Starting a business in Belgium has never been easier. The access to technology and financing solutions have lowered the barrier of entry immensely, causing a start-up boom, with a consistent growth level over the last few years. Though not many startups make it through the first year, a few manage to succeed, thriving locally and internationally.
Cedric Donck, serial Belgian entrepreneur and investor, describes the first three years of a startup as playing Russian roulette. To his estimates, only 50% have a future after the turbulent early life. As he puts it “you’re always one mistake away from either becoming the next Zuckerberg, or bankrupt.”.
As intimidating as those odds may be, many young entrepreneurs have carved their way through and wrote the start to their success stories. The list is long but allow me to introduce you to some.
Karim Slaoui (Cowboy)
With a PhD from the catholic university of Leuven, Karim is one of those entrepreneurs with not only a lot of technological breadth and depth, but also with a lot of determination. After his previous venture alongside Adrien Roose, JustEatIt, came to a bitter end due to the lack of funding, they started Cowboy not so long after.
The infamous e-bike company has now collected over 14 million euros after multiple rounds of funding. In the process, they have built a solid brand in Brussels that many youngsters identify with, and engineered world-renowned products.
They aim to solve the modern mobility issues and offer alternative solution to getting around the city. Knowing how traffic suffocates Brussels on the daily basis, Cowboy should be on your watchlist.
Xavier Claes (Drawbotics)
7 years ago, Xavier gave birth to Drawbotics with the help of the cofounders Axel Guzman & Stanislas Boyet. Soon after his graduation in business from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), and only at the age of 24, his vision was to utilise technology to develop new marketing tools for the real estate market.
I remember my first conversation with the engineers at Drawbotics back in 2018, it was the first time I realized I could do home visits on my screen, in such an elegant 3D fashion. I immediately saw the potential to revolutionize real estate selling, making it faster and long term, efficiently cheaper. Drawbotics have attracted some big-name clients, and I’m personally looking forward to see how they grow.
Youri Dauber (Cohabs)
During my research for this article, I found out that Youri worked for Drawbotics briefly in the first founding years. He is someone with a lot of experience building companies from the ground up. Cohabs is no different, yet it’s still very special. Founded in 2016, Cohabs introduced housing, for nomads. The company offers rooms in multiple locations in Europe and the US for rent. What they do better than any other co-housing rentals is the community experience.
This helps tenants meet others and merge themselves into the local culture. They are tailored for nomads, and travellers. According to Crunchbase, Cohabs have accumulated over 88 million $ in 4 rounds of funding, making it one of the most promising startups, not just in Belgium but also in Europe.
Diving onto your first business venture can be very tricky and full of landmines. Fear is the number one reason that holds people away from starting doing something new. Whether it’s the fear of failure, failure of getting into debt or just simply the fear of uncertainty that comes with it, our brains can get very creative with excuses.
The City of Brussels offers a great platform to assist new entrepreneurs, with free one-on-one help and a framework of legal and financial guides to getting started, and if that’s not enough of a leg to stand on, there are several private alternatives such as StartUp Factory. At the end of the day, all it takes is a dream and the will to make it a reality.
This blog post was prepared by Marouane Dahrouch, student at Odisee in Brussels.