Navigating 2024: Insights from Impact CEOs in Europe's Tech Hubs

As we navigate the challenges and triumphs of 2023, the pulse of Europe’s impact-focused CEOs echoes a tale of resilience, collaboration, and a sprinkle of uncertainty. Let’s break down the best bits from a survey of 1,250 impact entrepreneurs across Europe’s five largest hubs of tech innovation: the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

The Buzz: Retention and Talent
Over 50% of our fearless CEOs predict that the epic battle of 2024 will be waged on two fronts: competition with peers and the unrelenting quest for top-tier talent. Interestingly, recruiting talent is the lowest of problems in Sweden (21%), while 28% of CEOs in the UK said this was their primary worry for 2024. CEOs in France are more worried about access to capital (27%) than the perfect team member.

The CenusWide survey was commissioned by Unreasonable Impact – a global partnership between Barclays and Unreasonable Group, supporting growth-stage entrepreneurs whose businesses are helping to solve pressing world challenges. They surveyed 1250 CEOs drawn equally from the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden, Europe’s five largest tech innovation hubs.

Hiring Hues: Traits That Spark Joy
When it comes to assembling dream teams, ‘leadership’ and ‘problem-solving’ emerged as the most sought-after traits by CEOs across Europe (21%), with problem-solving the most valued trait in the UK (24%). The Germans place more value on the “ambition to create change” (27%). Surprisingly, Sweden highly rates experience (25%), while the Dutch seem nonchalant, ranking it as the least important trait (15%).

The diverse range of hiring preferences hints at a dynamic landscape where impact CEOs seek diverse skill sets to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

Investment Vibes: Weathering the Storm
The data also showed that European impact-focused businesses have maintained steady interest from the investor community over the last 12 months despite a broader downturn for tech companies seeking to access capital across Europe. 67% had seen investor sentiment stay the same towards their business in the past year. 

And here’s a gem: Female leaders across all five countries saw twice as much interest (12%) from investors versus their male counterparts (6%). 

Now, that’s a power move we love to see!

Unleashing Creativity: The CEO’s Arsenal
What traits are essential to lead the charge for impact in 2024? According to our surveyed CEOs, ‘creativity’ (68%) and ‘communication skills’ (67%) are the weapons of choice. The Germans, in their quest for the human touch, hold ’empathy’ in high regard (74.3%), while the French seem a bit skeptical, deeming it the least important (45.4%).

Power of Collaboration: Multinationals and BeyondA collaborative spirit is brewing. Over a quarter of CEOs (26%) are hitching their wagons to multinationals, seeking partners to tackle global challenges. Government bodies (25%), fellow CEOs (25%), and charities (24%) are close contenders, painting a vivid picture of a united front against issues like climate change, education gaps, and food scarcity.

In the Spotlight: Olio and ElonRoad Speak Out
Karin Ebbinghaus, CEO & co-founder of ElonRoad, sees an exciting opportunity for impact companies in the current investment landscape. She urges companies to explore funding avenues beyond conventional VCs, opening doors to diverse funding opportunities.

“I believe there is an opportunity for impact companies in today’s investment landscape with the current macroeconomic climate to seek investors beyond the conventional VCs. This will open new doors to diverse funding opportunities for companies fundraising. Explore backing from sources like corporate investors, government agencies, and family offices. A diverse interest reflects a well-informed investor base ready to explore innovative investment avenues. We’re in an exciting era of transformative approaches and here to navigate this landscape together.

Tessa Clarke, Co-founder and CEO of Olio, sheds light on the necessity of resilience in the realm of impact-led businesses. For her, hiring isn’t just about finding the right fit; it’s about recruiting the mission-obsessed, those who live and breathe the cause.

“In the realm of impact-led businesses, resilience isn’t just a desired trait—it’s essential. That’s because not only do we have to navigate the uncertainties of our macro environment, we also have to craft new business models from the ground up. Such a journey isn’t for the faint-hearted; it demands a mindset of experimentation and the strength to bounce back from failure. 

“The true essence of success in this space also isn’t just about aligning with a mission—it’s about being utterly devoted to it. As a result, our hiring strategy is clear: we don’t just recruit for someone who is mission-aligned, we want mission-obsessed. Even though it can be challenging to find the right talent, it’s imperative for all organisations to maintain their high standards. After all, the future we’re striving for requires our absolute best.”

Final Notes: Daniel Epstein’s Take
Our very own Daniel Epstein, CEO of Unreasonable Group, emphasizes the resilience of Europe’s impact-focused CEOs in the face of challenges. The stable investor sentiment and the rising trend of collaboration with multinationals reflect the power of collective action in creating a sustainable future.

In the face of challenges, these findings highlight the resilience of Europe’s impact-focused CEOs. It’s heartening to see stable investor sentiment and the trend of collaboration with multinationals, which underscores the power of collective action in tackling global issues. At Unreasonable Group, collaboration is a competitive advantage for driving innovation, positive change, and creating a more sustainable future.”

As we step into 2024, let’s celebrate the audacity of these CEOs, forging ahead in a world that demands innovation, positive change, and an unwavering commitment to making a difference.