It’s been a while since we wrote a blogpost. We mentioned it before, it’s quite busy at the idealabs HQ. We launched our accelerator in July, and it’s already been a month since our chosen startups started building. I must say, it has been quite a bumpy ride for us too. We had great ambitions for an entrepreneurial hub and accelerator program in the creative city of Antwerp and we are building it at a great pace.
Enough about our entrepreneurial adventure, let’s talk about the wise guys working at our office!
In our previous blogpost we announced our selection of 6 startups for the idealabs accelerator program. After some commitment issues with selectees, we finally started our program with 3 startups. That doesn’t seem much, but we are still convinced we picked the right ones. We we’re advised by the awesome people of Springboard London, to better start off with a smaller qualitative group, then striving for a bigger number of startups.
Through our social media channels you could meet our selected startups. Here’s a quick intro in to their projects:
Helps you: create and analyze brand campaigns on Pinterest
Run by: Wouter Nuytten, a 19 year old from Ieper. Follow him on twitter: @wouternuytten
Helps you: discover data created around you, by people just like you
Run by: Maarten Mellemans, a 26 year old from Antwerp. Follow him on twitter: @M_maarten
Helps you: cope with the loss of loved ones by bringing people together
Social Love: @cotribute
Our startups have been working hard passed month. They all had high and lows during the first phase of the program. We would like to take you through the first month of the program, and what we set up for the startups (no specific order)
- We had the people from Lean Startup Machine Rotterdam over for a workshop on the lean principles and customer development for startups
- Frederik Vincx gave a session about Lean UX
- Our startups pitched in front of the innovation team of Telenet. At the end of the pitches, the telenet team could invest ‘fake’ money in the startups.
- We visited the MAS, and had a dinner at the Felix Pakhuis with the innovation team of Sapi (they were attending a Board Of Innovation bootcamp at our offices)
- Nick De Mey worked hard on the business models of our startups. He also gave a workshop on pricing.
- We had a visit by Musketon and Toon Carpentier, sharing their insights
- Polle de Maagt spent an afternoon with the teams, and shared some insights in to world domination
- We had a intern Pizza Party, Sylvester and Jasmine are our new interns for PR / Events
- We had a visit by Ben Serrure from ‘De Tijd’, who did an interview with all the founders and startups
- All of the idealabs founders are helping the teams with several things.
- We decorated all of our walls with the help of the startups! Filled with business model canvasses, wireframes, mockups, idea posters… We really should get sponsored by Post It
- HSHMRK & Octopin are leaving for Dublin this week to attend the Dublin Websummit
- We are planning a Trip to London. We are having a pitching battle with the teams of Springboard accelerator.
- We are launching a coffeebar in our building, find all info on www.checkthis.com/coffeelabs
I’m sure we forgot to mention some things, but make sure to follow our social media channels for more!
After 1 long and intense week we finally selected 6 startups that are invited to participate in the idealabs accelerator program. Before we’d go off to announce the selectees, we would like to take you through our selection procedure. If you can’t wait any longer scroll down to get an introduction.
There were some hectic months since our launch, the first week of July. The moment we launched, our online application procedure went live. Aspiring entrepreneurs could submit their application, for a month and a half, until sunday the 19th of August. That’s when the selection procedure started off. The idealabs founders went through 70 applications and filtered out the noise (spam) and selected the best. After the first round we’ve decided to invite 27 startups on our first pitch day. We carefully elaborated each application by individually assigning points to them.
Pitching day! On the 23rd of August the selection board listened to the pitches and asked the startups all sorts of questions to clarify their intentions. The 27 lucky ones came with well prepared pitches. Some were confident and all about numbers, others were funny and light on their feet. All did great! They had to pitch their idea in max 10 min, followed by a 5 min Q&A from our selection board. An experience none of the selectees will ever forget, we can imagine!
At the end of the day the selection board shortlisted 10 startups whom were invited to the second round. All the remaining questions of the board were collected and addressed to the finalists. They had 3 days to come up with answers to present them one final time in front of the selection board.
Round 2! On the 27th of August, the final 10 would strive for the selection board’s favor! They were given 15 minutes to provide answer to the drafted questions from the previous round. Following, a Q&A for the things which were still unclear. At the end of the day the selection board, together with the idealabs founders carefully deliberated. We even made the Kanaal Z news. Take a look
Now we’ve selected 6 startups for the idealabs accelerator program. Teams with an amazing level of drive, commitment and knowledge. Teams also willing to focus and work very hard for the coming 3 months!
It is our honor to present to you our participating startups:
- Sob.li: a place where people can come together to remember the ones they have lost
- Ecostamp: Keeping employees happy and engaged while they reduce the use of company assets such as gas, travel expenses, energy bills, paper consumption,..
- HSHMRK: Share some numbers with the world. Fast, simple and beautiful. We aspire to bring numbers and their graphical translation to the masses in a very social way.
- Octopin: Monitor, measure and help you grow your presence on Pinterest. Create and manage Pinterest campaigns.
- Miclok: We make it possible to quickly & easily attach a microphone clamp to a stand, without the time consuming and inconvenient handling
- Weendy: We bridge the gap between forecasts and current weather, by letting you share weather updates - with those you care.
Once we kick off with the start ups, will introduce the bright minds behind these ideas!
Belgian “Insiders Guide” to successful acceleration in Amsterdam
Hi. I see I have grabbed your attention! Now read on….
I’m Ivo Minjauw, co-founder and CEO of SocialExpress. I’ve just completed an accleration program run by the leading European accelerator, Startupbootcamp Amsterdam. So I thought I’d share my thoughts on how to prepare to be selected for an accelerator. I was one of just ten teams selected from 450 earlier this year.
But before you fill in any forms, grab a coffee and start by going through my decision list. It could save everyone a lot of time later. And time is money these days.
Before you even think about applying, you have to be totally honest with yourself. You must becommitted 24/7 to building a business. And I mean really committed. If your business is only a vague idea or direction - and you’re the only person with those thoughts scribbled on the back of a beermat - you’re not ready.
Why? Because you’re idea is going to tested like never before. Regardless of whether you get into that particular program, you need to be able to explain to anyone how and why your company will succeed. If you have even a shadow of doubt, the mentors and investors will find it.
Stop now. Reconsider. Test your determination. That means you have to be honest to yourself. Running a startup is not for wussies.
1. You have an idea not a team
Let me guess. You just graduated from University or perhaps you dropped out to realize “your dreams”. You think you have an awesome idea, but the truth is that you haven’t validated your idea at all. You have discussed the idea with less than 10 potential clients and you have no working prototype.
Congratulations. You have an idea. Maybe it’s a brilliant idea. But in order to get in to the accelerator, you have to do more. You’ll have to show how you can turn that idea into a real business. Believe me, you can’t do that on your own!
At the time my co-founder and I were applying for Startupbootcamp, we spotted the criteria the organisers were looking for. It’s simple. The selectors are looking for strong teams. And these teams must have the complimentary skillsets. A CEO who shows he or she can lead rather than manage. A CTO with the right qualifications. And who will lead customer development and sales?
I see a trend where accelerators are looking for teams with three people as a minimum.
At the recent demo day in Amsterdam, we got an inspiring keynote from American author and serial entrpreneur, Steve Blank. One quote, in particular, struck me.
“The best ideas in the hands of a B team is much worse than a B idea in the hands of a world class team.”
And he’s right.
2. “I just need money to excecute our fantastic plan “
Then you won’t get in. The judges are not only looking for strong, passionate teams who have a direction. They are looking for team members willing to listen, absorb ideas, contribute solutions, take risks and decide the next step. All the teams, including my own, went through this. We learned that as your idea gets tested by the real world, it always needs adjustment, refining, focussing. You’ll hear different messages from different mentors. Some people support your ideas, others rip them to shreds. That’s normal. You need to be able to filter information, handle criticism like an adult and take calculated decisions based on your gut feelings.
Often teams pivot so much that they end up building a different company. That’s fine. But those with fixed ideas will fail. You need more than money to make more of it.
3. I can combine a startup programme with my day job
No you can’t. You will be working day and night on your startup. And that includes the weekends. If you think you’re already working too hard and sacrificing too much, find a job. Because during the program, you won’t get much time for sleep. The successful teams use every hour, every minute, every second they have. Your reputation is at stake. You have to have a world-class story ready for Demo Day, in front of hundreds of critical international investors and journalists. And don’t underestimate the time it takes for follow-up talks, negotiations, budgeting, designing websites, making videos, etc. If try and combine an accelerator program with anything else, you will fail at both.
4. Suspend your “social networking time”
Log off Facebook, Twitter and stop reading hobby blogs. Stop doing things that are not connected with building your startup in the short-term. Focus by making priority lists and short-term plans. Execution is everything at this stage. Filter emails and incoming phone calls into important and “not right now “.
5. Say Goodbye to your social life
Accelerator programs are immersive. For four months, you’re not going to have much time for your family or close friends. If you get accepted, go on a “farewell tour” explaining you’re off on an important safari. And that you’ll see them all again after the summer. You will be “married” to your startup and co-founders. If you can’t make that sacrifice, forget an accelerator.
Still reading this reality check? You still want to found a start-up? Good. It means that you’re ready to apply.
So go for it!
Ivo Minjauw is the co-founder and CEO of SocialExpress.
SocialExpress is the new enterprise social media reporting platform. We ensure that decision makers understand the conversation. We generate relevant reports that explain the context to what the world is saying.
We haven’t talked about the education and mentoring part from idealabs. Let us give you a first teaser.
The internet is literally packed with tips and tricks on how to launch a start up and grow it to a successful business. Keep an eye on our social media channels. On a regular basis we’ll share some of the best articles. But a startup needs more than digital ink and general guidelines. It’s a people business so we will surround you with strong mentors. We have two types of people that will help you (and your startup team) to go forward: Stars & Experts
Experienced business men and women that understand how ventures work these days. They’ll visit idealabs to have one-on-one mentoring with the different startups teams. They give personal advice and bring an extensive network to table.
Example Star: Bruno Segers (CEO Real Dolmen, Ex-Ceo Microsoft Belux)
Bruno lead different large corporate teams and holds a seat in different advisory boards of startups. His mixed business background and strong network puts him in the perfect position to guide our startups team to the next level. Sparring with people like Bruno will be a cornerstone of the idealabs program. More stars will be announced later on.
An extensive list of people with a strong expertise in one or more highly relevant topics will be giving micro-courses in the idealabs program. They’ll visit idealabs for a few hours to introduce the teams in the wonderful world of their expertise. Via interactive sessions these Experts will work on the business case or product prototype of the startup teams.
Example Expert: Polle De Maagt (Ministry of World Domination)
Polle gained experience in different agencies (Boondoggle, Insites,..) and now runs his own consultancy in digital brand strategy. Changing companies to be less about ads and more about act is his baseline. If he’s not in New Zealand or London we’ll book Polle for an introduction in World Domination. As an expert he’ll show the teams how to use practical frameworks and tools to run successful branding campaigns.
There is a thin line between Stars & Experts. Every Star has his or her expertise and Experts often rely on a strong network as well. But you get the point ;)
We have tons of experts lined up: hosting, material design, legal & accounting, user experience, e-fulfillment, e-commerce and so on. The exact program with experts & stars will be tailored to the final selection of startups teams. Some topics might just not be relevant to certain teams so these sessions are not compulsory. If specific expertise is needed we’ll make sure to introduce you to an knowledge expert in that field.
Interested? Don’t forget to apply for the accelerator program. You have two weeks left!
For all questions and feedback > email@example.com
Last week we had a mini matchmaking BBQ that turned out to be not so mini. 140 of you people with either skills or ideas turned up to pitch their ideas, mingled whilst enjoying a fresh beer and a piece of meat.
But this was only the beginning: next week we’re hosting our next event. Again in our lovely building in the heart of Antwerp. We’ll gather August 17, doors open at 7pm. Again with a fresh beer but this time things are getting a bit more serious.
The following startup entrepreneurs will share their experiences and talk about the sacrifices they had to make to get where they are now.
Edial Dekker of Gidsy.com (an airbnb for experiences from Cape Town to San Francisco)
Michel Suijkerbuijk of Elinea.nl (a spotify for journalistic content)
Daniela Schiffer of changers.com (solar charger to create own currency backed by CO2 savings)
Tim Gestels of viloc.eu (object security for construction sites via GPS tag)
We are going to stop talking and let you subscribe for this mix of drinks, mingle and inspiring talks. In the meanwhile you can still apply for the product/tech accelerator (closes at August 19th). You still want to know more? firstname.lastname@example.org
The summer of creativity is here!
At idealabs we love to keep you busy. We started with a kick-ass launch event a few weeks ago. We counted thousands of entrepreneurs and enthusiasts but the according to numbers of the police +300 people showed up. Still good, no?
Coming up in the summer of creativity:
This evening we’ve set up our first summer event: Mini-Matchmaking BBQ. Looking at the subscriptions we should have 120 people showing up. Great! People will have the opportunity to present themselves to others. Goal of the evening: matchmaking between people with ideas and skilled talents to help them out. An informal BBQ & some cocktails will help people to get in the mood.
- August 14th: Product lab workshop with 3D printing
While our product lab is in the making you (or at least some of you) will have to opportunity to participate in an exclusive Product Prototyping workshop. All info & tickets can be found here.
- August 17th: #startupsacrifices, 4 international entrepreneurs on the sacrifices they make to launch their venture.
It will be an amazing evening to learn from fellow entrepreneurs that go all in to grow their business. All info and tickets can be found here.
We proudly present 4 rocking stories of young ambitious start-ups:
Changers.com, Daniela Schiffer [Berlin]
Designing & launching a new hardware product is hard, extremely hard. Daniela and her team are working on a new platform to change the energy consumption behavior of customers. A first product, a solar charger for iphone/ipad, is paving the way. A clever data analytics model backed & a new currency are just some of the ingredients in the masterplan behind Changers.com
Gidsy.com, Edial Dekker [Berlin]
People refer to Gidsy as the AirBnB for experiences. On the platform citizens can offer experiences up for sales. (e.g. One sells a day of pampering for women in Istanbul, others offer Photo tours in New York.) Normal people, but real experiences. Edial managed to get €1.2M in funding and is working his guts off to conquer the world. Learn from the master!
eLinea.nl, Michel Suijkerbuijk [Breda]
Many publishers and journalists worldwide are still struggling with the new normal: digital first, e-readers,… eLinea is challenging this industry with their version of a Spotify for journalistic content. 1 fixed fee per month to read all the content of your choice of different publishers. That sounds amazing! Michel explains how they’re building this service and what the impact might be on the industry.
Viloc.eu, Tim Gestels [Antwerp]
Many expensive tools are lost or stolen at big construction sites. Tim looked at this situation and saw a great opportunity! He developed a new venture to solve this problem for once and for all. With Viloc they’ve built smart GPS tags that can be attached to valuable tools (e.g. expensive drill). Linked with a smart backend & mobile apps this service is ready to become a new standard in equipment security.
- Claim your ticket-
Don’t forget to subscribe for this event. Drinks & snacks can be purchased on site so you wont die from starvation. 1 drink is already included in your ticket. The evening will be a mixed program of drinks, mingle and some inspiring talks.
2 days later, we stop the talking and you will have to start building. The application process for the Product/Tech accelerator closes at August 19th. Don’t forget to apply! ;)
We’re building a product prototyping lab as part of idealabs. If you want to have sneak preview you can apply for the first workshop on August 14th and play around with 3D printers, cutters and so on. Only a few people can apply so hurry up! Click for further info and to book your tickets.
idealabs and the product lab has to grow. So maybe within a few years we can build prototypes like the examples below. What is your favorite killer product?
Japanese Mechwarrior: Kuratas ($1.353.500)
- or do you prefer -
Bug-a-Salt, Bug killing shotgun ($30)
We’re Kevin & Anner, two designers from Belgium and we would like give you some insight into the birth of X-II, our latest project. Hopefully we can inspire to stop talking and start building, because that is exactly what we did …
Shape the right (mind)set
The both of us have quite a creative day job, but felt like we were lacking time to explore our own ideas more. Therefor we decided that we needed focus and dedicated a three weeks long holiday/bootcamp in New York City solely to getting inspired and finally working on ideas that excite us.
Before departure we set a goal; after those three weeks we had to end up with a working tangible prototype of some kind. By setting this clear deadline and knowing we would have to showcase our work to the many people we told about our crazy plan, we forced ourselves in a kind of deadlock and just really had to do it!
Before our bootcamp we individually put some area’s on paper that we wanted to explore and ended up with vague things like “something with bikes and location data”. These were the starting points for a first brainstorm and ideation phase, from which we learned that it helps if you: allow enough time, use proper techniques (we used “Vision in Productdesign”) and do other things too (like walking around NYC!).
Also we tried to be realistic and adjusted our plans to the constraints that come with a 3 week period. For example, we decided to focus on the acts of envisioning a context, creating a full user experience and prototyping the actual product. This meant we were not looking to create a new business and we shunned away from immediately thinking about business models and revenue streams.
After jointly exploring a full user journey of an interesting idea, we found that is had enough potential to become thé thing we were going to work on for the next 2,5 weeks. After sketching the user experience we wanted to achieve, the first thing we did was think of a high level architecture (both in hard and software) and verifying the most critical aspects connected with it. This lead us for example to switch to another backend service for the music provision for X-II because our initial candidate just did not cut it…
What can we say, if you have checked or even prototyped the most critical aspects, get crackin’! We knew we could only realize a part of what we had in mind, but made sure that the core functionality would work and that we could demo of the experience of the product before the deadline.
Then of course, iterate! Some things worked out exactly how we wanted them, others did not. We greatly profited from the fact we were doing this as a team, constantly challenging the other person and asking for help whenever needed. Specialize, focus and split up tasks.
Planning-wise we also decided to focus on the hardware aspect of our idea first, this was going to be a slower process that was more dependent on external factors, like availability of prototyping tools and buying of parts. Software could be written at any time, which is exactly what we did during some long night of coding.
Things will go wrong, don’t worry … that’s a good thing!
We learned a lot from the fact that our server on another continent went down for maintenance in the middle of the demo show (luckily, it came back quickly).
We ended up with a prototype, it’s ugly, the code will give many nerd a heart attack, the assembly of the prototype will make product designers raise an eyebrow, but that’s ok!
It served its goal, giving everyone a feel of the experience of using our product. That only three weeks before was a vague scribbled idea on a post-it.
And to be totally honest to you; we even amazed ourselves a little both because we “just did it” and because we created something that we truly believe in.
What X-II exactly does, you ask?
Well, that is not the point for this article, but we can spoil to you that we want to question how one experiences digital music in these days of digital abundance…
Despite the satisfying end result of our bootcamp, we’re not done yet with X-II yet!
We’re now working on visualizing the philosophy behind X-II, since this is an integral part of the product. At the same time it’s important to make the prototype more robust so we can get it out there in the hands of real end users. We’re dying to discover what other people will do with the “thing” we’ve created and hope to do this as soon as possible. Time now also starts to feel right to start exploring the business side of our experiment.
So as things look now, we’re in an excellent position to apply for idealabs!
Keep on creating,
Anner & Kevin
// Note by @nickdemey: If you have a similiar story to share, feel free to email@example.com. For more info on our Tech & Product Accelerator and how to apply, visit idealabs.be.