Now is is a great time to start a business in Belgium and in Ghent. There are so many startup supporters available at the moment, enabling new businesses to start and grow in various ways.
Startersfabriek aims to bundle all the starters and startup activities together. The three main activities of Startersfabriek are:
- matching partners with starters, both through a digital platform and by providing a space to meet physically.
- building a community of starters in Ghent
- offering a market space between the partners to collaborate on projects and initiatives.
Olivier De Cock is the manager of Startersfabriek. He says: “Every year there are many new businesses starting in Ghent. But at the same time there are many that stop or go bankrupt. It would be great if Startersfabriek could make more businesses remain and flourish.”
The city of Ghent, the universities, main banks, incubators and enterprise counters (like Partena, Acerta…) are partners of Startersfabriek. A number of consultancies providing various coaching, mentoring, financial, accounting and legal services are partners as well.
There are many startup supporters and enablers in Ghent
Here is a list (in no particular order) of some of the Starterfabriek’s partners and other startup supporters available to help new businesses grow in Ghent.
Start it @KBC supports and promotes innovative and scalable entrepreneurship and, with over 400+ startups, is Belgium’s largest startup community. In Start it you get access to mentoring and a network of early-stage startups, scale-ups, incubators, accelerators, mentors, VCs, supporting partners and strategic partners. To get into their programme you need to submit your innovative business idea via their website. You can do this any time of the year. Three times a year selected startup founders pitch their ideas to a professional jury.
De Punt is for social and sustainable entrepreneurs and provides support and advice. De Punt welcomes you to the newly built business center in Gentbrugge, where you also can rent offices, meeting- and event space.
Starterslabo offers coaching for unemployed people wanting to try out how it is to start a business. They provide monthly info sessions about this programme. See when the next one is here. You can also attend workshops like: “How to create a business plan”.
Additionally Starterslabo has a programme for Etno Entrepreneurship tailored to the needs of people from other ethnic backgrounds.
Unizo, the union for the self employed, lobbies for the rights and regulations of self employed and small business owners. They have publications, a free telephone line and a wiki providing advice and information to their paying members related to running a small business in Belgium. They also organise various events.
Vlaamse Netwerk van Ondernemingen/Bright & Young Bryo, the startup program of Voka, in which they support & coach promising startups with growth ambitions. For every startup phase; prestart (also for students), startups and scale-ups, there is a different program. What the Bryo programs have in common is learning from each other: from peer fellow starters and more experienced entrepreneurs in the Voka network (18 000+ members) with whom it’s possible to brainstorm with at least once a month about entrepreneurial hurdles.
Microstart gives free advice and micro credits to new business owners with an idea, but perhaps difficulties with getting a normal bank loan. You can apply for up to 15 000€. The interest rate is quite high compared to a bank loan, but with the credit comes also guidance and support. Their Ghent office has also free co-working space.
Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen (Vlaio) is the Flemish governmental agency for entrepreneurs and it provides information about subsidies and the so called KMO-portefeuille, through which you can get grants for following certified trainings.
Durf Ondernemen is Ghent University’s department for student entrepreneurship.
Birdhouse is a 6 month accelerator programme located in Ghent & Antwerp. Each batch has 15 startups and scale ups. It is mentor and coaching based. The aim is to prepare the businesses for investment. No equity is taken from the startups. Birdhouse also organises various events.
Flanders District of Creativity (Flanders DC) supports, promotes and connects the Flemish creative industries through advice and events.
Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) provides both support to companies which plan to set up business in Flanders and guidance to entrepreneurs eager to do business abroad with Flanders as a home base.
Netwerk Ondernemen offers scale up coaching by experienced business owners.
Flanders Youth Society for Entrepreneurship (FLYSE) is a student organisation connecting entrepreneurial students in Gent by organising keynote sessions, workshops and other activities.
Entrepreneurs Anonymous organises a networking event every last Tuesday of the month in the Irish Pub Patrick Foley’s (except December and July). An experienced entrepreneur is invited to share a story about his or her entrepreneurial journey and tips for best practices in English, attracting also internationals to join the sessions.
imec/(with former iMinds): imec is the world’s leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies in domains such as healthcare, smart cities, mobility, logistics, manufacturing, and energy. Companies, start-ups and academia bring together brilliant minds from all over the world in a creative and stimulating environment.
WATT factory is a community and incubator for entrepreneurs and creatives focused on smart cities and climate change
Victoris.be connects and supports anyone involved with sports innovation. The organisation is part of the university of Ghent, helping also new and upcoming sport entrepreneurs.
Gentrepreneur is a network of professionals, academic institutions and young entrepreneurs. They organise workshops, coaching and info sessions in their venue called the Foundry.
At Think With People you can get help by experts, you can ask questions around go to market strategy, funding, business plans etc. The only thing you need to do is make an appointment.
The Belgian Startup Community
Startups.be is building the Belgian startup community by building a startup directory and events calendar.
BeTech for a quick answer online
There is a very active group on Facebook for tech entrepreneurship in Belgium: BeTech. Genuine queries tend to get quick answers, and commercial or self serving promotion gets deleted quickly. BeTech organise events in Brussels, sometimes in Ghent. The events are often hosted at the venues of startups. Here you can read more about BeTech.
Events for startups
With so many supporters and enablers there are plenty of events to attend. But what’s the best way to know what is taking place when?
- Subscribe to the Startup Digest for biweekly updates and agenda of what is going on in the startup world in Ghent.
- Other places to find events is Meetup and Eventbrite.
- See Startersfabriek’s agenda
- You can also subscribe to the newsletters of the supporters and enablers in the list above.
Most startup events in Ghent are in Dutch, but people in the startup community tend to be very friendly and they don’t mind speak English during the networking. And even if the events are mostly in Dutch, going to events and listening to speakers is a great way to improve your language skills!
Did we miss out on a Supporter? Or did you receive outstanding support from someone and want to praise them? Let us know in the comments!
About the author:
Jenny is originally from Finland and moved to Ghent in 2009. Now she works as self-employed organising events, supporting businesses with marketing and helping people starting their own businesses by being a community manager of Entrepreneurs Anonymous & co-organiser of Freelance Business Day. Find out more and connect with her on LinkedIn.