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From start-up to global player
Tomorrow is Today
Many young entrepreneurs feel the need to establish their own company if they have an innovative idea or product. If these start-ups thereby also want to conquer the world, they can use some help.
“We invest in tomorrow's successful companies.”
Nikolaas Tahon, Managing Partner at Deloitte Accountancy
“Over the past two to three years in Belgium there has been an enormous growth of start-ups," says Nikolaas Tahon, Managing Partner at Deloitte Accountancy. Young companies, often with a scientific or technological approach, are growing and must, if they really want to conquer the world, grow fast. "For many companies it is important to achieve a critical mass quickly,” explains Tahon: "You can disrupt the market in a number of fields, but then you need to take a big market share quickly."
As this often concerns engineers and scientists, they can use some help developing the market. VOKA and various universities, among others, guide start-ups in special programmes. Consultancy firm Deloitte has its own way of pitching in. "Deloitte wants to help young start-ups get off to a flying start," explains Nikolaas Tahon, "that is why we started the Innovation Centre ten months ago."
The Centre is an incubator where about ten companies receive close guidance for approximately two years. "We use our own top people for this," underlines Tahon. "This allows the companies to grow faster and more professionally, and to prepare their technology for launch, often in an international context."
The support they receive is mainly business-related, adds Tahon: "These companies understand the product they are working with, but we are able to provide advice in terms of funding, strategic reporting or internal organisation, for instance. A company such as Smappee, for example, is being advised about an international capital round."
Deloitte wants to help young start-ups get off to a flying start
Smappee is a start-up with a unique product: an innovative energy meter with an accompanying app that allows users to save up to 12% electricity. This technology can break through on an international scale, believes Hans Delabie, COO of Smappee. “Our scope was worldwide from the very start of the development of the product. We first launched our smart energy meter in Flanders and the Netherlands, and then the rest of Europe. But via our webshop we soon also received orders from Australia, America and Canada. Thanks to e-commerce we’re found all over the world in the space of a year.” A year is nothing in business terms. Smappee is not the only rapidly growing start-up though.
Ghent-based company iText, which generates and processes PDF documents, also grew very quickly over the past five years. Internationally too, says founder Bruno Lowagie: “We are strong in Europe and the US, but we see huge opportunities in Asia." Deloitte lauded iText for this with its Technology Fast 50 programme, an initiative that gives the fastest start-ups the necessary acknowledgement every year. "Often this gives them a small foothold in the talent market," says Nikolaas Tahon: "Young people like to work for companies that have already built a reputation, but in most cases start-ups have not yet done so. Fast 50 helps them with this. It also offers a platform. They meet other people with the same problems and can learn from each other. It allows us to get to know each other better." iText has already carved out its niche in the market, says Bruno Lowagie: “Chances are that if you order a ticket online from an airline company it is delivered using our software."
Companies such as Smappee and iText can, with the necessary advice and right people, develop into new global players over time. "Working with start-ups is therefore an investment for us," says Nikolaas Tahon: "We want to contribute to the development of society and the economy. By doing this we help to invest in tomorrow's successful companies." And for the Deloitte employees it also has an extra advantage: the excitement of being at the inception of something great: "Many of our own people are very driven to also work for these companies," says Tahon, "although they might not be the biggest, most flashy projects. They want to work on tomorrow's success stories, which is a massive challenge."
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Van starter tot wereldspeler
Heel wat jonge ondernemers voelen zich geroepen om met een innovatief idee of product een eigen bedrijf op te richten. Willen die starters daar ook de wereld mee veroveren, dan kunnen ze een duwtje in de rug gebruiken.