Three years ago, I moved from New York to Belgium to join the Startups.be, Scale-Ups.eu and The Growcery team. With the purpose of merging the three companies and building a sustainable business. It was a wonderful ride that I did not regret for a second! Below a brief recap:
How we saw the market evolving in the last three years?
- The exponential growth of the demand for startups willing to cooperate with corporates. And when we say cooperation, we mean cooperation. Paid proof of concepts, active cooperation to implement innovative solutions. The Big Score was absolute proof of this great evolution. 35 corporate partners pitched their challenge, with a grand total of 1500 one-on-one meetings where startups could pitch their solution or find the right VC (Venture Capital) to boost their growth.
- Significant increase of the willingness to help each other out and to create an entrepreneurial wave. At The Big Squeeze we welcome experts and peers to hand out advice and share successful and less successful stories to help you grow. The Covid crisis did not stop us from connecting.
- HRTECH.be was a tremendous success. What is often called the less innovative department of the company proved everyone wrong. More than 600 HR enthusiasts gathered, mingled,and discussed innovation.
- Significant higher quality of the pitches of the more early stage startups pitching at The Big Score Sessions. Move over ripped jeans and ping pong tables, here are a fantastic group of well organized, cyber secure, GDPR compliant startups.
I willstop bragging about how awesome the Belgian startup ecosystem is, but happy to give you tons of fantastic stories over a good glass of Belgian beer!
How I hope the Belgian startup ecosystem will evolve in the next five years?
- Let us stop comparing ourselves with neighboring cities, not even with neighboring countries! The United States and Asian tech ecosystems are what we want to benchmark ourselves with.
- Stop being annoyingly humbly Belgian. Our companies are simply great! Valuations are low compared to the quality and the market share our startups have. Use it! Dare to think big! You are at least twice as good as you think! We have amazing universities, the best talent, and a great working mentality! The future looks bright if we believe in it!
- Focus on the business, attend targeted events, dare to ask feedback or expert advice, dare to do business.
What were the main achievements for the Startups.be | Scale-Ups.eu team?
- After the merger of the three companies; Startups.be, Scale-Ups.eu and The Growcery to Startups.be | Scale-Ups.eu, we became one team.Not only in the back office but more than ever in the front. A well-balanced,diverse team in age, gender, skills, background, and music choices. A team that shared that one goal: to make it work.
- Financial issues from the past were a daily pain in the neck but we managed to bring structure in our offering, to focus on the need of the market, the willingness of the startups to do business and raise funds and the willingness of venture capitalists and corporate partners to innovate and cooperate with promising startups.
- We shifted from a subsidized to a non-governmental business. We decided to get rid of 90% of the subsidy projects for multiple reasons. It not only distracted us from doing what the fast-changing market needs as the only focus was long overdue KPIs. It also distracted us from practicing what we preach: focus on doing business and finding clients willing to pay for what you do to increase market share.
It was not a leisurely ride. We had to let amazing people go, we were pulled back by the Corona crisis multiple times. We were fighting against over subsidized projects, … Our agility and resilience were tested multiple times, but we withstood this test with flying colors.
I amending my Startups.be | Scale-Ups.eu journey on a high note, an extremely high note. We worked day and night to make the company survive, and we succeeded. We made the impossible possible. We are a profitable business.
I am beyond proud to have been part of such an awesome team that makes saying goodbye so hard.
Thank you to everyone who believed in me! To the members of the board, all partners, participants in the events, and our team!
Thanks to all of you, I have my backpack filled with valuable experiences and lessons learned and I am ready to go full force into the next challenge. I will be joining the fast-growing Lizy at the beginning of January. Setting up a sales team,conquering Europe, and making car leasing cheaper, easier, and more ecological than ever!
Let’s stay in touch! It’s not a goodbye but a see you soon!