on the lower end of the scale.

Founders will also get access to a group of investors called “Open Education Investment Club”. With entrance to the incubator the teams will grant the club an option to acquire 20% of the startup’s capital at an agreed value for the second stage of development.

Based on these terms I think the program is most attractive for first time entrepreneurs with no or very limited prior experience who want to develop a prototype within the 12 week incubation period.

What I like about the incubator is their approach of exposing the teams to different European cities and thus markets, namely Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin and Helsinki. That said, five European cities in 12 weeks only will be a tough job and we should not forget that the founders have to focus on product as their primary concern not workshops and mentoring.

As for who should apply the Open Education Challenge has what I would call a narrow vision of education. If I look at the description on the website along with who the mentors are, I think it might be most relevant for founders who target the higher education space and schools. I don’t think that teams who develop for the open education market and target lifelong learners or language learners for instance would get a maximum of valuable advice. I would also be doubtful to apply with a B2B solution.

As we all know, about 80% of our learning experiences happen outside of the traditional classroom or university setting, but given both p.a.u Education/Armat Group’s and their mentors’ expertise the focus on higher education and K-12 only certainly makes sense.

Should one apply?

I’m short of a definite answer. There are elements I like, such as the focus on Europe as the market rather than one domestic market only. I think if you’re a startup that would like to work together with universities in the future you might get value and good connections out of the incubator.

Generally speaking, I’m doubtful about the length of the incubator. I find 3 months awfully short, particularly taken into consideration that you will have to travel to see your mentors rather than being focused and working in one place and they will come to see you.

In terms of money, 20.000 Euros for 6% is a little less than average, so I’m neutral on this one. Applicants will also need to cover travel expenses and accommodation out of this 20k pot. Given that the startup teams will consist of two or more people the city hopping during the incubation period will burn through the money pretty quickly. Especially cities like London and Paris are known for their high cost of living. So there is the question how much money will remain for prototyping and testing the MVP.

The teams will also grant the investors a 20% priority right to invest in their startup after the incubation period. On the one hand this might give entrepreneurs some ease of mind as this way a successful Series A round is already somewhat guaranteed. On the other hand I am not sure that the entrepreneurs will get a very favorable valuation after 12 weeks.

Applications are not limited to EU citizens but the startups need to be registered in the European Union.

If all of the above sounds attractive you are invited to send you short presentation video to Open Education Challenge.

Is the European Commission about to kill Net Neutrality?

The latest draft of a proposal by the European Commission gets defenders of net neutrality up in arms. End of May Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, has sent out a tweet urging her followers to back her in defending #netneutrality

 

But according to the German blog Netzpolitik.org that dug into the latest draft of a regulation that aims to

lay down measures to complete the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent

quite the opposite is the case. If the draft would pass as is in the European parliament and became a law, net neutrality as it is defined today would be dead in the European Union.

In case you are not familiar with the concept of net neutrality:

Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication. (Wikipedia)

Under the proposed regulation Internet service providers could probably cut deals among themselves and also offer different data plans to their customers, treating services differently. For example French Internet provider Orange could throttle down the data packages of YouTube and deliver videos from Dailymotion (in which Orange has around 40% stake) faster. All of that would be OK, it just needed to be mentioned in the terms of service.

This way big brands like Google, Yahoo or Microsoft could cut a deal with Internet service providers to speed up their services, killing competition with faster results and quicker loading times which of course would make it very difficult for smaller competitors to gain traction. It is basically a death sentence for innovation as Tagesschau titled its report on the issue.

So instead of helping the consumer as proposed in the draft this regulation would eventually hurt us by making the Internet less competitive.

And it is bad for the education (startup) space as well. New trends like MOOCs are relying heavily on streamed videos or other bandwidth heavy features. With net neutrality down the drain Internet service providers could bully those kind of services into paying an extra fee, or else…

Interestingly we already see emerging partnerships of Internet service providers and education startups in which the products are bundled into the data plans. And under the proposed regulation this business model would be basically a must for education startups that plan to use a lot of bandwidth. A good way for Internet service providers to make money from both sides, the education provider paying for fast data delivery and the student paying for fast data reception. A real progress for the consumer and Europe as a whole.

Further reading:


Picture by click via Morguefile