What do participants say about Start it @KBC?
“I needed advice, the right environment to grow, free office space, network, and appropriate preceptor. Those aspects were almost perfect”
François Gerard – founder.
François Gerard – founder.
Idea: “Online platform to finding/suggesting everyday help for people that need it.”
Business Target Audience: Belgium.
Traditionally, startups are primarily focused on revenues that may be raised via interesting digital solutions. Even though Helpper relies on social activity, it is an online platform to make the helping process really comfortable. François Gerard agreed to share wider information about their idea and participation in the Start it @KBC.
“Helpper is a peer-to-peer social platform that designed to assist four specific groups of population: elderly, people with disabilities, individuals with chronic illnesses, and busy parents,” began François. “We connect these people with their neighbourhoods who can help them with daily tasks like cooking, grocery shopping, keeping garden, etc. We are acting officially and rely on Belgium laws to provide safe financial operations between the participants, while trying to make the process of using the platform simple for both sides, avoiding distracting details.”
Is one-man army possible?
One of the most common requirements for joining various acceleration programs is a reliable team. However, the instance of François can be inspirational to those who want to rely only on themselves. “I had almost nothing. 30-page business plan and pre-CV investor were the only aspects I possessed before joining, and my first day in Start it @KBC began with projecting the company’s structure from scratch. Later, I hired a part-time UX-designer to help me.”
“I had almost nothing. 30-page business plan and pre-CV investor were the only aspects I possessed before joining, and my first day in Start it @KBC began with projecting the company’s structure from scratch.”François Gerard
It sounds rather unbelievable, but the interviewee opened the secret. “I am a master in economics and MBA, aware of new business models, had worked in a consulting firm many years ago and was a director of the business agency for two years. So, some of the things were not new for me (smiling).”
Mentorship may be different
Coaching was amid the most exciting elements of François Gerard’s participation in the program. “I needed advice, the right environment to grow, free office space, network, and appropriate preceptor. Even though the first four aspects were almost perfect, mentorship in Start it @KBC was quite a gamble game. Thus, I received a respectful guy who helped me a lot at the beginning, but then he just disappeared. It was a bit disappointing case as the right mentor can boost your startup significantly.”
The conversation with François Gerard was pretty impressive, and the strong feeling that he is a rather socialised person did not leave until the end of the dialogue. The interviewee admitted a few times the importance of peers he met there as the primary advantage, while after the program, he even decided to become a mentor himself. Is it his vocation to help people or merely a coincidence?
“It is a basis for startups: you have to speak with the client, hear the needs, and adapt the product”
Mariska Kesteloo – founder.
Idea: “Finding and attracting influencers for the MICE sector.”
Business Target Audience: Worldwide.
Importance of Ethos or appeal to authority
Meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions (MICE) is a type of tourism and the necessary components of this industry, which should be well organised. However, such events require not only preparation of a place, facilities, transportation, and foods, but also gathering appropriate target audience and right attendants. As social media have already become a permanent part of current advertising campaigns, attracting congruent influencers can muchly increase the effectiveness of every occasion.
“I have spotted that the way many meetings and events are organised and promoted is far from ideal,” began Mariska Kesteloo, the founder of WordofMice. “Our business is much bigger than the travel industry, so we help hotels and venues around the world to prepare upcoming events better. We built a community of influencers who are professionals in the regarded sphere and have 5 years of experience at least. Our team is ready to build campaigns for a few months and longer, which is relevant in the B2B sector and helps to attract the right audience and appropriate traction.”
Reasons for joining the program
Among the reasons to join Start it @KBC, Mariska highlighted a traditional list, which consists of “qualified mentors, free of charge participation with workplaces, access to education, and entrepreneur environment.” The last aspect was quite specific to the interviewee. “In the meetings and event industry, people are close-minded I would say. On the contrary, passionate startuppers can give you a lot as they are open-minded and ready for experience exchange and even creating collaborations. Thus, I met my team thanks to Start it @KBC.”
“In the meetings and event industry, people are close-minded I would say. On the contrary, passionate startuppers can give you a lot as they are open-minded and ready for experience exchange.”Mariska Kesteloo
Role of community manager
Another crucial aspect of the program was the position of the community manager, and that is how Mariska explained it. “One of the driving forces of the overall atmosphere was the community administrator. It became evident after the manager left the position, as the new one hadn’t as many useful contacts and positive drive.”
Be ready to change the initial idea
Although the MICE sphere is quite specific, and the founder of WordofMice understood it well, participation in the program forced her to transform the product. “I wanted to create a platform for finding influencers, but the industry was not ready. So, now we focused on bringing more awareness and prepare hotels and other venues for using authorities. It is a basis for startups: you have to speak with the client, hear the needs, and adapt the product.” Actually, there is nothing to add to such a conclusion.
“The staff is really professional and interesting, so just being present at a workshop will also be fine”
Philip Poppe – founder.
Idea: “Online platform for transparent supply chains.”
Business Target Audience: Worldwide.
An optimisation is needed everywhere
The desire of achieving success is one of the primary drivers in the nowadays society. Startuppers can be an ideal representation of the people who are focused on achievements while improving some goods or services. Among the most common ideas is the optimisation of the processes via digital solutions that can be implemented in various spheres. Philip Poppe now is busy precisely with this kind of things, making better supply chains:
“We created an online platform for supply chain, which makes the process of targeting shippers and choosing the best provider easy and fast. Of course, using Transmate helps in cost-reducing and optimising the whole procurement cycle. It is also a place where companies are sharing their shipping needs and can create tenders.”
Repeated reasons confirm the quality
The interviewee listed the traditional set of motives to join the accelerator, where free office space and flexible workshops were the primary ones to join Start it @KBC. The pitstop was made to highlight the specifics of assistance. “If they cannot help with a particular issue, they get you in touch with the person who will aid with it. Thus, we had a session with an expert in marketing who influenced our pricing strategy.”
Pros and Cons of the program
Philip Poppe also showed a quite positive attitude to the program. “You are free to visit a class session, which helps to balance time and possibilities. Moreover, the staff is really professional and interesting, so just being present at a workshop will also be fine. However, they can do more in terms of funding, especially having one of the biggest Belgium banks.”
Can the educating process be pleasant?
“The whole atmosphere in the program is great, so it’s not strange that most of the local startups want to join them or have already done it. I would say it’s fun to being there.”Philip Poppe
The debate about the superiority of ‘result’ or ‘process’ in the success formula has different supporters, but what about combining those two elements? The founder of Transmate has quite compelling arguments to add to this rhetoric. “The whole atmosphere in the program is great, so it’s not strange that most of the local startups want to join them or have already done it. I would say it’s fun to being there.”
We aren’t sure if Philip Poppe is a supporter of the famous tennis player Arthur Ashe and his phrase that ‘success is a journey, not a destination.’ Nevertheless, we are happy to hear that building a prosperous business can contain pleasant moments. It sounds optimistic at least 😉
“We started as a hobby as well, but thanks to Start it @KBC, we outgrew into a series project that turned out just fine”
Jan Luts – co-founder.
Idea: “Digital solution to organise and control rental processes.”
Business Target Audience: Primarily Belgium.
Fewer mediators is always an advantage
The real estate market regularly shows a steady growth of the prices, which transforms it into a perspective sphere to make money. What is more, people perceive housing among the simplest ways to invest, receive regular revenue via lease agreements, and be sure that the property will not become cheaper with years. As this field is available to almost everyone, better services in rental ownership have deep roots and reliable preconditions for stable success and even further growth.
“We created a software which makes managing of rental properties easier for landlords,” began Jan Luts, co-founder of Juumo. “They can create digital contracts, set up and track payments, communicate with tenants, and deal with potential problems like a broken window or leakage faster. In general, it simplifies the overall processes related to the rent of the real estate and saves time.”
A warm connection is not always beneficial
The story of Jan Luts is quite unique. “My dad is one of the co-founders of Start it @KBC, so when I started this project a few years ago, I received several invitations to come and pitch. I wasn’t sure if it was a natural reason or just because of my father’s status. However, when he left the program, I decided to join them as I knew that they were doing a great job.”
The interviewee knew a lot about the program, so his words how to join sound differently. “Acceptance pitch should explain why you join the program, what is your current and future stages of the product. Thus, Start it @KBC is especially useful during the first years of every startup. Another interesting question before joining is what you can bring to the community. In my case, it was network as I was working for 3 years as a freelancer and had useful contacts from festivals, schools, and universities.”
“Another interesting question before joining is what you can bring to the community.”Jan Luts
Quantity vs Quality
We always ask interviewees what they would like to change in the program if they could, and Jan Luts raised a bit philosophic discussion. “The amount of startups in the program is massive. From the one hand, it is an advantage as they help to a bigger number of proactive people and increase chances to facilitate something revolutionary. From the contrary, the quality of projects varies a lot, and both big firms and those who came with something like hobbies, receive similar assistance. Nevertheless, we started as a hobby as well, but thanks to Start it @KBC, we outgrew into a series project that turned out just fine.”
Hmmm, and what is your position in the debate ‘quantity against quality’? Do not hesitate to think about things like this, as it will bear exciting ideas. However, don’t forget to make attempts as they can positively change your lifestyle as well.
“Our offering was right in the sweetspot of what Start it @KBC wanted to support in their program, so accepting process was quite simple”
Chris Beuckeleers – co-founder.
Idea: “Network widening via choosing the right people for business matchmaking events.”
Business Target Audience: Worldwide.
The network is key to business development
We have processed dozens of reviews about various accelerators and can confidently admit ‘network’ as one of the core benefits that startuppers are usually seeking in such programs. What is interesting, this item can be helpful in different spheres of business life, starting with warm contact with potential partners and ending with a specific solution that someone knows and ready to share. The bigger the network, the more possibilities has its owner, and probably this idea transformed into MeetMatch.
“MeetMatch is the most advanced event app,” began Chris Beuckeleers, a co-founder of this platform. “Our unique algorithm allows matching the best people for the upcoming meeting, so both organisers and participants will have productive encounters. It is like a speed dating in a business, where participants are chosen after a deep analysis and have the app to make the occasion better with multiple online features. All this facilitates the effectiveness of the event up to 40 times and expands the network.”
Easy acceptance and valuable help
The desire to upgrade business skills and opportunities on the market wasn’t the only reasons that helped to pitch well in front of the jury. “Our offering was right in the sweetspot of what Start it @KBC wanted to support in their program, so accepting process was quite simple for us. Also, they provide the necessary support for tech startups, except for direct funding and software development of the product. All these conditions were eligible for our project,” explained Chris.
“The most valuable was the support we got around getting our business up and running,” admitted the co-founder as the most significant benefit of joining the accelerator. “We also received mentoring and could use their network to expand own one.”
Network facilitates network
“Our first deals were accomplished with the help of Start it @KBC, and things started rolling from there on.”Chris Beuckeleers
In order to expand the thought about both ‘networks’, Chris highlighted the essential elements. “Even though we offer clients better speed networking solution and understand how to accomplish it, at the beginning of our way, it was quite hard to get first warm contacts. The beginning is always a challenge, and the program played a crucial role in our success. Thus, our first deals were accomplished with the help of Start it @KBC, and things started rolling from there on.”
Speed dating, as a phenomenon, take roots from the 1970-1980s and became especially popular at the beginning of the 21st century as the economising method to get new relations. Looking at the clients and success of MeetMatch, the algorithm that was developed by the team seems to be really effective. Will it take decades or less before this approach become popular worldwide?