GHENT – Today, the fifth batch of start-ups begins their accelerator program at The Birdhouse, an acclaimed startup accelerator program. Chosen from over nine hundred applications and seventy pitches, the selection has been marked by impressive diversity. “We’re witnessing new sectors emerging and traditional ones innovating,” 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.”

Out of 971 submitted applications, The Birdhouse invited seventy start-ups to pitch their ideas. Only fourteen start-ups, eight from Ghent and six from Antwerp, made it through the rigorous selection process of this startup accelerator program. Vandenbroucke explains, “Our program and guidance are intensive, so we limit the intake to around fifteen start-ups per batch.”

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 has proven itself as a successful startup accelerator program. 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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