The Challenge


How might we support web entrepreneurs in launching and growing sustainable global businesses? read the brief

Winning idea

The European Centers for Entrepenuership (ECE) NETWORK **Refined**

Instead of creating a new entrepreneurship system, why not better connect existing centers at EU universities?
Many schools have centers dedicated to supporting startups, however in order to better leverage the potential of this network, a European network of these centers can be created. This can be realized though the creation of a shared platform where each EU country has a list of the universities with entrepreneurship centers and a link to their website. 
How will your concept support web entrepreneurship?
With one website connecting all of the EU entrepreneurship centers, this will allow for web entrepreneurs to have immediate access to all EU countries and their resources without having to locate them on an individual basis. This network would also provide access to information on university start-up competitions, as well as other financial resources available around the EU. This network would be able to connect web entrepreneurs in country X with others located in country Y where they could use each other as sources of inspiration. Moving further, by designing some parameters for a type of quotient similar to OpenIDEO's, entrepreneurs would have a better idea about which university has the best expertise and knowledge within certain areas. This allows for easy navigation in finding a university to support what the entrepreneur needs and is searching for.
What kinds of resources will be needed to get this concept off the ground and scale it?
Immediate resources would include funding to create a database of existing entrepreneur centers connected to universities around the EU. While compiling this list, it would also be good to include other entrepreneur centers that are not directly connected to universities so that they will also be able to join the network.
How could we get started?
A first step could be to create a database of entrepreneur centers at EU universities. A starting point for this could be Eduroam (, a service for connecting students and researchers with internet access, which has a map of participating university and research centers around the EU. Once this list has been compiled, funding to create a website and platform will be needed as well as a team to mange the site. **UPDATE** Building on the great thoughts, comments and suggestions provided below, starting as a lo-fi concept the ECE network concept could, for example, start with a testing period at the Copenhagen Business School with their Center for Entrepreneurship and the new master program in Bioentrepreneurship aka The BioBusiness and Innovation Program (a program that connects bio students and business students). Leveraging on how life sciences has a strong place in the Danish economy, a so-called "popshop" could be created within this network to aid web entrepreneurs within the life science area with support from both scientists and business students. An initial "kickoff" event will take place at the Center for Entrepreneurship where web entrepreneurs within this field will be invited to present their concepts and after will be divided into groups with both business students and scientists to brainstorm how to solve some of the current problems they are facing. To make this knowledge and information available to other web entrepreneurs in the EU, questions and their answers from the event will be documented and uploaded to the ECE website or, as a starting point until the network grows and a website can be created, a Facebook group for ECE Copenhagen. Please note, this is of course just one suggestion of a university where the project could start. Once the ECE has been launched in Copenhagen (or another city as the starting city) the ECE will expand by creating another "kickoff" event at another university in the EU who has an identified strength within a specific area.
Virtual Team:
Amy Bonsall John Tauzel and the ECE Team John Cho Paul van Zoggel

Evaluation results


How well does this concept address a significant pain point felt by European web start-ups?

This is a major pain point for European start-ups
This is a "nice to have" but not a serious pain point
I really don't know

How novel do you think the concept is?

Never seen it before - very novel!
This is common in some places but not in many parts of Europe
This is not novel but a good iteration
There are already other solutions out there that address this problem

How easy is this concept to implement and maintain?

It could be implemented quickly and easily maintained
It could be implemented quickly but will require regular updates to ensure it is accurate and relevant
It is a big undertaking and would need a lot of support and cooperation from people and organisations to make it happen and to maintain it

What type of organisation is best placed to take this forward?

The European Commission should own this one
This belongs with member state governments (e.g., the UK, Belgium, etc)
This is best being owned by a private company
This feels like a non-profit
This is a start-up itself!

Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world!
I liked it but preferred others
It didn’t get me overly excited


Join the conversation and post a comment.

Scott Reeves

June 15, 2012, 16:03PM
I like this too!

Is there a way to communicate the services, policies and goals of each program? Knowing where they are is a great start, but understanding what they do (and how they could work with other programs) would be even better.

I work in an entrepreneurial program in a large US university, and it's tough for us to keep track of what's happening at our own school, let alone what's happening somewhere else. From the outside, most of the other programs at our school look daunting and opaque. What are they doing in there? Do they have resources that can help our students? In most cases I'm sure they do. But finding the right information is a daunting, hit-or-miss task.

Peter De Groof

May 30, 2012, 07:46AM
Hi Karina,

I think this is a great concept !!

Amazing this type of hub-set up does not exist yet ... I'm convinced it could trigger a lot of cross-fertilization ...

One could also think of a private Investment Fund that continously skims the great ideas from all over the ECE members & funds the best ones ... ?

Kind regards,



May 29, 2012, 22:27PM
Congratulations on being a winning concept! The EC is keen to explore ways that different parts of Europe can learn from and support each other.

Karina McElroy

May 30, 2012, 09:10AM
Thank you OpenIDEO! Looking forward to see the EC moving forward and realizing these concepts!

Paul van Zoggel

May 29, 2012, 17:02PM
Congratulations Karina and all involved. Keep me posted on where it leads to or need any glocal involvement from the Netherlands or Romania.

Paul Reader

May 29, 2012, 23:41PM
Great work Karina and congratulations on having a winning concept. I love the synergistic potential of this and not merely for start-ups.

Karina McElroy

May 30, 2012, 09:08AM
Thank you Paul and Paul : ) for your inputs, thoughts, and comments - the concept certainly would have not have developed without your collaboration!!

Aimee Hornberger

May 23, 2012, 08:15AM
I really like this, having just spent 2 years at the University of Notre Dame's Entrepreneurship Center and having competed in many business plan competitions. These types of events are really common at all major Universities. I do think a lot of good could come of inter-University collaboration though.

Although - honestly - I doubt Universities would be willing to collaborate. They tend to compete against each other in terms of which school has launched a successful business / product.

However, there are a few international business plan competitions that bring Universities together. Perhaps a new competition with an open source component - might allow for competition, but also foster creativity....?

Karina McElroy

May 30, 2012, 09:14AM
Hi Aimee. The idea of having an inter-university competition could be quite interesting! The main thought behind this idea though, is to not only provide support to student web start-ups, but for individuals outside of the university community. We're hoping that through the realization of this network, web entrepreneurs though out the EU will have a better idea about which university has the resources to best support them while bring their product or service to the market.

However, regarding the inter-university competition, I know that the CEMS network ( does have a business plan competition - although one does have to be a CEMS student to participate, students do come from all over the world as the network of universities is not just in the EU. However, would could we design a competition across universities?

Paul van Zoggel

May 17, 2012, 08:07AM
Karina, if you would like to focus on bio innovation with students, and you need something a bit 'outside' the university feel, more open.

Maybe this is something to hook onto:

And do a case how webentrepreneuring and this Blue Economy innovation can help eachother speeding up in EU (and for abroad).

Nicole Kinney

May 16, 2012, 00:12AM
Great concept! From my experience studying business in Italy, a major obstacle for entrepreneurship there is bureaucracy. Perhaps the site could also provide information about multinational law and regulation pertaining to start-ups. Would the ECE network be tied to a membership organization? Creating a membership organization, like that of the Junior League, would facilitate organization, funding, and commitment.

Karina McElroy

May 16, 2012, 06:54AM
Nice thoughts Nicole! Since the EU Commission would be apart of this concept, I'm that including an EU law component would definitely be feasible, and as you note, helpful for start-ups as they move around to other European countries.

Paul van Zoggel

May 15, 2012, 20:19PM
Good update. Very plausible to start like this! A good inspiration for the setup would be they travel from city to city and involve sponsors.

I see myself in the virtual team, thanks! Or does it mean I should do something more now? : )

Karina McElroy

May 16, 2012, 06:52AM
When I clicked on the link, I was redirected to a 'purchase url' page.. maybe there site has been update? But in doing something more, evaluation of the concept would be great! : )


May 16, 2012, 07:01AM

Karina McElroy

May 16, 2012, 07:15AM
Thank you! Also appears that their home base is in Copenhagen, which could make for an interesting collaboration in starting this concept!

Paul van Zoggel

May 16, 2012, 07:19AM
And now they are in Amsterdam my 'homebase'. I see on the top of page London with *. So maybe there could be a sponsoring partnering contact with ECE/IDEO/EC through Amy? (as she looks London based)

Christian Nielsen

May 15, 2012, 13:48PM
I love the idea - simple yet strategically brilliant - leverage what is already there!

In my experience, one VERY important aspect is to facilitate interpersonal meetings. While web interaction does create some amazing opportunities for extremely cost-efficient global interaction, we still have to acknowledge the importance of personal contact.

Communication between humans happen on many levels (subconsciously through facial expression, tone of voice, etc.) and I imagine that people have to meet in order to benefit fully from each other's experience.

Just think of how text conversations and email can lead to serious misunderstandings....

Let's face it, the real value of uniting these existing hub, expertise centers, etc., is to facilitate an increase of knowledge flow between the centers.

I think if this ECE concepts is combined with some sort of reoccurring local events, where people are invited to meet and mingle, new connections will be made and knowledge will start to flow.

Entrepreneurship is a delicate matter that cannot easily be harnessed - it between people.

I'm glad to see the European Commission has posed this challenge, I hope you have the same courage as most serial entrepreneurs - dare to take a leap of faith - just act and learn as you go.

Karina McElroy

May 14, 2012, 17:06PM
Hi everyone! Really great thoughts! I'm working on updating the concept now to include your suggestions to help start this network as a lo-fi concept. Looking forward to your feedback!

John Tauzel

May 14, 2012, 03:09AM
Hey All,

Check out POPSHOP affiliated with Cornell University ( Perhaps the start of ECE is not a set of formal, permanent locations but a number of temporary centers in various cities. Those that are successful can continue and grow, while the Pop-Up centers can move on to test new locations. This is a lower cost approach that can role out the idea to many different cities.

One of our thoughts had been to create a community of web entrepreneurs that support each other and help reduce the fear of failure. We thought even if the Centers sponsored soccer games or other social events (not necessarily business related), this would help build community.

Paul van Zoggel

May 14, 2012, 07:00AM
Hi John,

Popshop looks good. Even an 'art' cafe/launch/library could say "i wanna be a popshop'. And needs to first get some likes from local students/startups to start and than some badges to be taken seriously by local business developers.

John Tauzel

May 14, 2012, 14:51PM
Thanks Paul!

Completely agree about needing some kind of validation from a University and other relevant groups along with perhaps an ECE leadership group (I guess some sort of leadership structure would need to be part of the MVP). By being affiliated, but also somewhat independent of the University, the model might help address the concern noted below of the ECE being perceived as only accessible by students.

The initial short time frame of the shop also creates less upfront commitment of resources. This could be beneficial in getting groups to try the ECE concept.

Paul van Zoggel

May 14, 2012, 15:39PM
thank you also. This popshop thing opened my mind a bit today as a gap filler between student projects and (subsidized) incubators.

A lot of people trying a lot of startups is the best to get new businesses going. I see a nice ecosystem combined with timesharing (starterbarter concept) and hackathons in public buidlings concept.

Karina McElroy

May 14, 2012, 17:09PM
Hi John and Paul. I really like the concept, especially as the testing phases will better help to understand 1) where each university's strengths lie and 2) which universities would be more invested in continuing the project as a long term implementation and build the concept with us


May 01, 2012, 23:01PM
The advisory panel loved the idea of connecting universities with similar interest groups and courses. In the spirit of "Minimum Viable Product", we wonder what this would look like as purely a lo-fi concept without the digital component. How can universities better share resources and knowledge as a face-to-face experience?

Swing by our Web Start-up Challenge Refinement Phase Announcement: + the Lowdown on Refinement: for more tips!

Karina McElroy

May 02, 2012, 06:15AM
An interesting thought! As a starting point, I will be heading to the entrepreneur center on campus to discuss these ideas with them.

Paul van Zoggel

May 02, 2012, 21:45PM
The panels question is interesting. Does that mean the challenge to connect universities and centers is not technological but idealogical?

John Cho

May 04, 2012, 02:54AM
European MBAs already collaborate to host the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) every year. After the day's competition, we have a great time collaborating over dinner and/or drinks. Simply having the next competition's business cases focus exclusively on web start ups from Europe could get the ball rolling.

Meena Kadri

May 04, 2012, 04:30AM
Great stuff, John. And there might certainly be opportunities for extending beyond the MBA sector. In fact this recent article from FastCompany makes me think that designers & MBA's should be encouraged to collaborate more: – plus all the other entrepreneurial folk out there in other disciplines. (my nephew just won a prize for entrepreneurship at MIT & he's an undergrad engineering major. Sorry... that could just be the proud aunty in me gloating ;^)

John Cho

May 04, 2012, 04:52AM
Meena, agreed. The VCIC uses real businesses as part of the process and already brings investors (judges), students, and entrepreneurs (cases) together and therefore could serve as the springboard into building the network Karina proposed. Which, as you suggested, would have to be more diverse to be effective in the long term.

Paul van Zoggel

May 04, 2012, 05:21AM
The issuu addressed in article by Meena (MBA's and Designers can learn a lot from eachother) is an interesting hook for a European business+design challenge.

If ECE and VCIC is already a common ground for MBA's it is a great start.

Are there European wide 'design' competitions/network of schools in Europe with mentality 'design needs to matter'?

Karina McElroy

May 07, 2012, 12:42PM
Hi all, great thoughts! A question that came to me while reviewing your comments is how could the launch of ECE and VCIC be incorporated at the EU level? Naturally, we could start at one university, however for universities to really share their knowledge and support web entrepreneurs around the EU, shouldn't this be lunched at each university? How do you think this would work with the "Minimum Viable Product" idea?

Paul van Zoggel

May 07, 2012, 13:27PM
There are KICs in Europe. Knowledge and Innovation Communities. One of them is ICT. I don't know the details but somebody told me the kics are active in aligning quality assurance of master degrees in universities. So this could be an access point for this concept.

MVP could be that we organize a design challenge like this, but the KIC partners have to come with problems for the webentrepreneur people to pitch solutions for.

Somehow it should be bottom-up, find the individuals with EU and web mindset in all those universities. It is no use IMO to collect boardmembers of UNI's.

Amy Bonsall

May 07, 2012, 19:07PM
Hey guys, love the debate! In terms of MVP, the thoughts of the advisory panel were simply that it might be super easy to start by helping facilitate connections on an individual level. So, maybe something as simple as a facebook group versus a database which makes it easy to facilitate events and get-togethers where people can share learnings. Love the idea of using VCIC as a model / starting-point. (Where was it when I was in b-school? Or perhaps I was too buried in work to notice it!)

Completely agree that it would be way more interesting a group if it spans across disciplines.

In order to facilitate cooperation, the advisory panel also discussed the idea of creating centres of excellence - so maybe one university is known for fostering health-related startups, while another one focuses on tech...

Paul van Zoggel

May 07, 2012, 19:50PM
In my humble experience in helping in the past to connect art and design schools in Europe, the big learning lesson is you need a little threshold to be part of the family.

Like TEDx, it doesnt cost you money to get the label, but you need to work for it.

Like Studio School in UK, every school can apply, but you need to commit with a few people, do the work.


Centres of excellence sounds good, and we can learn a lot-lot-lot from the FP6 NoE Networks of Excellence how not to set it up... Avoiding pitfalls.

Karina McElroy

May 07, 2012, 21:57PM
Really like the thought of creating something that spans across disciplines.. this for example, can be seen at the Copenhagen Business School where a new master degree is being created in conjunction with the Danish Technical Institute where business students and scientists will work together on bio innovation projects.

In addition, I really like this idea of supporting web entrepreneurs with information in regards to where the universities around the EU have their strengths. Perhaps thought the VCIC model this could be a starting point for better understanding where each university strength's lie?

Amy Bonsall

May 10, 2012, 19:09PM
Great idea, Karina. I wonder if you could even get some MBAs to help with this as part of a VCIC project...

Amy Bonsall

May 10, 2012, 19:21PM
Guys, also worth looking at the action on the angel-ettes concept, as it is talking about centres of excellence and how gov't can help encourage that:

John Cho

May 10, 2012, 20:06PM
Here is some more information about the VCIC model for your reference: It is worth taking a look at their explanation to see how they add value to the ecosystem.

In Europe, MBA students and faculty from host schools (Oxford and IESE traditionally) play a fundamental role in organizing and running the events. I don't think it would be much of a stretch to get help from some MBA's as Amy suggested.

John Cho

May 10, 2012, 20:17PM
In the spirit of Amy's suggestion, the Said Business School (Oxford) also has Strategic Consulting Projects available where organizations apply for a summer's worth of help from a team of MBA's. I would think a project like this from the EU would garner quite a bit of interest and could be an inexpensive way to help launch/explore.

Karina McElroy

May 14, 2012, 17:48PM
Great thoughts John and Amy! Please take a look at the updated section, which I hope is a good extension of your suggestions in finding where universities have their expertise while leveraging on MBA/business students

John Tauzel

April 30, 2012, 02:34AM
Hi Karina,

I'm part of the ECE Team. I think this is a great way to build on the network! It helps link up research and existing resources well.

Perhaps it could be a combination of the two. In some cities or regions an EU University hosts the center. In cities and towns where no university can take on the role, an independent center could be established. Both types of centers would be connected to each other.

I agree with Ben's comment that sometimes University focused centers could be viewed as inaccessible by certain groups. There are ways, however, to overcome this perception.

Karina McElroy

May 01, 2012, 15:27PM
Hi John,

I think this is a great idea! Plus, as you and Ben mentioned, then the centers would be more attractive to those from outside of the university system. The question now is, how do we get started? To leverage on existing resources, would it be better to start with existing centers and then when the project is ready to be scaled up move into cities without an existing university entrepreneur center?

Amy Bonsall

April 25, 2012, 20:09PM
Love the idea of leveraging what already exists. I wonder if you could take it a step further and identify how each university uniquely adds to the whole - perhaps there are centres of excellence and universities could leverage each other for specific things? E.g., one university might have deep knowledge in nurturing health care related start-ups, while another might know tech better. How could they support each other?

Karina McElroy

April 26, 2012, 06:41AM
This is a great thought Amy! Really like how universities around the EU would then be able to not only leverage their individual strengths, but receive supported from universities with other expertise.. What about adding some sort of quotient, perhaps similar to the Design Quotient here, that would recognize these values? That way entrepreneurs looking for support for a specific problem would know which center in the network would have the best resources to support them in solving that problem.

Erik Cox

April 23, 2012, 17:02PM
This is really cool. I think you may have come up with a simpler version of where I was going with my idea. Nice!

Karina McElroy

April 25, 2012, 09:29AM
Seems like the ideas will work well together : )


April 22, 2012, 22:24PM
Congrats on this post being today's onsite Featured Concept!

Rachel Rosenbaum

May 01, 2012, 16:59PM
This is great! I'm part of the ECE team and I love how you brought a whole new element to the table that we couldn't see...being so engrossed in our own ideas.

Karina McElroy

May 02, 2012, 06:14AM
Thanks Rachel! Now looking forward to refining this concept with everyone!

David Arnedo

April 19, 2012, 19:03PM
Fantastic idea! I like it in terms of viability, it starts from a very good position. Where does it go when it gets bigger? Does it help develop new centres at other universities? Does it open the doors for Non-university entrepreneurs? Do the networks collaborate inside a structured agenda?

Meena Kadri

April 19, 2012, 21:04PM
Fab idea Karina – and relevant provocations David. Here's hoping other's join the conversation to help spell out some specifics and bring on the builds on the great potential here!

Karina McElroy

April 20, 2012, 09:05AM
Hope so Meena! As for moving the concept forward, it could be exciting to explore the idea of building innovation houses at the universities or a program where entrepreneurs are able to travel the EU to a number of universities over say a three week period to join a number of business plan competitions i.e. get their idea around the EU and not just stay in their country of origin. This would not only open their network, but also better expose start-up ideas.

As for opening the network for non-university entrepreneurs, I think this network idea would be a great way to do so. This is because individuals who are not apart of a university may not think that a university network is something they can leverage upon. One thing to consider, however, is that most business plan competitions through universities are open to students.. any thoughts on this?

David Arnedo

April 21, 2012, 11:32AM
I think that companies have understood the importance of recruiting new talent from universities (thats why they make those competitions). This might create a way to explain to investors the importance of finding great business ideas directly from university students... hmmm interesting!

Ben Werdmuller

April 23, 2012, 19:43PM
There's already a lot of great entrepreneurship work that universities do with their students, working from Stanford's original, excellent example. I think what you've proposed here is a great idea as long as it's applicable to the wider community, rather than being limited to students, faculty, staff or any limited membership.

Ting-Han Huang

April 24, 2012, 03:02AM
Fantastic idea Karina! For the innovation houses, maybe you could draw some idea from Erik's Innovation Hostel "".

Karina McElroy

April 25, 2012, 09:26AM
Thanks for the link Ting-Han!

Peter De Groof

May 30, 2012, 07:42AM
Hi Karina, I think this is a great concept !! Amazing this type of hub-set up does not exist yet ... I'm convinced it could trigger a lot of cross-fertilization ... One could also think of a private Investment Fund that continously skims the great ideas from all over the ECE members & funds the best ones ... ?
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