What do startups think about Birdhouse?
Advantages of participation in the accelerator
We continue our review on one of the largest accelerators in Belgium – Birdhouse. At first glance, the Birdhouse accelerator offers its participants standard conditions and benefits like mentorship, workplaces, and meeting rooms in coworking spaces in Ghent or Antwerp, events for a broad audience around a specific startup theme, networking with investors, partners, alumni, and other entrepreneurs.
But what about specific features that Birdhouse can provide to its participants? It is worth noting well-known partners, including Belfius, EY, and Loyens&Loyeff, and access to personal coaching for Co-founders that can be useful for young entrepreneurs. Another essential side is the Birdhouse-Belfius fund, using which the accelerator can invest in participating startups.
We invite you to find out the opinion of several more of Birdhouse former participants. They are not by hearsay familiar with all aspects of participating in an accelerator of this level. Without further ado, let’s start!
Youreka: “We had another thirteen participants in Birdhouse, I mean startups that deal with the same struggles, so you can always ask for help.”
Mats Raemen – Co-founder
Idea: “Interactive 360° tools for boosting sales and informing/guiding clients.”
The world in 360°
“There must be an easier way.” This quote is a vivid reflection of what all marketing strategies aim at – a simple yet interactive way to attract customers. The latest and greatest innovative marketing technologies allow businesses to reach customers more effectively. Mats Raemen, the Co-founder of Youreka, without a doubt, has a unique way to attract customer’s attention to your product or service. “We make 360° marketing visual tools to boost sales and inform/guide customers of our clients in an interactive way via visualizing sales processes.”
After explaining their core idea, Mats also added next. “Most of our customers are sports teams and, for example, they have some service or product that they can offer in a visual form, like tickets. What we do is 360° pictures and add an interactive layer, and in that way, the prospects of the company can already experience what it’s like to become a client.”
How can an acceleration program be useful even if you are not looking for funding?
“To be, or not to be,” a participant of the accelerator? The reasons to join a program can be different. We asked Mats about their particular intentions. “The major benefit for us is that they have a lot of mentors in the program who are very reliable people with a lot of experience.”
Another, no less significant, reason for joining the accelerator was the zero equity, as Youreka wants to grow organically. “We already had an idea and a vision of which direction we wanted to go. Youreka had some customers, but we weren’t profitable at that moment. We needed to build a structure and establish business processes. Compared to Birdhouse, most other Belgium accelerators take at least 5% of your stocks once you join them.”
Education is a 50% success
Since mentoring was one of the principal reasons for the company to take part in Birdhouse, we asked Mats to describe the educational aspect. “Apart from mentorship, we also had a few workshops every week by different experts about sales, marketing, pricing, searching for funding, giving pitches – pretty much everything that you confront as a startup.”
Opportunity to find an investor
Even though for Youreka, funding was not the purpose of joining the program, we asked Mats about the possibilities of finding investors as a participant of Birdhouse. “Once every month, there is a networking event, where you can talk with people who might be interested in investing in your company. Apart from that, they organize significant events too, where it is possible to make a pitch in front of some potential investors. One of the biggest Belgium banks supports Birdhouse.”
Being a part of Birdhouse means more than a lot
Accelerator programs can teach you many of the necessary skills for running a business and building your startup, but the most important thing is the community, thinks our interviewee. “We had another 13 participants in Birdhouse, I mean startups that deal with the same struggles, so you can always ask for help. Plus, you have mentors with a pretty extensive network, so if you want to get in touch with a certain someone, you always can find a way to this person through the network of Birdhouse.”
Advice from accelerator’s alumni
No matter how optimistic the entrepreneur, starting a business requires blood, sweat, and tears. The same applies to participation in the accelerator. To become a part of the program, you must have a clear idea of what you already are. Mats only confirmed our thoughts by his answer. “It was pretty hard to get into Birdhouse because there were 970 applicants. We had six rounds of selection and got into14 winners. So make sure that what you show is not just an idea, and you already accomplished something.”
“So make sure that what you show is not just an idea, and you already accomplished something.”Mats Raemen
The risk of failure is on the mind of every startup founder. The accelerator can give you a “weapon,” or rather tools for achieving success. Your only task is to use them in the right way.
Mindspeller: “It was a good experience for us, and we got positive vibes from the Birdhouse team members.”
Hannes De Wachter – Co-founder
Idea: “Neuro-semantic AI app to (re) position your brand by selecting the intended association.”
Increase brand awareness by influencing the subconscious of customers
Within the last few years, artificial intelligence became the core “weapon” in interacting with consumers and engaging them in the brand, product, or service. There are many ways you can boost brand awareness and leave a long-term impression in consumers’ minds.
How to apply AI into a brand marketing strategy by affecting the subconscious of your target audience? Hannes De Wachter – Co-founder of Mindspeller, has a unique approach, which he shared with us. “Mindspeller is a spin-off company from the University of Leuven. We have developed an innovative neuro-semantic AI technology that we are using to (re) position a brand in the same way as you have a GPS navigation system for your car. Mindspeller helps find meaningful brand associations that resonate with your target audience on a deeper level to augment a client’s intuition and fine-tune verbal brand identity. Our AI drives brand equity by tracking your brand in a map of subconscious or ‘implicit’ associations. We provide recommendations to marketing teams to move the brand in the direction of the intended association, just like a GPS navigation system will guide you towards your destination.”
The reason to join Birdhouse
Not surprisingly, most startups are interested in funding when it goes about participation in an accelerator. After all, money is a stumbling block for the bulk of young entrepreneurs. “The major reason I applied to the Birdhouse is that they informed me they would launch a fund for startups,” started Hannes. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, as they didn’t run it in time.”
While funding was the primary reason for joining the accelerator, the Co-founders of Mindspeller found other benefits. “When we joined the acceleration program, the company had already existed for four years. However, we were busy with core research and development work in the university for the first three years. We had only one year of experience in commercial activity, primarily in consulting, so it was quite relevant for us to join the Birdhouse.”
Experienced mentors are always beneficial
Amid the primary benefits that Mindspeller has received during Birdhouse’s participation was mentorship, and Hannes shared his impressions with us. “It is always good to have personal feedback from experienced mentors. I think mentoring in Birdhouse was quite helpful for us. It gave us some insights that we can implement in our strategy of growth.” Hannes continued, “One mentor we had during the program was a Co-founder himself and had an experience of expanding the company into the US market, what is relevant for us, and the other had the experience of working with customers from our target audience.”
“It is good to have some personal feedback from experienced mentors.”Hannes De Wachter
Be prepared for any circumstance
Even though Birdhouse didn’t launch the fund at that moment, the benefits of participating in the acceleration program were surprising and beneficial for Mindspeller. “Even though they weren’t able to provide funding, one mentor invested a substantial amount in our company, so it was a significant achievement for us.”
The vicissitudes of fate. The trip’s result isn’t always a destination, so be open to changes on the way to success.