When I joined Moonshot Pirates three years ago, one of the main skills I acquired was what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset and how important that can be in all aspects of life. Entrepreneurship is one of the three main pillars at Moonshot Pirates.
Now being part of the Moonshot Pirates Crew, I got the great opportunity to represent Moonshot Pirates at the Kick-off event of the YEPA.
What is the YEPA?
YEPA stands for Youth Entrepreneurship Policy Academy. It is a three-year program organized by the European Commission and the OECD. The goal is to develop concrete ideas on how policies in the EU can foster youth entrepreneurship. The participants in the program include government representatives, experts, and organizations from all countries in the EU and beyond. I was thrilled to learn that Moonshot Pirates, along with Austrian Startups, would represent entrepreneurship organizations in Austria.
My Experience at the YEPA Kick-off Conference
The first day of the kick-off was full of interesting keynotes and panel discussions on youth entrepreneurship. The most insightful part for me was the discussion between three young entrepreneurs, who shared their experiences and ideas. For instance, Joni Rakipi talked about the InCube Challenge, where, for 5 days, students sleep, eat, and work in glass cubes placed in public places, trying to find innovative solutions for the world’s biggest challenges. People passing by can observe what they do, which makes “innovation more transparent.”
Charlotte Pievaux, who started her own organic, sustainable beauty brand Betree, shared how university trained her how to merge companies or how to manage 25 employees, but it did not teach her to run a company by herself.
Besides these talks, there were lots of opportunities to network and get to know other participants. It was fascinating to learn about the different projects that people from different countries are working on. Some great examples:
Alyssa runs Blyss, a social enterprise that focuses on educating cacao farmers, improving their health conditions and increasing living incomes.
Alexis is the president of Innovative Youth, a platform in Malta that supports young people as they foster the necessary business skills to pursue their goals.
Franziska is the head project manager of “Jugend gründet“, a free educational program that accompanies young high school students in Germany to develop their own innovative solutions for challenges of the world of today and tomorrow.
Hannah is the managing director of Austrian Startups, the biggest initiative that provides an open place for all startups, stakeholders, and entrepreneurial interested people in Austria.
André is the Head of Business Development at UPTEC in Portugal, where he supports the creation and development of business projects in the arts, sciences, and technologies. In addition, he is also the Co-Host of the podcast “Start now. Cry later”.
Ideas to Encourage Youth Entrepreneurship
The second day was filled with hands-on activities in fishbowl discussions, where six people would sit in an inner circle and discuss the challenges young entrepreneurs face. Those outside the circle would take notes, and anyone could jump in to join the inner conversation by switching the seat with someone from the inner circle. At first, the conversations were a bit bumpy, but in the end, some great insights were shared on what we should focus on in the next three years.
In the end, I had the privilege of sharing the results of our group discussion in front of all the participants.
From my point of view, we need to answer three questions to create policies that encourage youth entrepreneurship:
- Firstly, what is entrepreneurship? Rather than just running a company, we should teach an entrepreneurial mindset that involves questioning the effectiveness of processes, searching for solutions and improvements, and taking action to make things better.
- Secondly, who are youth entrepreneurs? It could be 7-year-old kids or 30-year-old first-time founders. The YEPA should clarify on which age groups the policies should focus on to avoid confusion.
- Finally, how do we involve youth in the process? It was striking that despite the YEPA’s aim of promoting youth entrepreneurship, I was the youngest person in the room. If we want to develop ideas that reach the young changemakers of tomorrow, we must bring them to the table and directly get their thoughts on what they need and how the EU can best support them on their entrepreneurial journeys.
Overall, the YEPA kick-off was an unforgettable experience, and I cannot wait to see what ideas will come out of the next three years of the program.