Europe Crowns SoundCloud And SwiftKey Founders Its Startup Heroes

For the last few years Europe has been emerging as a powerful source of new global startups. Hell, why else would we be doing TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin this year? And we’ve seen efforts to recognise the heroes of the scene, with a proliferation of startup conferences, as well as awards, such as The Europas (which I chair). Now the venerable European Commission has started to wake up to the talent under its nose and created its own awards ceremony: Europioneers.

Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes has tonight announced the winners at a ceremony in Amsterdam after six months of online voting and a judging process.

The European Entrepreneur of the Year has been jointly named as Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss (SoundCloud, based in Berlin). The Young European Entrepreneur of the Year is Jon Reynolds (SwiftKey, based in London). SoundCloud won a Crunchie as Best International Startup this year while SwiftKey has been making waves with mobile partners, one rumoured to be Blackberry.

The other nominees in the running were Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Victor Jacobsson, Niklas Adalberth (Klarna), Michael Acton Smith (Mind Candy), Mikael Hed, Niklas Hed (Rovio), Jens Begemann (Wooga), Hiroki Takeuchi and Matt Robinson (GoCardless), Christian Reber (6Wunderkinder), Joshua March (Conversocial) and Daniel Ek (Spotify). A somewhat ‘guy-heavy’ list…

“Entrepreneurs are Europe’s ‘secret ingredient’ for growing its way out of the current crisis”, said Kroes. She established the “Europioneer” awards in partnership with The Next Web blog to “bring to an end the myth, the fairy tale, that all of the good ideas come from Silicon Valley.” Well ok!

The goal is to provide a new generation of Europeans with entrepreneur role models, clearly.

Here’s how they reached results: The public could nominate anyone via Twitter, Facebook and email. Some 908 nominations were submitted between the two categories. The final 20 nominees (10 in each category) were produced based on public nominations. The judges became involved in the latter stages, finally picking the winners.

The judges were Charles Arthur (Guardian), Mike Butcher (TechCrunch / me), Saul Klein (Index Ventures/Seedcamp), Antti Vilpponen (Arctic Startup/Upcloud), Olivia Solon (Wired) and Werner Vogels (CTO Amazon).