I’m not an entrepreneur. But I admire entrepreneurs. I admire the way they take – BIG – risks. Their enthusiasm, and the way they hold on to their idea, against all odds, that’s quite impressive.
The bravery: Entrepreneurs jump off a cliff, and they assemble a plane on the way down.
So, in this respect: great news from the Entrepreurship front: iMinds has been ranked 4th wordlwide, as a best-in-class incubator. Congratulations to iMinds !
In their own words:
iMinds occupies the fourth position on UBI Global’s worldwide ranking. (…) iMinds’ portfolio currently includes more than 100 companies. About half of them are less than two years old. In total, however, these iMinds start-ups have already created more than 300 full-time jobs and they have a total turnover of more than 16 million euro. The iMinds start-ups make for a vibrant community (…) On top, they perform very well in terms of securing external follow-up financing: every euro invested by iMinds opens the door to 3.6 euro of external investments (i.e. 24 million euro in total).
It’s great that we have a world class Incubator like iMinds. Now, the numbers we read about, boil down to 6.6 million euro of iStart investments (since 2011) and 24 million euro of related private investments: are these seeds sufficient?
Well, as a little comparison, we see that the same government that invests a couple of million euro’s in new companies (and hence: new employers) “earns” more than 2 billion euro per year on tobacco taxes, not even counting VAT. As background information, Tobacco is a product that kills. It kills thousands of people, every year. As a society, we invest billions of euros in the consumption & taxation of Tobacco, and against this kind of numbers, we invest 6 million euro in a worldclass incubator like iStart. That does not sound smart.
So where are the bottlenecks? How can we let the startup scene in Belgium grow – exponentially?
Is more start capital needed? If 1 euro of government money triggers 3.6 euro of private money, how much government money is needed? 5% of yearly Tobacco revenues, or do we need 10%?
Or do we have enough seed capital for starters, and enough follow on capital for growing companies, but do we lack a sufficient number of great ideas ?
183 project were submitted to iMinds in 2015, and 28 were accepted, that’s hardly 15%. Of course, it’s good that admission criteria are very strict. But the remaining 85%: are all of these bad projects? And if not: are we sure that all of them secured funding from alternative sources? What if some (many ?) of these 85% also have the potential to create (many!) jobs, and don’t get funding from other sources? Perhaps our current ecosystem is ditching the next (Belgian) Google (+53.000 employees in 2014) ?
Question: today, what is the main bottleneck to accelerate the startup ecosystem in Belgium ?
Number 1) access to capital ?
Number 2) the number of new start ups ?
Number 3) the quality of these new projects ?
Or all three ?
Or do we suffer from other bottlenecks, do we still have a different (i.e. too modest) mindset about investing in new companies? For example, compared to players like Google Ventures: investing 2 billion euros in new companies (or 100% of yearly Tobacco revenues), trying to solve a problem like “death” along the way ? Or does growing the startup system exponentially require a more solid & coordinated European approach instead of a Flemish/Belgian approach?
Have a great weekend !