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    It’s the weekend, so welcome to the EIB’s “funny pages” with our weekly start-up cartoon

    The European Investment Bank launched “The Brood” cartoon in November to celebrate European SME Week and its headline event SME Assembly, which took place in Estonia. “The Brood” is produced by Madis Ots, a one-man SME from Estonia, and illustrates some of the challenges that SMEs, particularly start-up companies, face when trying to access finance.

    Access to finance, by the way, means “getting a loan” in bank-speak. If you are an SME and you want to get better at speaking Financese, you may also want to click and listen to our podcast “A Dictionary of Finance.” There’s an episode on small- and medium-sized enterprises (that we call SMEs, for short). 

    Anyway, this “access to finance” may be especially difficult for SMEs which are trying to disrupt the market with an unusual, innovative business idea. But these are exactly the kind of SMEs that Europe needs, if it’s to keep up with competitors in the US and Asia. These “disruptive” start-ups bring together two priority policy goals for the EIB: supporting small businesses, and fostering innovation. The way we do this is through various intermediaries.

    These are usually banks or other financial institutions which have offices and teams located close to the SMEs and have a detailed local understanding of their needs. The EIB supports those intermediaries, which are then required to pass on the financial advantage they receive to the SMEs. Last year alone, around 300 000 SMEs across Europe benefited from this kind of programme. These SMEs collectively employ about 4.4 million people! In fact, 2 out of every 3 people working in Europe is working for an SME, which is defined as a company employing up to 249 people. That’s almost all (99%) of the companies in Europe.

    But that wasn’t enough for us. Now we also support a small business by publishing this comic strip. If you are trying to guess whom the hedgehog, the bear, the rabbit and the wolf represent, you can read the author’s take. You’ll also find the first couple of strips behind that link. And come back next Saturday for the next dose.