SuperNova handpicks Europe’s 50 hottest scale-ups with a 100% VC curated line-up - Global Banking & Finance Review 22/06/2018

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Antwerp– Belgium-based tech festival SuperNova presents a remarkable ‘for VCs by VCs’ scale-up pitching track. As one of the organizers of SuperNova, – an ecosystem focused on accelerating the growth of European scale-ups – is curating this two-day “Best of Europe” deep pocket investor program, working exclusively with its internationally-recognized VC partners.

SuperNova positions its investor program as one of the most relevant later-stage investor events with a well-curated line-up of 50 pitching high-potential scale-ups from all over Europe. SuperNova aims to welcome 150+ international later-stage investors at its exclusive investor pitching track.

SuperNova has the ambition of becoming the most relevant growth venturing event in Europe. European scale-ups platform assessed hundreds of companies along with its partner VCs such as powerhouse Jerusalem Venture Partners, global VC Runa Capital, and European key players such as Idinvest, Fortino, Prime, HPE Growth, Columbia Lake, SmartfinCapital and Volta. In addition, SuperNova works closely with imec, Europe’s biggest and a world-leading R&D hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, to reach out to its wide tech network across Europe and its Russian counterpart, the Skolkovo Foundation, Russia’s leading innovation center.

“We have been working hard behind the scenes with our partner VCs to nominate a solid line-up of 50 high-growth ‘hidden gems’ from all across Europe. SuperNova’s investor track has become a powerful pan-European VC collaboration, with facilitating the collaboration among our partners VCs to nominate only the best of the best, top-tier companies. This way, we enable such a true deal flow catalyst.” says Bruno Vandegehuchte, Lead of SuperNova Investor Pitching Track from

“The goal of SuperNova Investor Pitching program is to match international funding with successful European scale-ups that are ready to grow further. By bringing together growth-stage scale-ups and VCs & investors at SuperNova for two days, succeeds in squeezingtime and enabling growth for the key players in our ecosystem.” concludes Jurgen Ingels, founder of

All companies selected have an annual recurring revenue of at least 3 million euros and an average annualized growth in employees or turnover that is far above 50%. Each growth company will have 10 minutes to pitch its solutions, results and ambitions. They will be represented by two senior profiles to have in-depth meetings with 150+ international ‘big fish’ later stage VCs such as 8 Roads, Accel, Columbia Lake Partners, Dawn, Fortino, Idinvest, Inven, Jerusalem Venture Partners, Microsoft Ventures, Partech, Prime, Runa Capital, Skolkovo Ventures, Sofina, Summit, Vitruvian, Volta, Xpand, and many more.

During the breaks, investors can invite scale-ups to 1-on-1 meetings to gain a deeper understanding of the investment opportunities. All investors will also receive a brochure containing company information and contact information to all pitching companies. SuperNova guarantees relevant introductions and offers all scale-ups and investors access to the conference track with leading insights from experts such as Ray Kurzweil, one of the world’s leading inventors and futurists, Seth Godin, global best-selling author and the founders of Shazam and Twitter, to name a few.

 Unique scale-ups selection approach: for VCs by VCs

The 50 ’best of the best’ European growth companies are handpicked by the organizer and their internationally-recognized VC fund partners.

SuperNova’s selecting VCs include:

  • Columbia Lake Partners is an experienced team of investors providing growth loans to European technology companies. In prior roles, it has extended credit and managed portfolio relationships of greater than £300 million to over 100 companies such as Showpad,, BrightPearl and Ampliance.
  • Fortino Capital invests in digital and applied technology in the Benelux. Fortino Capital is a key player in Europe with high growth successes such as Aproplan, Piesync, Bloomon, Teamleader and TrendMiner. Fortino co-curates the Benelux companies for SuperNova.
  • HPE Growth Capital (“HPE”) is focused on growth capital investments in technology companies throughout Northern Europe, with an emphasis on Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. HPE’s portfolio companies have grown at an average of 45% annually and since its investments, more than 800 new jobs have been created within its portfolio companies. HPE co-curates the North European companies for SuperNova.
  • Idinvest Partners is a pan-European private equity manager focused on the low and middle market segments. With over six billion euros under management, the company has expertise in equity investments in buyout deals, as well as primary and secondary investments accross Europe. Portfolio includes: Clear2Pay, BlaBlaCar, Meetic, Deezer and many more. Paris based Idinvest co-curates the French companies for SuperNova.
  • JVP is Israel’s leading $ 1.2 billion fund, ranked several times by Preqin as one of ten of the world’s most consistent performing VC companies.
  • Prime Ventures is a leading venture capital and growth equity firm focused on investing in European companies in the technology and related industries. Prime invested in more than 50 companies since it started its operations in 1999 such as ZipDial,, Almotive, DealersDirect,, Tripaneer a.o. Prime co-curates scale-ups from Netherlands for SuperNova.
  • Runa Capital is a technology-focused venture capital firm whose investments have created or incubated companies with more than $10B in assets. Runa invests in software applications and infrastructure for the new economy. From Acumatica to Nginx to Zopa, Runa invested in over 60 companies in 12 different countries. Runa co-curates the scale-ups from Eastern Europe for SuperNova.
  • SmartFin Capitalis a lean independent private equity fund targeting smart technologies with a special focus on Financial Technologies. SmartFin Capital has invested in MariaDB, Silverfin and Materialise (NASDAQ: MTLS), among many others… Smartfin co-curates the Benelux companies for SuperNova.
  • Volta Ventures is a venture capital firm that offers seed & early stage VC for internet & software companies in the Benelux. Volta co-curates the Benelux companies for SuperNova.

SuperNova also has the full support of Belgian Venture Capital Association (BVA) to warmly welcome international guest investors.

“JVP is proud to partner with SuperNova. SuperNova bridges all key players from the European tech scene with lots of exciting companies and key VCs. We are convinced that the delegation of Israeli tech scale-ups that will attend SuperNova will strengthen the business relationship of our regions. We’re looking forward.”says Uri Adoni, JVP Venture Partner.

Early bird investor passes are available until June 30.

New Belgian conference wants to be the Tommorowland of Tech: “We bring technology, creativity and innovation together” - Bloovi 25/06/2018

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From 27-30 September, the first edition of SuperNova will take place in Antwerp and you can still book your early bird tickets until 30th of June. Behind the organization you have, Flanders DC and the Flemish Government. The goal: To prepare everyone for the world of tomorrow.

It’s time for a chat with Jurgen Ingels ( and Pascal Cools (Flanders DC).

The Future is Now

We must admit that Belgium has made some nice moves in the last couple of years when it comes to conferences for the technology industry. But a conference that profiles itself on an international scale is, according to the duo, something completely new.

“The Netherlands and Finland are just two examples of European countries that organize international conferences”, tells Ingels. “I believe that an event like this is needed to create an ecosystem of second generation entrepreneurs. In our country, there are too little scale-ups that can grow further, mainly for the reason that they cannot raise more than 100 million euros. Belgium is currently only counting 90 companies that raised more than 1 million euros, and that’s about it. Blaming this on the small size of country is naïve. I am a strong believer that it’s more about time reduction.” This is also the goal for helping scale-ups to reduce time. “There’s no better way to do this than to put the Belgian ecosystem on the map with a large conference.  And this is something we should not wait for too long. If we want our country to be prepared for the world of tomorrow, today is the time to act.,” adds Ingels.

According to Ingels, “If you want to prepare yourself for the world of tomorrow, you need to work smart with others.” Ingels believes that you will go faster when you’re alone, but together you’ll achieve more. And that’s why he decided to work together with Flanders DC. Managing Director Pascal Cools was immediately enthusiastic. “With the Creativity World Forum, we already had a big event, but we wanted to expand this.”, he tells us. “Because Jurgen wanted to set up the biggest scale-up event, we contacted him. And that’s how we decided to work together. For more impact, more technological innovation and more creativity. It’s useless that everyone organizes events on its own. With smart collaboration, you can achieve so much more – especially if you want to prepare yourself as a company or an individual for the world of tomorrow. This is also the message we want to give to the attendees: the future is now, so you better work together. “

For all of that, there’s no better location than Het Eilandje in Antwerp, according to Ingels and Cools. “We were looking for a spot that first of all has enough space”, says Cools. “Antwerp is also the City of Things, so for us, it made more than enough sense that the first SuperNova would take place there”.

Top Speakers, Talent and Demonstrations

Cools adds that “there’s no other event like SuperNova as the content is very broad and deep. The speakers prove that.” Ingels also confirms that “it doesn’t make a lot of sense to only put Flemish speakers at the stage who everyone already saw 10 times. Seth Godin (a famous entrepreneur and author), Biz Stone (co-founder Twitter), Ray Kurzweil (pioneer on the area of optical character recognition), Neil Harbisson (the first official human cyborg) are only some of the big names that will present at SuperNova.

“As for me, I’m very enthusiastic about Vivienne Ming.” says Cools. “No one really knows her, but she was nominated by Inc Magazine as one of the 10 top women in tech. And not without any reason: she was a transgender woman who was homeless for a long time, until she got her PhD and founded many companies in machine leaning. She created using her own technology an app for her son, a diabetic patient, that sends an automated message to take in medicine when an attack is predicted. I think this is genious. Also, it’s a hint that we need more women in tech. If you exclude that group, you’ll miss 50% of your potential. The fun thing is that the speakers are not only talking about digitalization as you often see at conferences. We believe that ‘the future is now’ vision covers it all. Biz Stone will talk for example about social media and other speeches will be about marketing technologies too.”

“Technology covers all fields,” says Ingels. He continues “SuperNova will demonstrate how the world will look like and what common areas it has. It must be a wake-up call for companies, but also for people to think differently and to evolve. It will all go faster and bigger than we think. Not everybody realizes that the way of working and living will change drastically. And that the rise of technology and automation will force people to specialize in certain fields.”

“That idea also translates itself to the public days on September 29 & 30, where we will have demonstrations about numerous themes”, spills Cools. From the new way of working, food, mobility and entertainment. People at SuperNova will be able to visit the supermarket of tomorrow. They can also see the first flying car. In total, we’re talking about more than 110 different demonstrations of more than 100 different companies and research institutions. Next to that, we’re also organizing at SuperNova, TalentBuzz. Companies from the industry can fill in their vacancies and meet potential new hires.”

“That’s also the essence of SuperNova: connecting people with each other”, adds Ingels. “Just like this, we can create a relevant ecosystem where everyone feels in place”.

Pitching To Top VCs

Ingels, who as an investor recently listened to pitching startups in the program ‘ De Leeuwenkuil’, is also enthusiastic about the chances for scale-ups at SuperNova. “We’re now busy with creating an exclusive ‘investor zone’ where we’ll bring together 50 European scale-ups and more than 200 VCs from across the world. And that’s where time reduction is translated into action. Scale-ups need funding to grow faster and to grow more internationally. And as ton of VCs are looking for the next funding opportunity, it’s a fantastic idea to combine both parties with each other. Belgian startups and scale-ups can build a network with relevant investors who they might never meet.”

“It’s without a doubt that startups and scale-ups play an important role in the innovations of the future”, adds Cools. “Because unfortunately, a lot of company leaders and also the general public are skeptical towards tech. That’s something we would like to take away. At the end, tech only brings in a lot of opportunities. But we need to embrace those opportunities and that’s something where SuperNova wants to facilitate in.”

“Everybody at the event can learn something: whether you’re a teenager, experienced executive or an early stage startup. In the future, SuperNova will be a breeding place for everything related to technology, and we’ll attract without any doubt visitors from across the globe. We’ll probably become the Tomorrowland for the tech industry!” calls all European tech scale-ups to submit their profile to pitch at SuperNova - Financial IT 16/04/18, a spinoff of the European collaboration innovation platform B-Hive, is organizing SuperNova together with Flanders DC on September 27-30. This four-day event aims to bring the most promising scale-ups, outstanding tech companies, and thought leaders from all around the globe in Antwerp to talk, pitch, and showcase.

One of the highlights of SuperNova is a two-day deep pocket investor program featuring 55 most promising European tech scale-ups. On September 27 & 28, all pitching tech companies with trailblazing potential have a 10-minute opportunity to present their future-proof business concepts to 100+ top-tier global investors including JVP, Columbia Lake Partners, Idinvest, Summit Partners, and more.

Open call for scale-ups to pitch for growth financing

In line with its ambition to become the top-of-mind time squeezer for scale-ups in Europe, is launching an open call for all scale-ups that want to boost their growth and score their extra investment round. 

“Reducing time is the essence of entrepreneurship. SuperNova squeezes time for both scale-ups and VCs by connecting them for two days. As a result, we at help accelerate the growth of their company or portfolio.”, Jurgen Ingels, Founder

To join the pitching stage at SuperNova, scale-ups have to meet the following growth criteria:

  • Raised at least €1 million funding but less than €40 million (excluding loans)
  • At least €3 million recurring revenue
  • Annual growth of more than 20% in the last three years

The final selection of scale-ups that will pitch at SuperNova will be selected by’s co-curating VCs namely Colombia Lake Partners, Fortino Capital, GIMV, HPE Growth Capital, ID Invest Partners, Jerusalem Venture Partners, Prime Ventures, Runa Capital, Smartfin Capital, Summit Partners and Volta Ventures. The Belgian Venture Association is also supporting this initiative. 

Scale-ups that meet the growth criteria and want to pitch their solutions & ambitions to top-tier VCs at SuperNova can submit their profile until May 4th on Scale-Ups Preselections page.

Digital Week 2018

SuperNova (September 27-30) is the final stop of B-Hive’s Digital Week 2018 in Belgium. This full week gives all tech and financial players from all Europe the opportunity to shape the future together and connect with top thought leaders and innovators in the region. Discover the full program on B-Hive’s events page.

From startup to scale-up - EY 19/03/18

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The fact that the award for “Most Promising Enterprise of the Year”, changes into “Scale-Up of the Year” in 2018 is only one of the many indications that 2018 is going to be the year of scale-ups. Time to ask two experts what scale-ups exactly are, and especially: how can we get more in Belgium?

Stefan Olivier, Markets Leader EY and scale-up expert, is expecting us together with Jürgen Ingels, Co-Founder at B-Hive. Well hidden in a dead end in Diegem, B-Hive supports start-ups in the fintech sector and links them to big players in the financial industry.

Ingels sold his successful fintech start-up Clear2Pay and since then invests through his own fund (Smartfin Capital) in start-ups and growth companies in Europe. Eight years ago, he started According to him, it is now time to shift our attention to scale-ups. “I am 100% convinced that people who are talking about start-ups will only talk about scale-ups in three years.”, he says.

Many start-ups, hardly any scale-ups

Compared to startups, “scale-up” is a relatively unknown term. Generally, scale-ups are described as companies that have managed to raise at least 1M of funding. “Nowadays that is already not enough,” Ingels says. “For me, a growing company is only a scale-up when they have at least 3 million in revenue.”

“In the last couple of years, Belgium has created a lot of start-ups”, Stefan Olivier completes, “but hardly 5% become a scale-up. That growth is still not easy in our country. You not only need ambition to leave the peloton and go for a big growth jump; you also need ‘juice’ in your legs to make that growth happen.”

Motor for welfare

“We don’t have 100 scale-ups in Belgium today. At the moment, you need at least 15 million euros to really make it happen as a scale-up,” Ingels puts a number on it. He continues “but in Belgium, the funds are too small to take such risks. That is why these companies leave to the US or the UK where they have these necessary funds. On top of that, most scale-ups are relatively small companies of 30 or 40 employees, so it’s easy for them to move.”

The fact that scale-ups struggle in Belgium is very unfortunate according to Olivier. “On a political and societal level, a lot of good things get told about start-ups, as they are a perfect illustration of entrepreneurship and a societal added value. But start-ups only form the base for scale-ups. It’s the scale-ups that grow out of the start-up phase, and they create the real added value. They provide a lot more jobs, more knowledge, more customers, you name it. Scale-ups are the real motor for welfare, not start-ups.”

The most crucial thing for scale-ups

According to Ingels, the lack of scale-ups in Belgium is not limited to financing. “It is very hard to sell new technology to Belgian companies. For example, in Sweden they embrace new technology immediately. By the time a Belgian company gets to convince the Belgians of the use of the product or service, a Swedish with the same idea already has a revenue of 15 million euros and a big market share. You immediately start with a delay.”

Time, according to Ingels, is also the most crucial thing for scale-ups. He says, “the real promising companies are not the companies with the biggest budget, the best product or team or biggest market, but those who manage to reduce time. In this fast pacing digital world, you have to be able to bring your product to the market immediately.” 

An ecosystem of second generation entrepreneurs

Ingels asks the question that is burning on our lips: “How can potential scale-ups reduce time?” He says “by introducing them to an ecosystem of second generation entrepreneurs or people who already made it.” He gives an example: As a scale-up, you need to get money fast, but you do not know where to get it. You will have to investigate the best venture capitalist and from there, you will be linked to a junior. Your idea is good, so the junior will send you to his/her boss, who again will send you to the next in line. By the time you see a partner of the fund, months will have passed by. But when you are in a network of second generation entrepreneurs and you can convince one of them immediately, then he/she will introduce you to the partner from the start.”

The right resources

Another condition to grow to be a successful scale-up is the team you work with, according to Stefan Olivier. He says “your team has to provide maximum relevance and added value at all times. You will have to continuously look new talent.”

“That is very un-Belgian of course,” Ingels adds. “Belgians like the expression ‘Don’t change a winning team’. But actually, you should do this. The people you need to start you company are not the same as the people you need to scale up your company. We, Belgians, are not going to replace those people who were there at the beginning. We are going to train them for new challenges, because ‘in principle, they are good’. But as a scale-up you don’t have the time for that learning curve. So, you will need to say goodbye to those people and replace them with better candidates.”

“The same applies to company systems”, Olivier continues. “You need to invest in systems that you will use tomorrow. Those systems may not be your core business, but they are the fundamental for the robust management of your company.”

“This does not mean that you can think about it too long,” Ingels warns. “If 80% of the market uses a specific system, why would you develop or spend time to research another product? Just take what is available on the market and what is being recommended in your network of entrepreneurs, and afterwards you can focus on your core business.”

New organization for scale-ups

To provide scale-ups in Belgium with the highly necessary support, Ingels started six months ago a non-profit organization called “Through, we want to unite growing companies and experienced entrepreneurs in an ecosystem to share knowledge and know-how to make time squeezing possible.”, Ingels explains. “That is why we partner with EY. A lot of scale-ups have hundreds of practical questions EY can answer in the blink of an eye.”

“We launched the EYnovation programme to give an example, with services specifically for start-ups and scale-ups. Think about IP-problems, international employment, growth financing, international taxes, etc. On the other hand, we also offer the EY Growth Navigator, a product that helps us to make a company assessment fast. We can for example see how robust the support systems are in a company. Can they handle the expected growth?”

First festival for scale-ups

This fall, organizes the first festival for scale-ups: SuperNova. “With this conference, we want to put Belgium on the map. There are a lot of festivals worldwide around tech, but nothing specifically yet for scale-ups. During the four days, we want to unite the most talented international speakers of technology companies, but also the best of what Belgium has to offer and showcase them to the international public of investors. To wrap up, we also want the big public to get to know the newest tech innovations, so we can warm up Belgians for this world.”

The first edition of SuperNova will take place on the 27-30 September 2018 in Antwerp. More information available soon on

Hundreds of Millions to Keep Tech Companies in Belgium - De Tijd 17/01/2018

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Government & big investors work on a superfund for scale-ups

Belgium has to grow more tech companies with a worldwide potential. Currently, a lot of ambitious companies do not find funding to get past the start-up phase and move abroad. Minister of Finance Johan Van Overtveldt wants to break this evolution. His cabinet works on a ‘superfund’ that is going to invest in Belgian private funds who invest in scale-ups. As such, Van Overtveldt wants to expand the venture capital sector in Belgium by giving them more power. At the moment, Belgium does not have a lot of investment funds that can handle big tickets. ‘Scale-ups used to get an injection of 5 million euros in their second capital round, now it’s 10-15 million euros.’

Entrepreneurs such as Ducko Sickinghe (ex-CEO Telenet) and Jürgen Ingels (ex-Clear2Pay) recently launched new funds specialized in bigger capital rounds. Van Overtveldt want to enlarge their firepower and those of other Belgian venture capitalists by giving them each several dozens of millions of euros. The project is still in an early stage, but the foundation is clear. Yesterday on the New Year’s Ceremony of Euronext, Van Overtveldt talked about a capital that can go up to 400 million euros. Other parties talk about 200 to 300 million euros.

This money will come from institutional investors like insurance companies and pension funds as well as from the government. The FPIM, the financial branch of the federal government, would get a role as facilitator to empower the capital of the fund. Also other public investors, such as the Flemish PMV or the Walloon SRIW, can invest. The grow fund is inspired on a similar model in Denmark, the Danish Growth Fund.

The idea for the superfund for letting tech companies grow locally and keeping them here was designed by a team where amongst others Max Jadot (CEO BNP Paribas Fortis) and Jürgen Ingels are a part of. Law firm Baker McKenzie takes care of the legal part. Van Overtveldt also wants to expand the taxshelter, the fiscal favor regime for investments in scale-ups.

Money and network have to prevent scale-ups from leaving

More money and a good ‘ecosystem' have to help our technological companies to grow on world scale

Despite the boom of financing start-ups, our country is still struggling to keep ‘scale-ups’ – tech companies that want to grow internationally – here. Our country counted between 2010 and 2016 around 90 tech companies that already gathered more than 1 million euros of capital. Belgium is with this number, according to the data of consultant SEP Monitor, good for only 0.2 percent of the 4200 European scale-ups. Also the total amount of 600 million dollar disappears into nothing compared to the total European amount of 58 billion dollar.

In the biggest list of capital injections of more than 100 million euros our country does not appear on the European ranking. The Netherlands and Sweden each have  3 scale-ups, mini-state Luxemburg and Iceland both have one. Belgium has also not delivered any unicorn yet, a private company with an estimated value of 1 billion dollar.


The lack of such scale-ups with worldwide potential has several reasons. The lack of big local venture capital funds is one of them. ‘There is local capital, but it is also fragmented. Rounds of 10 to 50 million euros are too difficult for our country’, says Minister of Finance Van Overtveldt.

That is the reason why a lot of big tech companies move abroad when the need of capital becomes bigger. Notorious examples of these tech companies are Collibra and Silverfin who moved to the USA and the UK. Other promising companies, such as the Ghent based mobile cash deck producer Posios, got sold to foreign companies.

More local capital should anchor such companies in our country, until they are so big they won’t go abroad anymore, says the government. An important measurement to reach that goal is the creation of a new ‘fund of funds’ for scale-ups. The fund is still in a design stage, but essentially it is a vehicle that is being financed with money from the government and money from institutional investors, which invests in private venture capital funds itself.

Van Overtveldt talked during New Year’s Ceremony of Euronext about a capital that can go up to 400 million euros. In a few years follow-up funds can be established, if the concept catches on.

It is not the only measurement Van Overtveldt wants to implement. He also wants to expand the taxshelter, the fiscal favor regime for investments in scale-ups. For investments up to 0.5 million euros there will be a fiscal benefit of 25 percent, with the condition that the company has ten or more employees and a yearly growth rate of 10 percent in revenues or personnel.


Money is not the only way that can help Belgian scale-ups reach the the top of the world. Growing companies also feel the need of a network and knowledge that helps them scale. With that goal Jürgen Ingels, the famous tech entrepreneur, founded It connects scale-ups with investors, governments, the academic world and the big companies.

‘Time is raw material that scale-ups lack’, Ingels says. ‘We want to help them squeeze time by connecting them with the right people, giving them the right answer to their questions and finding the right talent for their company.’

At the moment the organization is preparing several management trajectories for scale-ups. The absolute highlight of this ‘scale-up year’ will be the tech conference SuperNova in Antwerp.

SuperNova puts Belgium in the spotlight

To put our country on the map as a haven for scale-ups, is preparing the tech conference SuperNova. It takes place from th 27th until the 30th of September at ‘het Eilandje’ in Antwerp. Flanders DC, the organization for entrepreneurs in the creative industry, is co-organizer.

Initiative taker Jürgen Ingels sees it big. Thirty years after the technology fair Flanders Technology in Ghent, SuperNova has to put our country back on the map as a technological hotspot for international venture capitalists and companies, he says. To reach that goal, Ingels is working together with big European Venture Capital funds like Columbia Lake Partners and Summit Partners. In their own region they are going to select a total of 55 hidden gems, European scale stories that have stayed under the radar. Those companies can pitch in Antwerp to a public of plus 200 international VCs. The selection of 15 Benelux-companies will be done by Smartfin CapitalFortinoVolta and HPE.

The festival will also have a free part for the big public, they will discover digital technology.

Scalers Are Waiting for Project Manager - De Tijd 14/12/2017 - L'Echo 4/1/2018

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Belgium does not have any startup that raised more than €100M to grow further. This needs to be better. Three areas need to be improved upon to deliver a better solution. Only then we can expect more.

“Luckily, the government is now working on a super fund, the so-called ‘Growth Fund-of Funds’ that supports the ecosystem of scale-ups.

— Jurgen Ingels, co-founder of B-Hive and founder of

Scalers are scale-ups that have raised more than €100M and prove to have a competitive business model. In Europe, there are 86 ICT scalers in total. Our neighbors France has 11 and Germany has 15, but Belgium has 0 to date.

Even if these countries are much bigger in size, countries that are of comparable size do better: Sweden has 7, The Netherlands has 3 and Luxembourg has 1. At this moment, Belgium has no scaler. How can we do better?

I see three areas that are waiting for a more pragmatic approach:

 Area 1: The Comfort Zone Mentality

Belgians are rather conservative and risk-averse by nature. This low level of ambition is a problem, because it hinders them from growth.

According to the yearly ‘Rising Star Monitor’ of Vlerick Business School and Deloitte, Belgians companies lack ambition. Half of the respondents, mostly IT companies, mention that growth is not in their current planning.  Companies with less ambition think that they can hire 2 FTEs within a year and that their revenue will rise with €1,9M. Companies with more growth ambitions plan to hire 29 new FTEs and are aiming for a sales growth of €8,7M.

This lack of ambition is more dangerous than it seems. In Belgium, mostly three or four companies are competing with each other. That’s a shame, as their prices and margins will drop as a result of the competition. Startups in other countries have their mindset on going international from Day 1. This way, they can grow faster and push away their (foreign) competitors. Belgian startups should combine forces and scale up internationally, instead of competing against each other. The incubators should also be aware of this, as well, so they can look at the bigger picture.

Area 2: The Ecosystem

The lack of no successful Belgian scalers has another reason. There is no wide and diverse ecosystem where startups can grow further. The lack of ‘second generation entrepreneurs’ slow down the growth process, as well. Having direct access to entrepreneurs who have scaled their business successfully can prevent you from making the same mistakes and can save you a lot of time. That’s important because an experienced network contributes to the success of companies through time reduction.

A startup founder that only has access to the local bank director can lose weeks or months compared to someone who can pitch his/her product directly in front of the director of a big bank.

This is also one of the reasons for slowing down growth that’s mentioned in the Rising Star Monitor: Regardless of whether or not a company has growth ambition, the success is still largely up to the founders and their team. This influences your financing, as anyone who has contacts with fund partners will have it much easier than someone who needs to pass all the company levels.

If you want to set up your business international or want to pump up your sales, having access to experienced entrepreneurs and investors can save you a lot of time. Scale-ups sometimes lose half a year, if their sales team in China or the USA do not know what to do. The avoidance of hiring the wrong people make the difference between success or failure.

Area 3: Venture Capital Funds

Companies in Belgium have limited access to resources, not that there is any shortage of active funds. On the contrary, even. However, they are too small to help scale-ups gain an extra push. Most venture capitals only have 75 to 100 million while the amount that a scale-up needs to grow is much more compared to a startup (about 5 to 30 million), which means that their risk is too large to invest in just one to two companies.

If a British fund writes a check of 50M, you as an entrepreneur would be crazy to keep the decision makers in Belgium. This is how our country ‘lost’ successful scale-ups like Silverfin and Collibra to London.

Luckily, the government is now working a super fund, the so called ‘Growth Fund-of-Funds’ that supports the ecosystem of scale-ups. This is already a good step forward in creating scalers. Ideally by then, we will have powerful capital investment funds that are managing hundreds of millions.

In the end: A lot of Belgian start-ups cuddled to death in an artificial environment, while they are missing the reflex to go international. Therefore, my call to the Belgian startups: When raising your first capital round, look internationally to expand your business and be part of an ecosystem.

Van Overtveldt Aims for More ‘Growth Funds’ - De Standaard 30/11/2017

Minister of Finance Johan Van Overtveldt (N-VA) aims for Belgium to have more growth capital funds to improve funding opportunities for scale-ups.

In the last years, Belgium did a catch-up manoeuvre encouraging and facilitating entrepreneurs and starters. The financial support for those entrepreneurs is still limited but nevertheless, two large growth funds were recently established: Smile Invest of Urbain Vandeurzen and Fortino Capital II of Duco Sickinghe. However, both growth funds are not directed towards technology companies because they are investing too broadly.

“I am happy with the initiatives, but there is a stronger need for more. In Denmark, institutional investors have an important role in the growth funds. They also have more experience and larger teams, whereas in Belgium the knowledge is more limited, so investment risks are higher.” says Minister of Finance Johan Van Overtveldt. He would like to create a framework to increase the size of the funds in Belgium.

‘No risk for the government’

A working group of the cabinet, in which the Federale Participatie- en Investeringsmaatschappij (FPIM) also participates, is now working on a plan to stimulate growth funds. “We do not aim to increase risk for the government” says Van Overtveldt.

Jurgen Ingels, who is supporting the initiative, explains that his own fund Smartfin Capital has the ambition to increase the fund size from 75 million to 150 million euros. "The scale-up funding rounds are increasing: 5 years ago, a typical scale-up funding round was around 5 million. Nowadays, this is going towards 10 to 15 million. To spread risk, larger funds are needed.” says Ingels.

Network of companies

“In order to become a successful scale-up, companies do not only require funding. They also have to work efficiently by squeezing time. Reality is that scale-ups all have the same 200 questions such as how to negotiate licensing contracts, how to implement an ERP system, or how to incorporate stock option plans in your remuneration policy. Therefore, we would like to exchange best practices by connecting European scale-ups”,says Jurgen Ingels.

Previously, Ingels launched and he’s now starting In September 2018, along with this team, he is setting up an international congress on scale-ups, bringing together the 55 most promising European scale-ups to exchange knowledge. “You could always look up how to do it, but more important to know is who can do it”. Jurgen is convinced that collaboration between companies is becoming the company model: “Vertical integration is passed. We are now moving to horizontal platforms, where everybody is contributing to knowledge and realizing a part of the solution. The setup of an ecosystem is facilitating such clusters”. With B-Hive, he already created such an ecosystem for fintechs.

Management masterclasses

Around 30 scale-up CEOs are willing to play an active role in the knowledge exchange. One of the initiatives of is a six-month practice-based masterclass for young managers. Multiple universities and business schools would cooperate in this masterclass. Minister of Finance Van Overtveldt confirms that the government could facilitate this with the FPIM, similar to what they facilitated with B-Hive.

Published by The Standaard on Nov.30th 2017