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Open for Business – Help for Technology Start-ups in Belgium

By andrew - July 17, 2012 (Updated: December 1, 2014)

Open for business in Belgium

Open for business in Belgium

Most people have heard of Silicon Valley, the concentrated area of innovation in California. Many big names, such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, come from the United States. In Europe, the tech centres seem to be London and Paris; but did you know there is a growing tech scene in Belgium?

If you were asked to name a successful, multi-national Belgian enterprise, you might answer Solvay, the chemical and plastics conglomerate. Photographic and imaging company, AGFA, is another well-known Belgian company. But what about more recent technology companies?

Belgium may be known for beer and chocolate, but it isn’t internationally renowned as a hot bed of new technology startups. However, the number of startups has increased dramatically over the past few years as has the network which supports them.

Areas such as Brussels, Gent, Mons and Louvain-la-Neuve are quickly becoming startup hubs, mainly because of the proximity to universities and technology centers.

Organisations that promote new companies are sprouting up all over Belgium. Here are just a few such organizations:

  • Betagroup, started in 2008, brings together entrepreneurs once a month to hear 5-minute presentations from new startups. They also run a co-working space in Etterbeek and promote events such as the Startup Weekend.
  • westartup is building a community of people interested in starting, joining or investing in a new company. Founder, Leo Exter, is also involved with the Startup Weekend and Bizcamp.
  • bizcamp.be is a free ‘unconference’ featuring entrepreneurs sharing information in short presentations throughout the day.
  • startups.be is a non-profit association of members whose goal is to support entrepreneurs.
  • Boostcamp, organized by the Microsoft Innovation Center Brussels, provides 15 days of workshops and training sessions to help entrepreneurs build their business.

There are many more, but those are a great starting point. If you get involved, you’ll notice there are active people working hard to support and promote Belgian startups.

Technology Businesses are booming in Belgium if you know where to look.

Technology Businesses are booming in Belgium if you know where to look.

You don’t have to look far to see the effect of this evolution. The following are Belgian companies who are making waves internationally:

There is a lot of innovation in Belgium and outside investors are starting to notice. Both TwitSpark and CheckThis have recently secured venture capital.

In my experience, Belgians are reserved about their accomplishments, so you need to dig a bit beneath the surface to learn what is happening.  This is why a friend and I started a podcast, called Tech Brew.

Each episode of Tech Brew features an interview with a Belgian technology-related company. Our goal is to learn more about their company, where the idea came from, and what they’ve learned along the way. You can also find Tech Brew on Facebook where we share recent news and upcoming events.

Looking to start your own co-working space? Ramon Suarez, co-founder of the Betacowork space in Brussels, recently released a handbook. You can buy it on Amazon:

There are a lot of exciting companies starting up in Belgium and I’m optimistic about continued growth. Communities like Silicon Valley thrive because innovation feeds off innovation, which then turns into experience, as ideas are built into businesses.

Here in Belgium, the community is building and the early results are very positive. The next step is to incorporate the experience of those early results into the community, to learn from past successes and failures.

Are you involved in the Belgian startup scene? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments or on Facebook!

Looking for more resources for living in Belgium? Check out our Expat Resources page.

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Andrew
Andrew is our resident tech-geek and is normally found lurking behind the scenes on CheeseWeb.eu doing things with code that Alison finds mysterious. He comes out of hiding occasionally to write about history and technology. He is also part of the duo that produces Tech Brew, a podcast about beer and technology in Belgium. He loves castles, driving on narrow, twisty mountain roads and relaxing with a glass of peaty Scotch. Follow Andrew on Google+
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5 comments

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew

      Andrew July 25, 2012 at 10:24

      Hi Cedric, Thanks for commenting. I look forward to checking out IdeaLabs activities. Let me know of upcoming events and I’ll share them via Tech Brew’s Facebook page. Hope to check out some of your activities too!

      • Comment by cedric

        cedric July 25, 2012 at 11:22

        Thanks! The first event that’s coming up is a Mini – Matchmaking BBQ. A lot of people have good ideas but to team, or have good skills but no idea. On 2/08 we are trying to bring these people together. Event details can be found on http://idealabs.fikket.be

        9/08 We will have a 3D printing workshop
        17/08 We will have a start up night, Edial Dekker from Gidsy confirmed as a speaker.

        More details on these 2 events will follow later!

  1. Comment by Martin van Wunnik

    Martin van Wunnik August 15, 2012 at 19:42

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for your thoughts and the overview! Indeed, recently launched Idealabs should be added to the list IMHO.

    I was selected for Idealab’s very first Productlab/3D printing workshop yesterday evening in Antwerpen, for my visual speedometer project (http://www.slideshare.net/MvanWunnik/gps-visual-speedometer).
    It was a GREAT experience with Manu and his team, filled with insights and exchanges. More to follow on that subject in the following weeks (final prototype decisions to be taken)
    Also, I went to their BBQ-mini matching in July, and I must say it’s ‘brewing’ 🙂 over there & they have some good ideas in the pipeline.

    P.S. They have an event on startup sacrifices this Friday 17/8 – see
    http://idealabs.fikket.be/event/startupsacrifices-4-international-entrepreneurs-share-their-stories-at-idealabs-hq-17-08

    Regards,

    Martin

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew

      Andrew August 15, 2012 at 21:37

      Thanks for the info, Martin! I’m hoping to make it to one of their events sometime this fall. Great to hear your perspective on it too. Thanks for sharing!

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