Europe presents huge opportunities for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas who want to startup or expand businesses abroad.
If you want to launch your blue ocean strategy and find Silicon Valley is already too saturated, consider one of Europe’s biggest startup hubs: London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Stockholm, Dublin, Copenhagen, Milan, Helsinki, Munich, Lisbon, Warsaw and Zurich.
An EY survey ranks London second, only to Silicon Valley, for tech investment. Meanwhile, Facebook, Dropbox, HubSpot and other big tech firms have pitched their tents in Dublin. Swedish startups like Minecraft, Candy Crush, and Skype have found their blue oceans in Stockholm.
Europe’s startup scene is booming
Europe’s startup scene is booming. However, it could turn be one of the most difficult places in the world to start a business if you are not familiar with European regulations and the culture.
With a total of 50 countries, the business regulatory requirements and policies in Europe are as diverse as the number of countries on the continent.
As such, doing your research and due diligence is essential. Decide which European country will suit your unique business objectives and consider 5 important things before you expand your business globally in Europe:
1. How long will it take to start a business in Europe?
The average startup time and associated costs are important indicators of the level of bureaucracy and red tape inherent to a country.
On average, it takes 3.4 days and costs €315 to start a business in Europe. This figure however varies across countries as it takes more days and costs more to complete the process in some countries while others are less stringent.
For instance, while it takes a day and costs €90 to set-up a business in Denmark; in Germany, the process requires 6-9 days and costs €376. You can find more information here.
2. How do I secure international trademark protection?
Protecting your trademark internationally should be one of your most important considerations before starting a business in Europe. This is because each country has different sets of procedures for registering trademarks which have to be adhered to before you are certified as the rightful owner of a mark.
The European Union offers an intellectual property protection service that simplifies the application procedure for all EU member states through an online automated process.
3. Which European country is the most tax-friendly for small businesses?
Knowing the different VAT rules that apply across countries in Europe will help you formulate a market strategy in the country you plan to conduct business.
For instance, if you offer digital services, the new EU VAT rules implemented January 1, 2015 require that you pay your VAT at the rate of the buyer’s country rather than at the rate of your home country.
There are over 80 different VAT rates that currently apply across all EU countries. Furthermore, it’s important that you consider the number of days it will take to complete a VAT registration. While it takes just a day in the UK, you’ll have to wait 2-5 weeks before you can get it done in Germany.
4. What about European business domain names?
Considering that there are 50 countries in Europe and 28 in the European Union (EU), you can either decide to use the EU domain name (.eu) or the country domain name (.se, .uk, .ie, etc.) to help boost your brand’s reputation and drive both local and foreign customers to your products.
To register your domain in Europe, you can leverage the services of domain registration companies like Marcaria which offer international brand protection using global trademark and domain name registration for different countries.
When you start a business in Europe, it is important to register your domain with an ICANN-accredited (a.k.a. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers accredited) registrar or provider in order to purchase a safe domain. Although accreditation does not hack-proof your domain, it serves as protection to ensure you won’t lose your domain if the registrar goes out of business. You can find the full list of accredited registrars here.
Having taken all the necessary steps required to start a business in Europe — in the country of your choice — it’s important to cultivate a “stay hungry” mindset. Be open to change, innovation and learning; it’s vital to your success in a new market.
Lastly, consider this quote by Giovanni Ferrero, CEO of the highly successful Ferrero group: “Tradition is like a bow – the more we stretch the bowstring, the farther we can throw the arrows of modernity and innovation.”
This article has been edited.
Kendrick Mendiola is the resident growth hacker of SparkRaise – an online network and crowdfunding platform for creators and social innovation. Ken loves to write about tech, startups, marketing strategy, branding, and FinTech. Connect with @ken_mendiola on Twitter.