GHENT – Today, the fifth batch of start-ups begins their accelerator program at The Birdhouse. They were selected from more than nine hundred dossiers and seventy pitches. What stood out above all was the great diversity. “We see totally new sectors emerging, but there is also a lot of innovation in the classic sectors,” says Henk Vandenbroucke, COO of The Birdhouse. “For example, legal tech is clearly on the rise and the sharing economy is also starting to conquer traditional bastions like the construction sector.”

On the basis of 971 submitted files, seventy startups were asked to pitch at The Birdhouse. Of these, fourteen ultimately survived the rigorous selection: eight in Ghent, six in Antwerp. “We only admit about fifteen startups in each batch anyway,” Vandenbroucke explains. “Because the program and the guidance are particularly intensive, we keep the number of places limited.”

Specific target group

He thinks it’s fantastic that so many entrepreneurs are ready in Flanders. Vandenbroucke: “Many of the submitted files came either from young starters with a still vague entrepreneurial idea, or from SMEs. With the Birdhouse, we are explicitly focusing on start-ups that have already developed and need just that one acceleration to be able to scale up.”

Software and legal tech

Amid the start-ups that were admitted to the accelerator program, there are quite a few software platforms. These are particularly broad: from HR, IT support and logistics to 3D visualization. Another striking trend is the rise of legal tech: a world where technology was slow to gain a foothold, but which is now rapidly digitizing.

Classical sectors

In other classic sectors, innovative start-ups are also popping up like mushrooms. One of the selected start-ups introduces the sharing economy to the construction sector and lets construction companies share heavy material and equipment. Another, in turn, is active in the dating world, a first for The Birdhouse. “This start-up, but also for example Crimibox, which focuses on an offline game concept, illustrate that innovation is not necessarily a synonym for technology,” Henk Vandenbroucke emphasizes. “A significant part of their activities takes place offline.”

Need for mentors

The Birdhouse asked the start-ups that submitted a dossier what they need most. Number one on the list: mentors. Start-ups need experienced entrepreneurs who have gone before them, who can protect them from pitfalls, but who can also point out opportunities. A network and help with financing, complete the top three of the greatest needs of start-up founders.

The Birdhouse, meanwhile, proved that it can put start-ups on the right path as a connection machine. In two years, 50 start-ups already left the nest successfully, raised 7.5 million and a total of 240 people work for the alumni at home and abroad.

The Ghent based start-ups participating in the track this year are: Tengu, Dropon, De Nachtkoerier, Human Reef, Hemp in a Box, Contractify, Crimibox and Techwolf. From next week onwards, Made In will introduce you to one of them on a weekly basis.

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