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Tech Tour in search of promising start-ups - De Tijd*

Bringing elite Belgian start-ups in contact with local and international venture capitalists, that is the goal of Tech Tour as supported by entrepeneur Jurgen Ingels; himself winner of a previous edition of Tech Tour.

Journalists: Ben Serrure and Stijn Demeester

The past couple of days a selection committee composed of local venture capitalists has analysed the business plans of approximately 250 start-ups and growth companies. Members of the jury include Duco Sickinghe of Fortino, Wim De Waele, CEO of digital research centre iMinds, and Frank Maene and Filip Vandamme of Volta Ventures. More than half of these companies are Belgian, with an aggregate turnover of 350 million euro. About 50 start-ups and 25 growth companies will be selected from this group. The happy few will be invited to pitch during three days in May to a select group of local and international top investors. A closing event will be held bringing together all actors in the private equity, venture capital and start-up market in Belgium.

We give promising companies the opportunity to present themselves to investors which would otherwise be difficult to reach” says entrepreneur and investor Jurgen Ingels who has put his weight behind this initiative. “At the same time we want to offer foreign investors during those three days a snapshot of what this region has to offer.”

Meanwhile, the selected companies will receive master classes from the cream of the Belgian investment and entrepreneurial community. They have to help these companies to improve their investor pitch or business plan, or to finetune their marketing and communication strategies. “We have determined that there is still a lot of room for improvement” says Ingels. “Many starting entrepreneurs have substantial book knowledge, but are not streetwise at all. For example, raising capital or setting up a distribution network are skills you learn by doing. Also, today it is no longer possible to grow your company step by step, as was the case 20 years ago. If you want to grow internationally you do not have the luxury of making mistakes. You need to be spot on, as from day one. This Tech Tour can help the most promising start-ups to gain this knowledge rapidly.”

To obtain the required financing for the Tech Tour Ingels, approached the City of Antwerp, the digital research centre iMinds, as well as ING, audit firm BDO and Cresco law, a law firm specialized in start-ups. There is a huge offer available to start-ups in Belgium” says David Dessers of Cresco Law. “There are incubators and accelerators which help start-ups to grow, but there are no matchmaking events that bring together start-ups and investors. There is a strong need for a competitive event where the professional screening is done by the relevant players. If everything goes well we should be able to present the perfect show case of Belgium’s entrepeneurial talent”.

Another objective is to create a tight network of investors. According to Ingels, it is fairly easy to obtain start-up funding in Belgium, but growth financing remains a problem. “To raise 20 to 30 million in Belgium is not easy. If local investors would team up more easily for syndicated investments we could prevent our companies from going to the USA to raise such large amounts.”

* Free translation of Article in De Tijd – 20 March 2015

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