The Startups.be delegation that visited TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco in September certainly stood out of the crowd. The most important lessons the Belgians learned in the city by the bay? That they have to think BIG, and that everybody’s doing business at the speed of light in Silicon Valley.

TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco must be the complete opposite of Web Summit in Europe. Being a relatively small (and rather expensive) event, Disrupt still manages to attract a very interesting and highly selective mix of entrepreneurs, developers, investors and journalists from all over the globe.

One of the advantages of that small scale is that the startups that present themselves get all the attention they deserve. That was certainly the case for the Belgian companies that made the trip to San Francisco and pitched their stories at the Belgian Startups.be booth.

Our delegation didn’t exactly win the startup competition during Disrupt (maybe next year, never say never ;-), but ‘team Belgium’ did win hearts and minds of the press (see here and here), the investors and other interesting people.

“Although we only had a booth for one day, it most certainly has been a rewarding experience”, confirms Peter Ryckaert, the founder of Crowdbeamer. “We’ve been approached by several large companies expressing their interest in our solution. Firms such as Merck, Toyota and Bosch are only a few of the contacts we made during the event.”

“Visitors at our booth were always very relevant to our business”, adds Peter Wellens from Chestnote. “We had a promising chat with the marketing manager of Universal - who’s interested in using Chestnote to announce big movie releases - and we were able to talk about Chestnote with tech heavyweights like Scott Belsky from Benchmark Capital and Aya Zook from Microsoft Ventures. An amazing and inspiring experience indeed!”





Unique Belgian startup cocktail

“What we also noticed is that the Belgian tech companies are completely ‘on par’ with their American counterparts, certainly when you look at things on a technical level”, says Wouter Vandenneucker from Cr3do.

“It’s not that our international competitors have better technology or better ideas. After our visit to TechCrunch Disrupt and to San Francisco, I’m more convinced than ever that - also in Belgium - we have a unique startup cocktail that can work.”

Vandenneucker: “San Francisco is known throughout the world as a place where key insights are being shared within the startup community. And that’s one of the things we take away from this trip: as a startup we’re part of an ecosystem. An ecosystem that can only thrive when we stand together and provide value for each other. That’s exactly what initiatives like Startups.be, StartIT@KBC and Corda Campus stand for and aim to accomplish.”

Another thing that our startups learned, is that doing business in the US goes really fast. One day before the TC Disrupt kickoff, the ‘EventPulse’ team randomly met a big shot American entrepreneur at a bar in Las Vegas. Two days later that same man flew over to San Francisco to have a meeting with founder Jan Vanderhasselt, and to see in what way his event-platform could be used for the Expo 2020 in Dubai.

“When in America, always assume a positive intent when you talk to people”, affirmed lawyer Pieter Gunst from Legal.io, who lives in San Francisco, “also while doing business.” Another key element that Wim Sohier of Flanders Investment & Trade stressed, is something that every American learns during childhood: think big, and don’t be too humble, even if you’re small. Get others to believe you’re big, and you’ll become it.”

By Frederik Tibau