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Helping today’s young entrepreneurs to become tomorrow’s business leaders

By Bertrand Sava, Managing Director for Southern Europe • Visa

November 14, 2017

This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), an initiative that shines a spotlight on the start-up space worldwide. At Visa we believe micro and small enterprises form the backbone of the global economy. In fact, small and medium enterprises account for more than 90 percent of enterprises globally and contribute to 50-60 percent of global employment 1. However, we have found that these segments struggle to access the financial tools, capital and training programs required to enable them to fully thrive.

That’s why we have a stated commitment to help these enterprises prosper, recognising the ripple effect they deliver into the local communities where they operate, and economies beyond. Indeed, our partnership with Junior Achievement Europe - Europe’s leading provider of education programmes for entrepreneurship - is one way we are helping to equip young people with the entrepreneurial skillsets, and mind-sets, needed for success in today’s global economy.

Helping to address the skills gap amongst young people

Young people are the next generation of buyers and sellers, merchants and consumers; they’re the next business owners, the next contributors to global society. At Visa we recognise the importance of supporting these young people as they establish themselves within society.

In fact, in Europe there are 6.3 million young people unemployed and unsurprisingly concerns about a ‘skills gap’ among this age group have been growing. Entrepreneurial education is gaining traction as a way of supporting skills development in young people with tangible benefits as they enter working adult life, including increased confidence, resilience and adaptability. As enterprise is considered to be important to delivering a prosperous economy, young people with entrepreneurial skills and acumen are arguably well placed to play a key role in delivering economic growth in their own communities and beyond. Indeed, the Europe 2020 strategy recognises entrepreneurship and self-employment as key for achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Supporting young start-ups from the grassroots with Junior Achievement

A shared vision to equip young people with the skills to succeed in a global economy is at the heart of our partnership with Junior Achievement (JA). The partnership has created opportunities for Visa to support young people as they take part in entrepreneurial education and start business ventures of their own. I was delighted to have the chance to get involved this year and see the power of our partnership in action.

Visa employees in France, Italy and Spain, together with our client banks, worked to support the student entrepreneurs competing in JA Europe’s Start Up programme. This well-established competition gives students aged 19-30 the chance to run their own company and gain insights into how their talents could be used to set-up a business. It was a genuine pleasure and inspiration to see first-hand the ideas and enthusiasm of these potential future business leaders and I’m sure my fellow business mentors found their involvement in the programme equally inspiring. The initiative culminated at the European Enterprise Challenge in Helsinki, Finland where finalists from across Europe competed for a number of prizes, including the Visa Award for Connected Commerce – awarded to the start-up enterprise which embodied the values driving Connected Commerce: innovation, globalisation and consumer control. We were thrilled to host the winners of this year’s Visa Award, Portugal-based start-up, CityCheck, at our London Innovation Center last week. We saw great potential in their idea for an app which utilises gamification to enhance the experience of tourists visiting the cultural city of Lisbon.

By bringing together a group of Visa experts from marketing, innovation and partnerships we aimed to give this young start up an intensive day of mentoring to help them develop their proposition into a viable service in their home market. Watch the highlights video to hear more about CityCheck’s visit to Visa’s London Innovation Center:

Responsibility and opportunity

With new technology comes a change in workplaces worldwide and, as a global business, it is our responsibility to help ensure young people are well-equipped for today’s job market. Entrepreneurship education has a huge part to play in this – not only does it equip young people with the skills to start their own venture, but it also instils in them resilience and adaptability that will stand them in a good stead to succeed in today’s global economy.

I look forward to following the journey of this year’s Visa Award winner, CityCheck, and our continuing support for young enterprises across Europe!


1 International Finance Corporation, “IFC Issue Brief: Small and Medium Enterprises.” March 2012

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