Brussels: A Buzzing Hub Of Entrepreneurship

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You want to start-up next to EU Parliament, EU Commission and NATO? Learn more about Brussels' vibrant startup scene, one of most important in Belgium.

Check out the infographic on How To Start A Startup In Brussels

Belgium is home to a vibrant, active and fast growing startup scene. The capital city Brussels houses not only the EU Parliament, EU Commission and the NATO but it is also a buzzing hub of entrepreneurship. Startup Weekends, Health Tech, Fin Tech and Internet of Things Hackathons, Cafés Numériques, Summits, Unconventions, Meetups, Open Coffees, and coding and business workshops are very common in every part of the country, and 33% of all the activities take part in Brussels.

Starting Up In Brussels

Advantages Of Starting A Business In Brussels:

  • Brussels is the place to be to run a business with a European focus, all at a reasonable cost.
  • Centre of Europe: you can have access to corporates, startup resources and policy makers all in the same ecosystem.
  • Small city: you can travel almost everywhere with a bicycle so you may want to avoid the travel costs
  • Presence of the second largest lobby services in the world, after Washington DC
  • Second hub in the world for conferences with many hotels
  • In less than 2 hours (driving or train) you can reach countries like France, the UK, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Germany
  • LGBT friendly
  • Highly educated people with 1 to 3 post master degrees
  • Languages: Many people speak 3 languages, and speaking 4 or even 5 is not uncommon.
  • Belgium is complicated with at least 3 languages on the small country market. Belgium has been at the front of testing a product on a market. If it works in Belgium, it might work anywhere else.

What Startup Founders Have To Be Aware Of:

  • Despite its high tax rate on salaries, Belgium actually offers several very attractive tax incentives, including deductions for the cost of capital, on patent income and other research-related costs, and on capital gains.
  • High rental costs compared to surrounding countries – however it is always a good idea to share houses with entrepreneurs.
  • Around $1648 living costs, slightly depressing weather but great international support. We are talking about the capital of Europe here.
  • There are various incentives for R&D.
  • All commercial companies in Belgium are subject to corporation tax. The nominal corporate tax rate is 33.99%. For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a taxable profit not exceeding €322.500, the tax rate drops to 24.98%.

Brussels’ Startup Community Is Ready For You

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If the above-mentioned minor obstacles scared you off, maybe you should redirect your navigation back to the highway Corporate. If you are still in a direction Startups than lets continue our trip and see how you can become a part of the Brussels startup community and meet those great people who can become your startup friends, co-founders, mentors or investors. Something is always up in Brussels. Your first introduction to the community will be great if you go to one of the free meetups arranged by Betagroup or by the coworking spaces like Co-Station or Betacowork. There are many more for certain but these are quite central and after-hours which means you can attend the sessions even after your work hour is over.

Find Info About Upcoming Events, Meetups & Other Occasions:

  • A good first stop would be to check out the upcoming events in Brussels Startup Digest and Startups.be sites. Startups.be lists all-comprehensive details about all the latest articles, news, events etc. happening not only in Brussels but all around the country. It also promotes local tech startups to foreign markets by participating in various programs.
  • #BeTech group: a facebook group of the Belgian Tech Startup community. (Very active)
  • Startup Weekends Brussels community is a 54-hours event that helps teams to build a web or mobile application which could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend.

Regular Events & Meet-ups:

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

Get Started In Your New Office In Brussels

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Co-working Spaces In Brussels:

  • #betacowork with Ramon Suarez. It’s located at ICAB Business & Technology Incubator, a technology incubator that offers great premises in a modern looking building made to impress.
  • The Loft: Business Center with People in Brussels for entrepreneurs, independents, freelancers & small companies.
  • Factory Forty: Factory Forty is located in Brussels, at the heart of Europe, just a stone’s throw from the Gare du Midi and the ring road. 1200 m² of event rooms, private office spaces and open-plan coworking areas arranged around a large garden are made available to businesses and self-employed people.
  • Transforma BXL: Situated near a green location, this coworking space is the newest addition to the growing number of such spaces in Brussels.
  • iStart: The iStart Business Incubation Program by iMinds offers in-depth coaching, facilities, funding and support to tech start-ups in IT and digital media. All info at www.iminds.be/istart.

Reach Out For Financial Support In Brussels

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Incubators:

  • ICAB: an incubator within which also Betacowork is located. ICAB provides a one stop space for startups.
  • EEBIC: This incubator is devoted to biotechnology.
  • Brussels Life Science incubator: This incubator is devoted to life science startups.

Accelerators:

  • StartIt@KBC: free office space and expert support for early stage startups in a wide range of areas (FinTech, Mobility, HR, Sales, Marketing, Design, Arts, Sharing Economy, Social Entrepreneurship, Entertainment & beyond)
  • Start Athlon, the acceleration program of technology center Sirris, was quietly on its fifth generation. The focus is on SaaS startups who want to scale up.
  • Microsoft Innovation Centre Brussels Boostcamp for Startups.

Grants & Subventions:

  • Ecosubsibru: a website with a full list of public support (in French or Dutch only)
  • Fonds Bruxellois (in French or Dutch)
  • Impulse Brussels (previously abe-bao) is a Brussels agency dedicated to support entrepreneurs through several clusters. Many services are free as it is a public institution.
  • software.brussels:  This cluster gathers more than 170 high-growth potential software companies, private & government support organisations, experts, universities and research institutions all dedicated to the Brussels software industry. For more information: http://www.softwareinbrussels.be/en/home

Crowd Investing Platforms:

  • MyMicroInvest (they are based in Wavre (Wallonia)) The Brussels Guarantee Fund facilitates the granting of business loans in the Brussels-Capital Region by providing credit agencies a share of guarantees
  • Bolero Crowdfunding: first in financial crowdfunding for startups combining funding and community marketing
  • angel.me is a crowdfunding platform to finance creativity and entrepreneurs.

Angel Investors:

  • Incorporated Angels uses the company-builder model. Anyone can submit ideas and if they are viable then you get to be the opportunity entrepreneur / shareholder.

Venture Capital Investors:

  • CVC Capital Partners: Founded in 1981, CVC Capital Partners (‘CVC’) is a leading global private equity and investment advisory firm, headquartered in Luxembourg with a network of 20 offices across Europe, Asia and the USA
  • GIMV: Gimv is a European investment company with over three decades of experience in private equity and venture capital. See more here.
  • Hummingbird Ventures: Global Ventures
  • INVEST: Investing in Brussels region
  • Merapar: Merapar enables innovative technology, media, and telecom companies to create value with disruptive technologies and business models.
  • Merifin Capital is an experienced European private investment group with offices and executives operating in Brussels, Geneva, New York, and London.
  • QAT Group: investment focusing on family business
  • Vendis Capital: Retail and Consumer brands
  • Verlinvest S.A.: Since its inception, Verlinvest has focused on the consumer sector, developing solid industry expertise, track record and networks, especially within the following areas: Food and Beverage, Retail & Hospitality and Digital & Media.
  • Voltaventures.eu: The fund aims to combat the myth that the only place where high tech innovation occurs is in Silicon Valley.
  • venturewise.eu is an early stage investment fund. They invest in various stages of a company’s lifecycle.

Do Not Hesitate To Ask For Help In Brussels

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  • InQube is a great space to meet with women entrepreneurs and women in the frontline of startups in the EU area.
  • Microsoft Innovation Centre in Brussels The Microsoft Innovation Center is a non-profit organisation located in Brussels and a private-public partnership between the Brussels Region and private partners like Microsoft. Its goal is to sustain the development of the IT sector in the Brussels region with a specific focus on SaaS and Clouds technologies.

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The guide is crowdsourced from the #BeTech community inputs, special thanks for that! The writer is not responsible for genuinely unfounded mistakes.

Last updated: July 29th, 2016

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