“If we had not participated in the Go Global Mission to TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco with Startups.be, we would have never attracted our biggest and most important client”, stresses Jeroen Corthout from Salesflare

Startups.be takes young companies to several top notch GoGlobal missions abroad, with the support of partners such as Pulse Foundation, Flanders Investment & Trade and Awex. We feel it’s important to do so, because tech startups shouldn’t only target their domestic market. If they really want to succeed, it is of the utmost importance that they succeed on an international level.

With our new GoGlobal mission to South by Southwest coming up soon (SXSW, in March), we asked some of our former participants to US missions about the benefits they got by attending.

For Jeroen Corthout, co-founder of Salesflare, the success of such a mission depends on a profound preparation. “At Disrupt, we connected with the unicorn online university Udacity, that is now our reference customer”, says Corthout. “The company even beta tests some of our new software features these days! But to be honest: before TC Disrupt I didn’t know anyone at Udacity. If we had not participated, we would have never attracted that client.”

Conferences like TechCrunch Disrupt or Slush in Europe provide matchmaking tools that facilitate the contacts with interesting partners, “and we mailed quite a few companies that were listed in the Disrupt app”, continues Corthout. “Udacity was among them, and that’s how it started!”

After the conference, Udacity decided pretty quickly that it would like to work with the Salesflare software. “They did their due diligence and we got some questions because they had no experience in working with a young start-up, but they are still a happy customer!”

Meanwhile Jeroen recommends that Belgian start-ups should choose their mission depending on the outcome. “What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to connect with prospects, customers, business angels or investors? If a significant number of people you want to meet is at the conference, then it might be a good idea to join and meet them in real life. That’s still a lot more powerful than meeting up online.”

Jan Vanderhasselt (Event-Pulse) also joined that same mission to TechCrunch Disrupt. He met some very important partners in the US. Some of them are still helping him with the internationalization of Event-Pulse, even in areas of the world the founder not even considered before. 

"We were able to take our company to the next level", explains Vanderhasselt, "with great opportunities that lie ahead. Attending GoGlobal missions also strengthens the ties between Belgian start-ups. It’s great to get to know one another, and you always learn a lot from your compatriots.”

SXSW

For Alexander Van Laer, the founder of Flavr, winning the Fast Pitch contest at SXSW last year was a major accomplishment. Interestingly, he mostly generated the interest of … Belgian investors after the festival. 

Alexander attended the conference to enlarge his network with global professionals, founders and investors. “It’s important to break out of your cocoon and get in touch with different cultures and different styles of entrepreneurship”, he argues. “The SXSW-festival forces you to leave your comfort zone and it brings you in contact with other very interesting start-ups, whatever industry they operate in.”

The American mind-set inspires Alexander: he wants to adopt the same speed of doing business here in Belgium. “The online networking tools for attendees allow to plan who, where and when to meet or what exhibition to attend”, adds the founder. “You just have to check your schedule.”

Magical setting 

Last but certainly not least, SXSW is fun. The film, music and interactive festival takes place in the beautiful city of Austin. Different countries host different parties in a magical setting, and provide yet another opportunity to connect.

iText founder Bruno Lowagie emphasizes that joining GoGlobal missions with other Belgian companies is more fun and more interesting than attending by yourself.

At SXSW, Bruno gathered a lot of information talking to customers and connecting with business partners. “The fun setting of the festival results into informal contacts, that can turn into real business contacts”, stresses the iText initiator. As for the next festival (that’s starting on March 10th), the online networking tool will help him to plan even better in advance.

“You really do feel the vibes of what is moving in technology, film and music when you attend the panel discussions, roof-top events and happy hours”, Bruno continues. He got so inspired last year he claimed three new patents. But when talking to customers, prospects and leads, he realized iText had to adapt its commercial message towards them.

“The festival offers you the opportunity to pitch your idea and draw your conclusions after pitching. What if you were the first to think of something someone else has never thought about before? Hurry up to get it patented!”

Bruno stresses the importance of attending international missions since iText’s revenues mainly depend on export. “But also start-ups that focus on the Belgian market can learn a lot and get inspired when observing foreign companies connecting at SXSW.”

By Kristien Mertens

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