The Digital Single Market: A European Five-Year Plan?

An Environment for Entrepreneurship

Wednesday, the European Commission released their Plan for a Digital Single Market (DSM), but is this strategy the rebirth of European entrepreneurship or rather reminiscent of planned economies’ five-year plans?


The European Commission has spoken: “Innovative entrepreneurs are central to the digital economy.” (Italics mine) Thus, it proceeds to reduce bureaucracy and to lift regulations. But does it really? The non-central players, especially parcel services and established Internet platforms, might beg to differ since the plan sneaks in many more regulations than it purports to dissolve.

Do not misunderstand me here; the value of innovative entrepreneurship is not at question. What is at question is the mandated alignment of companies, or even entire industries, with the goals of regulators.

The DSM Plan introduces various types of these mandates. In the case of the logistics industry it is in the form of self-regulation, accompanied by the commission’s “complementary measures.” Regulation for established Internet platforms such as Google or Facebook, on the other hand, is all but announced outright. The difference between these two types, of course, is merely an exercise in semantics.

You may ask now: But what does this have to do with digital startups? Aren’t they the ones profiting from all this, through reduced bureaucracy, cheaper parcel delivery, and other perks?

In the short term this may appear so, but, my dear innovative entrepreneurs, what you then have to look forward to is the unstated maxim that: once your “importance for other market participants [becomes] increasingly critical,” your work, effort and property is to be distributed by the European Commission. Are these conditions any self-respecting entrepreneur would be willing to work, leave alone innovate, under?

If the EC were serious about fostering entrepreneurship, it would promote an environment where the right to the fruits of one’s efforts was actually recognized and upheld; it would promote an environment where digital entrepreneurs are not central to the economy, today, and to be sacrificed for some bureaucrat’s new scheme, tomorrow; it would recognize that the best protection any consumer could wish for, is the fact that the digital entrepreneur’s livelihood depends not on his ability to trick consumers, but to provide superior customer value.


Find out how you can keep your company agile and responsive in these turbulent conditions.

(Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are from the EC publications on the DSM Strategy)