Before we give 2016 a rest, we’re looking back at the key highlights that our community had this year. So read on and find out the eight important highlights of the Belgian tech startup ecosystem.

During the past 12 months,  our network has grown bigger, set new milestones, identified new stakeholders and worked more closely with key community collaborators. 2016 also saw an increase in the number of people organising/ attending events and we shared with big pleasure several success stories within our ecosystem. 

  • 1 Fuel up for your entrepreneurial life: Startups.be Calendar

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This year the Belgian tech startup scene got very active: we published over 550 events in comparison to the 270+ we promoted in 2015: ranging from locations in the most thriving hubs like Brussels, Leuven, Antwerp, Ghent and Liège to less-active cities. We also published events that took place abroad and were of interest to the Belgian entrepreneurs. Besides all these gatherings, we announced over 205 calls including registrations to accelerators and incubators, award nomination announcements, invitations to participate in hackathons and pitching competitions.

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Though our team researches and curates activities to include in the agenda, around 70% of the content we shared in the calendar was sent to us or uploaded to our platform. Since October, all users can signup and submit calls, events and news directly to our website, with a moderator approving them within 48h. 

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It’s the community who keeps our calendar in good shape, so if you have something to share, go ahead and give it a go! Just sign up and log in to your dashboard, submit your content and voilà, it will be part of our detailed agenda.


 

  • 2 Hot stuff: Blog

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Holy #BeTech news! Our beloved blog housed over 90 blog posts during the year. Most of them were about startups getting funding, participating in award competitions/winning prizes and general updates on the ecosystem. But we also published original content and reviewed events like TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco and Slush. Next year we will work more on our blog in categories as Insights, Go global and Ecosystem news.

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We got some top articles  published on a wide scope of topics: we shared how entrepreneurship is all about failing and getting back on your feet, we learned that Antwerp and Brussels are on the top 15 European hubs in AI, and we interviewed Bart De Wever who revealed why Antwerp should become the European Capital of Things. We also started publishing some contributions by guest writers, like this thought-provoking piece on failure.

You

Show us what you have! We are always glad to publish news about funding, acquisition and awards. Moreover, we are interested in your views on different topics, so please feel free to upload the news to our blog (just sign up and log in to access your dashboard).


Showpad's €50M and Real Impact Analytics €12M round were among the most impressive news.


  • 3 Put yourself on the map: Startups.be Directory

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We connect the dots for startups: we do the matchmaking with corporates, investors and experts. We lead them to talent and expertise via a very extensive network of contacts in Belgium and abroad. Do you know our not-so-secret weapon? Our key instrument to showcase and keep track of our evolving ecosystem? The Belgian ecosystem map that gathers over 1000 startups, 180 enablers, 20 accelerators and 15 investors. 

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A few years ago we started a directory with the ambition to grow into a more significant data tool. Nowadays the map features companies and the relations between them and follows closely funding rounds. The goal is to keep quality and quantity so everyone can see what's going on!

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If you are an entrepreneur, investor or you are part of an accelerator or an enabler organisation, just sign up and submit your company. If it is already there, you can always claim it to keep the information up to date.

  • 4 Fly, fly away: Go Global

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Our Go Global team was a pack of busy (and frequent flyers) bees this year. In 2016, we proposed a new format, the ‘Go Global missions’ for startups willing to open a branch in a country, open a new market and discover a new market. In order to be able to do so, we visited local incubators/accelerators, local investors, startups associations, local authorities, corporates collaborating with startups, successful local startups and Belgian startups that are present in a specific market. 

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In 2016, we were abroad almost every month. We organised and took part in 13 missions and conferences together with...more than 150 startups! 

In February, we organised a Berlin mission (and benefited from the presence of AWEX) with 16 entrepreneurs. We also took 8 startups to 4YFN (the startup conference linked to Mobile World Congress), just like we did a year earlier. For your information, we’ll be in Barcelona in 2017 too!

In March, we were present with 6 startups at South by Southwest (SXSW). During this conference, Belgium didn’t go unnoticed, as Flavr won the prestigious FastPitch Competition. That same month, 6 startups went to Asia to discover the local business capital Singapore. 

In April, a delegation of 16 startups went to New York in collaboration with IMEC (former iMinds),  Startit@ KBC and Telenet Idealabs, while 6 startups were present at the NAB show in Las Vegas. In May, 12 startups took part in The Next Web, the biggest startup event in Amsterdam. 

In June, 6 startups were able to exhibit their startup during the first edition of Viva Technology, the new big tech event in Paris, while a delegation of 20+ people went to Israel (startups, corporates,…). In August, we reinforced our collaboration with the three gaming associations in Belgium and were present with 15 gaming studios at Gamescom (biggest gaming fair trade in Europe). 

In September, for the first time ever we participated in TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco with a delegation of 8 Belgian startups. 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.

Later that month, we took six young companies to London, the beloved startup capital of Europe. Because of the interest in the community for doing business in London, the goal is to repeat that mission by the end of 2017.  

In November, at the same time, we were present in Paris for a 3-day mission and at the Slush conference in Helsinki with respectively 10 and 8 startups.

Bonus: we partnered up with KIC Europe to spread the word on their initiative and pick top Belgian startups to take part in an acceleration program in Seoul. Five startups travelled, two were selected and invited to stay to complete the program and Appiness was one of the winners! Check out all our Go Global adventures here

You

One of the main goals of Go Global is to celebrate Belgian tech talent. That’s right, it is YOUR business we want to boost. So go through the campaigns we have scheduled for next year and don’t hesitate to contact our team or book your spot.


Our Go Global delegations also got a bit more flashy (see our actions at The Next Web)

  • 5 The biggest startup conference in Belgium: Tech Startup Day

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Once again we proved that Tech Startup Day is the #1 event for startups in Belgium with over 1100 attendees( we even sold-out two days before the event).

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We like to think this is an event for the community by the community. Why? Simply because everyone comes together under one roof once a year to network, share advice and get a lot of inspiration (and some nice leads as well as we are always glad to hear).  We organise and facilitate this exchange, but the heart of this conference are the enablers, accelerators, entrepreneurs, investors, corporates and mentors that are willing to meet up. Furthermore, this year saw the very first edition of the Tech Startup Day Awards recognising innovative talent: a jury shortlisted the nominees and people voted and chose the winners.

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Easy-peasy task: join us! Tech Startup Day will take place on March 9th, 2017 in Brussels and registrations are open! Whether you want to attend or you want to exhibit in our community and startups village, go check out the details and secure your spot.


Tech Startup Day 2016 edition: Great audience and great speakers start up alike

  • 6 Failure is not contagious, success is: Failing Forward

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Failing Forward conference was held on November 16th in Brussels and it welcomed more than 200 people to share and listen to inspiring testimonials about the hardships of starting up a venture. 

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But this year we went beyond and the conference turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. Failing Forward is now a movement: an initiative spreading its wings and having more impact in our entrepreneurial culture. In the coming years, the Startups.be team will be actively raising awareness of the matter, emphasising that making mistakes is an essential part of the entrepreneurial learning process. Everyone has a role to play: people who have faced and overcome failure are opening up about it but truth is that we all need to roll up our sleeves in this matter.

You

Help us change the negative mindset about failure together. Only by carrying our message we can really break the stigma associated with failure in Belgium and Europe. So please get involved and support the initiative by signing our Manifesto!


L!FE panel at Failing Forward

  • 7 Get investor-ready: Fundraising

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In 2016, we published content about the fundraising process. We know that most of the startups ask themselves questions about how to deal with that.

We first started to publish some presentations to give the basics and some tips & tricks about this subject. We thank again Frank Maene (Volta Ventures) and Patrick Polak (Newion) for their help. We’ll give more written content in the next months in order to give still more help to the startups that are looking for inputs.

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Our team has been meeting up with startups that want to raise 500k€+ funding round. Even though we don’t aim to become fundraisers we know that a first one or two hours meeting, followed by some interactions can help a lot to entrepreneurs. We initiated, thanks to BAN Vlaanderen, some workshops about the subjects. We are building up this slowly and with care, side by side with the startups that are looking for some hands-on advice, learning from their needs and being backed by our community and by investors.

You

Then, what can you expect in 2017?  Workshops about fundraising in the three regions, each time with partners. More content as well as meetings or Skype calls to help you with your fundraising issues. Introductions to VCs can also be done when the startup seems ready to interest international investors. So what do you have to do? Contact our expert in the topic Thibaut Claes and he will guide you!

  • 8 Stir up a reaction: Policy-making

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Through our European projects, we partnered up with local heroes caring just as much about their startup ecosystems as we do. We concluded a project about learning from failed entrepreneurship (LIFE), supported young entrepreneurs to move across the continent while acquiring valuable skills, also experienced ones to host some newbies (Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs) and just started to learn how to engage startups to be more energy efficient (START2ACT). We are also lucky to be part of an ambitious project connecting startup cities in Europe. So exciting! And it is just the beginning, we are gearing up for 2017 full of challenges and new partnerships. 

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It is no news that together we are stronger. And that is why we wondered why we and similar organisations around Europe took so long to get together under one umbrella?  Co-founding a Europe-wide grassroots initiative, the European Startup Network was launched in September to connect national startup associations. It helped us to get in touch and learn from amazing organisations across Europe! The network grew significantly from the start and now is ready to bring on new insights into how startup research is conducted in Europe. 

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Have a voice and make sure we all hear it! 'A Manifesto for Change and Empowerment in the Digital Age' is the first of its kind in Europe and is intended to serve as a comprehensive roadmap for making Europe not just the best place in the world to start a business, but the best place to grow and to scale up. In this case, signing is caring, so please make your voice heard by signing up the Scale-up Manifesto

The European Startup Network (ESN) was launched on September 7th, 2016 in Brussels

  • 2017

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Drumrolls, please...We are happy to announce that we are already full of new plans for the New Year. Our challenges in 2017 will be to enhance our community, work closer with stakeholders in our ecosystem, strengthen our powerful network abroad and serve you better with more services. 

As a teaser we can disclose that we will launch our very own Entrepreneur Expert Agency (coming up soon), gathering the top mentors in fields as sales, growing, business modelling, internationalisation, sales, marketing and more. This year we launched a new event, the Antwerp Startup Fair, to help startups to sell their services but also find and hire new talent. It is a new concept we have been working on and it's paying off because the Antwerp Startup Fair will be back next year! Stay tuned because the New Year will bring more news about it and we will open the registrations.  


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While giving up chocolate/beer/waffles (hey, it’s Belgium!) or getting to the gym every day may not eventually work out, you can resolve to connect with the startup community in a more meaningful way in 2017. This is our resolution: to reach out to more startups, enablers, investors and partners, in order to keep our tailor-made matchmaking and boost our ecosystem. And we think you should do the same!


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Be grateful for what 2016 has given you and get ready for what is yet to come. 2016 was great and we could not have done it without you, our ever-growing community of entrepreneurs, thinkers, investors, creators, enablers, innovators and startup enthusiasts. We trust 2017 will be event better for all of us

From us to you, happy holidays!

By Gabriela Fernández Scala