Founded in 2002 and closed earlier this year, BI³ Fund invested in 8 spin-offs of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. One of them was Collibra, the first Belgian unicorn. Purpose was to invest in an early stage when other investors were not interested to take the risk. Looking back this was the right strategy.
The company Brussels I³ Fund NV, BI³ Fund for short, was established in 2002 as a risk capital fund with financial contributions from Brustart (a department of finance.brussels), KBC Bank, BNP Fortis Private Equity Belgium, Ethias and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).
Combining its three driving forces – Imagination, Innovation and Incubation – the BI³ Fund wanted to create sufficient space for an innovative VUB policy for valorisation-oriented research and entrepreneurship. The aim of BI³ Fund was to provide seed capital, financial and business know-how to spin-off companies of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in an early high-risk stage. The university fund was successfully closed at the beginning of 2019.
During the investment period, BI³ Fund invested in 8 spin-off companies in total. The initial support of the BI³ Fund helped start the spin-offs and gap the first bridge to external financing amounting to more than € 200 million in total.
Although venture capital in an early stage involves a high risk, the BI³ Fund succeeded to ensure a nice return to the shareholders.
Gerard Van Acker, President Board of Directors BI³Fund noted that “BI³ Fund, a fund initiated by the VUB, has proven that it is possible to successfully transfer knowledge to the entrepreneurial world, “to be bold in business” a.o. by enabling a “unicorn” to thrive and finally to close with an attractive return for the co-investors. Spin-offs and start-ups are crucial to realize and reinforce the entrepreneurial spirit in our country.”
Furthermore, the VUB spin-offs that were supported, and especially Collibra, the first Belgian unicorn, ensured important job creation, with currently over 470 jobs that have been created, a number that is still expansively growing.
Source: VUB Press release