Problem-Based Learning: A startups’ recipe for policy makers

Online platforms transform the way we purchase, communicate, move and work – everybody enjoys their services everyday. Startups benefit from this thriving platform economy – it helps them to grow, operate with little cost and connect easily with consumers and users. With the platform economy, startups deliver new products and services which benefits consumers and users. They identify a specific problem and design an innovative solution to solve it, keeping in mind a user-centric approach. Here are three examples to show how platforms connect people who either need service, advice or therapy:

Listminut is a Belgian startup which connects private individuals looking for local services, such as gardening or designing a website. Created in 2013, it currently employs 12 people, has 163,000 users and 47,000 handymen. Its founder Jonathan Schockaert will tell you that it’s all about building trust.

Tattoodo is the world’s premiere one-stop-shop for tattoos lovers. Founded in 2013, the Danish platform enables its 6 millions users to share pictures of their tattoos, but also find information on tattoo artists, tattoo shops and guidance on how to take good care of their tattoos.

Meru Health is a Finnish healthcare platform designed to help people living with depression, anxiety and burnout symptoms. The app delivers a 12-week programme where the user has access to daily exercises and easy-to-use tools and is connected with a licensed therapist. Founded in 2015, the startups employs 27 people and has 1,000 users.

These are just three of the many platforms flourishing in the EU. Working closely with the global startup ecosystems, the team at Allied for Startups comes across stories like these daily. Overall the message is clear: platforms create huge economic and social value. Scale and a global mindset from day one are crucial and require entrepreneurs to have a clear understanding of the risks they take when they start operating. This is why the liability protection regime established by the E-Commerce Directive is so important for them to thrive. Legal obligations, such as intermediary liability rules, must be light-touch, simple and clear for them to comply with. Startups of today are shaping the economy of tomorrow, they should be able to focus on what they are good at – innovation.

By continuously reassessing whether matured laws are still fit for purpose policy makers are on the right track to make laws that work for the digital age. If in this process they perceive a misfit or imbalance, we encourage them to not only think of the startups that are in the scope of their actions. We also encourage them to think like startups, i.e. problem-based and with the user in mind. Is this a market failure or perhaps only a grievance with one company, and is there a need to use the heaviest instrument in the policy-making toolkit, a regulation, to resolve it?

The revision of the E-Commerce Directive will be a key debate, it should be a chance for policy-makers to provide more incentives to tackle illegal content online without making platforms liable. Platform Governance is one of the first priorities of Allied for Startups. As outlined above, there are many components that make the platform economy as successful as it is today. At the heart of it stand clear intermediary liability rules, which we are currently consulting our Members about. From experience we’ve learned that regulators have a higher chance of passing laws that work for startups if they know about them. We encourage you to reach out and learn about some of the platforms from your startup ecosystem.

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