Center of political power and great waffles: those are pretty much the first things that come to mind, when thinking of Belgium. Could be worse, right? But there’s more to Belgium than just that! In fact, Belgium ranks fifth in Europe for its number of fintech deals. Entrepreneurs benefit from the country’s contrasts and mixture of languages and cultures.
“Belgium is a great country to build business critical software. The complexity of the country (tri-lingual, multiple government and legislations, …) and customer base (people expect state-of-the-art software that is tailored to their needs) results in the development of highly scalable, highly flexible solutions. As a result, we easily meet the requirements of multinational rental and lease companies that adopt FleetMaster today. This is quite unique and a direct result of our geographical origin.”
So, let’s have a deeper look at Belgium’s diversity. What exactly is it about the European capital that attracts young visionary minds? Let’s check out Belgium’s strengths, weaknesses and special powers as a promising tech startup hub!
Belgium’s biggest strengths for startups
Belgium’s strength #1: Easily found angel money
No money, no party – especially when founding businesses. Luckily, Belgian business people like to invest into startups above average – which comes in quite handy since the question of financing is pretty much omnipresent for fresh startup businesses. Looking for someone to found your business? Not such a big deal in Belgium. ?
Belgium’s strength #2: B2B Focus
Two thirds of the startups in Belgium are focused on B2B, which is the complete opposite of the two-third-heavy B2C Silicon Valley. This shouldn’t be surprising, since Belgium is located right in the center of the so-called ‘Blue Banana’, the region with the most diverse industrial capabilities, expertise, and infrastructure in the world. That being said, the oppositional focus offers great opportunities for upcoming B2B businesses.
Belgium’s biggest weaknesses for startups
Belgium’s weakness #1: Difficult employee search
Most Belgian employees have an ambition to work for big companies and would consequently prefer a corporation’s job offer. So, as an entrepreneur you should be prepared to invest some time into staff expansion.
Belgium’s weakness #2: Insignificant Market
In comparison to the markets of leading economy, Belgium’s market doesn’t play a key role. Therefore, going international is pretty much inevitable.
Belgium’s special features to lure startups
Belgium’s specialty #1: Business Schools
Whether you are in need to polish some entrepreneurial skills, looking for great talents or just want to learn more about marketing or business models: Belgium’s got outstanding business schools which provide you with useful courses to expand your skill set. The Solvay Entrepreneurs Business School and the Vlerick Business School are just two examples of schools to attend when trying to broaden your horizon.
Piet Vandaele, CEO and co-Founder of waylay, especially values the talent pool of Ghent that is formed thanks to great schools:
“Ghent in particular, is considered Belgium’s start-up hub because you have access to a constant stream of young international talent on account of its great universities and research centers such as imec. Ghent gave Belgium’s first unicorn (Tele Atlas) at a time when they weren’t even being called unicorns. It’s also a beautiful city to live in, having all the advantages of a capital without any of the disadvantages.”
Belgium’s specialty #2: Location
When it comes to starting a business with European focus, Belgium is the place to be. Situated in the center of Europe, countries like Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands are only a short car drive or train ride away. Consequently, Belgium enables an international perspective at a reasonable cost.
Belgium’s specialty #3: Great test market
With only 30,500 square kilometers and 11.3 million citizens, Belgium is no major country – which is perfect for startup businesses, since it results in amazing testing conditions. Another of our Alumni, Laurent Kinet, CEO & co-Founder of Swan Insights, has been experiencing this specialty as well:
“Belgium was for us the ideal basecamp: being a small country, it is also a suitable test market before expanding internationally. It is also a 3+1-language country (Flemish, French, German… and English to agree everyone) that calls for an international mindset. Belgium is between northern and southern Europe; the German StepStone Group was our first investor, and the Swedish Bisnode Group eventually acquired us.”
More about Swan Insights and an interesting talk about the big data scene you can read in our interview with Laurent.
These are some first insights on Belgium as a startup hub. We want to give special thanks to the named CODE_n Alumni and their fellow Francesco Pessolano, co-Founder of Xetal, for exciting insights into the startup world of Belgium.
Ready to fund your own business located in Belgium? Before you do so, check out some of our business hacks.