Strive EU: Surfacing new innovations and amplifying small business voices in the EU

Our programs

Supporting small businesses to navigate Europe’s twin transitions to a more digital and sustainable economy

Why this program?

  • The post-pandemic recovery for small businesses in the EU has been uneven, with businesses not yet fully recovered to their 2019 levels. 
  • Only 55% of European small business owners anticipate growth in the coming year, and the looming rollback of pandemic support measures pose a risk of increased bankruptcies. 
  • Small businesses in the EU face challenges such as securing skilled labor, combating rising costs, adapting to the rapidly evolving digital landscape, and mounting regulatory changes.
  • Small businesses are an important backbone of the EU-27 economy, accounting for almost 20% of value added and 30% of employment.

Program overview

Although many European small business owners acknowledge that better use of technology could bolster their growth and resilience, concerns about security and privacy present substantial barriers to implementing new technologies and fully participating in the digital economy. 

The Strive EU program, implemented by Caribou Digital, in partnership with the European Microfinance Network, will seek to boost the resilience and growth of European small businesses by surfacing new innovations that help them get capital, go digital and gain networks and know-how. The program consists of an Innovation Fund and support to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

1) Strive EU Innovation Fund. This fund will make available a total of €4.5M for up to 15 winners from across EU member states and provide them technical assistance and mentoring. They will also benefit from Mastercard Start Path resources. Applications will open in early 2024 and are open to development sector and private sector organizations, established entities and startups alike. Specifically, the Innovation Fund will solicit solutions that help small businesses to: 

  • Unlock working capital and credit through embedded finance;
  • Go digital safely by bolstering cybersecurity;
  • Navigate evolving consumer preferences and regulatory expectations around environmental sustainability;
  • Harness AI to save time and make money.

2) Ecosystem Building. Strive EU will convene the European entrepreneurial ecosystem to share perspectives, cross pollinate learnings and amplify promising models to help European small businesses at scale. As part of the ecosystem building, Strive EU will conduct three main activities:

  • Establish a Strive EU Small Business Council
  • Convene policymakers, civil society, the private sector and small businesses to discuss opportunities and models to support European small businesses
  • Publish an annual learning report to ensure that best practices, insights and small business perspectives are shared widely. 

About Caribou Digital

Caribou Digital delivers fund management, learning partnerships, and research, advisory, and measurement services, to support organizations worldwide to build more inclusive and ethical digital economies. Caribou Digital is trusted by leading foundations, commercial partners, and agencies that aspire to create a more inclusive and ethical digital world. 

About the European Microfinance Network

The European Microfinance Network (EMN) is a member-based not-for-profit organisation based in Brussels, which promotes microfinance as a tool to fight social and financial exclusion in Europe through self-employment and the creation of microenterprises. It is the Network’s mission to facilitate capacity building and to advocate on behalf of the sector.

Implementation partners

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