Who Makes The Select XI?


As we gear up for the battle between Europe’s top footballing talent, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate Europe’s top entrepreneurs and startups. So who would make Europe’s Select XI for entrepreneurship?

As EURO 2024 kicks off, football fans eagerly anticipate the gathering of Europe’s top footballers, showcasing their skills on the grand stage. Without global players in the mix, it’s a chance to celebrate European talent, from the established stars like Ronaldo, Mbappe, and Kane to the emerging players vying to take their place in the spotlight.

Europe is rich in football history, and its entrepreneurial landscape is no different. From tech pioneers to disruptive innovators, scale-ups to unicorns, the ecosystem boasts a diverse array of visionaries driving innovation and progress, solving some of society’s most pressing problems.

Yet, as with the smaller European footballing nations, some European founders can get overlooked when playing on the global stage. In this article, we select 11 of the best entrepreneurs and start-ups Europe has to offer, highlighting the brightest minds and most innovative companies on the Continent.

Selecting Europe’s Best Entrepreneurs And Start-Ups

Football managers face tough decisions when assembling their EUROs 2024 squad, and picking the top 11 European entrepreneurs is no different. Like in football, where fans crave entertainment, we should focus on start-ups that bring a spark of innovation and excitement. But at the same time, diversity of thought and background are critical, ensuring a well-rounded and dynamic approach, with players excelling in different roles.

Unfortunately, some fantastic startup hubs failed to make EURO 2024, so don’t make the cut for this team either – the likes of Taavet Hinrikus, founder of Wise (Estonia), Daniel Ek, of Spotify (Sweden), and Johan Brand, from Kahoot (Norway). I wanted to give them an honorable mention, to illustrate the development and depth of the European startup ecosystem.

With that in mind, here’s my pick:

The Select XI In A 4-3-3 Formation

#1 Peter Muhlmann, Trustpilot (Denmark)

A great custodian and safe pair of hands, Muhlman has built Trustpilot into one of the leading review sites in the world and the first Danish tech Unicorn. A natural leader and communicator, he will keep the team motivated from the back and, most importantly, keep the ball out of the ‘onion bag’.

Strengths: Visionary in building a trusted online review community, focusing on transparency and consumer trust.

Weaknesses: Managing fake reviews and ensuring consistent quality.

#2 Simone Mancini, Scalapay (Italy)

Bringing an Italian mindset blended with international experience, Mancini always delivers a great product. He’s not fazed by big-name competitors in the BNPL space, such as Klarna, Afterpay, and PayPal. He’s good at one-on-ones and overlaps, with several successful acquisitions and partnerships under his belt and no doubt more to come.

Strengths: Innovator in the buy-now-pay-later sector, making high-ticket items accessible to consumers.

Weaknesses: Navigating regulatory challenges in different markets.

#3 – Mariusz Gralewski, Docplanner (Poland)

Having achieved amazing progress from humble beginnings, Gralewski has created a global healthtech powerhouse, with offices in Warsaw, Barcelona, Istanbul, Rome, Mexico City, Curitiba, and Bologna. A shrewd operator, he never misses an opportunity to outsmart the competition and can regularly be found marauding across the pitch in search of global domination.

Strengths: Revolutionising healthcare accessibility through a comprehensive online booking system.

Weaknesses: Retaining a personal experience when scaling rapidly around the world.

#4 – Nikolay Storonsky, Revolut (England) – CAPTAIN

A naturalized player, Storonsky is the team leader and appointed skipper. With an unrivaled work ethic and ‘take no prisoners’ approach, he’s had a meteoric rise, taking Revolut from startup to a $33bn valuation in less than ten years. Although he’s not without his critics, he is a rock under pressure who can do it on a “rainy night in Stoke.” Never adverse to an almighty goalmouth scramble and the odd sending-off.

Strengths: A disruptive force in the financial technology space, offering a broad range of banking services and ambitions to become a super-app.

Weaknesses: Regulatory scrutiny and market competition, and still without a UK banking license.

#5 – Valentin Stalf, N26 (Germany)

A breath of fresh air in the conservative German market, the N26 founder is highly valued for his positive attitude and ambition on the pitch. He’s faced some trials in complying with anti-money laundering regulations but has persevered and silenced the boo-boys. The company is now focused on silverware through sustainable growth and aiming for profitability by the end of 2024.

Strengths: Pioneering mobile banking with user-friendly interfaces and innovative features.

Weaknesses: Operational hurdles in diverse regulatory environments and scaling within regulatory limits.

#6 – Peter van den Does, Adyen (Netherlands)

A Dutch powerhouse, van den Does brings deep experience, having started Adyen back in 2006. He’s shown he can hold his own on the world stage through navigating tricky regulations, although he’s been out of form recently, as performance dipped post-pandemic. Nearly back to full fitness, he should be a threat to the opposition as a tough tackling, hard-nosed holding midfielder.

Strengths: Mastermind behind a leading global payments platform, offering seamless transactions.

Weaknesses: Maintaining security and reliability at scale and proving Adyen can keep performing post-pandemic.

#7 – Gareth Williams, SkyScanner (Scotland)

Veteran midfielder Williams continues to impress with his creativity and innovation, proving that smaller nations can perform on the big stage. Reliable and down to earth, he’s popular amongst his teammates and sure to inspire younger team members as well as the Tartan Army when the pressure mounts throughout the tournament.

Strengths: Transforming travel planning with a powerful and comprehensive flight search engine.

Weaknesses: Adapting to shifting travel behaviors post-pandemic.

#8 – Felipe Navio, JobandTalent (Spain)

Built in Spain, Navio has recently sought his fortune in the US, where JobandTalent has established a significant customer base after securing the backing of Softbank in 2021. He’s a fantastic playmaker, brilliant at opening up opportunities for teammates, with a sixth sense for where everybody is on the pitch. Always putting in a shift.

Strengths: Innovating the recruitment industry with a data-driven, job matching algorithm.

Weaknesses: Ensuring the quality of job placements and managing rapid growth.

#9 – Daniel Dines, UIPath (Romania)

You couldn’t write a script like this; Dines is the greatest thing to emerge from Romania since Gheorghe Hagi! From humble beginnings, he has built UIPath into one of the biggest automation companies in the world, becoming the first ‘bot billionaire’ and helping to transform the Romanian and Central and Eastern European ecosystems in the process. A determined risk taker, he can create magic in the box, striking fear into opposition defenders.

Strengths: Leading the way in robotic process automation, improving efficiency across industries.

Weaknesses: Staying ahead in a rapidly evolving tech landscape.

#10 – Nicolas Julia, Sorare (France)

One of the younger team members, Sorare has made a huge impact in a relatively short time, transforming the sports gaming landscape and securing partnerships with leagues across Europe and beyond. With natural flair, he excels at creating opportunities and the only question is his conversion rate. He still has the support of the fans, but can he fulfill his promise? If so, he’s a potential match-winner.

Strengths: Combining blockchain technology with fantasy football, creating a unique gaming experience.

Weaknesses: Navigating the legalities of blockchain and NFTs. Potential struggles breaking the US.

#11 – José Neves, Farfetch (Portugal)

Cutting a stylish figure on the right wing, Neves has faced a tough time recently, as Farfetch faced administration and was forced to go private. Can he put these challenges behind him and re-establish his place in the European entrepreneurial elite? There’s no doubt he’s a crowd-pleaser but time will tell if he can push the off-pitch distractions to the back of his mind.

Strengths: Revolutionising luxury fashion e-commerce, connecting consumers with boutique brands.

Weaknesses: Securing quality suppliers and getting back to profitability.

Predicted Outcome

Just like EURO 2024 will showcase the best of European football, this select XI showcases the vibrant and dynamic entrepreneurial spirit across the Continent. While the team could have benefitted from heavyweights such as Wise and Spotify, it nonetheless promises to entertain and inspire.

The primary challenge will be discipline; with numerous strong leaders and personalities, managing cohesion and ensuring everyone works towards a common goal could be complex. However, their diversity and creativity should ensure they’ll be a force to be reckoned with, bringing plenty of excitement and fresh ideas to the table.



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