The COVID-19 pandemic was a major challenge for entrepreneurs, forcing a digital acceleration. Four private and public actors wanting to contribute to the economic recovery of Belgium cooperated to set up the ‘We are founders’ programme for tech start-ups in autumn 2021. The first edition was a big success; participating projects attracted customers, raised funds and some even led to the creation of jobs.  

The 9-month intensive training and coaching programme ‘We are founders’ for tech start-ups targets unemployed people, is completely free of charge, and does not require any starting capital. As for degrees or certificates, there are no set requirements. The only thing needed is a good idea, a solid dose of motivation and ambition, as well as the ability to lead the project.

Fast track to launching a start-up

During the programme, participants are guided in developing their idea into a successful business, in three phases:

  • Build ­­– define the product:
    developing the business model, prototyping the product;
  • Grow – gain commercial traction and customers:  
    validating product-market fit, generating first sales, developing online presence and marketing strategy;
  • Scale – pitch project to investors and/or secure sustainable growth:
    sustaining business growth and financial viability, clear path to financial survival over the next 12 to 18 months.

The method is ‘learning by doing’. It includes activities such as team meetings, debriefing moments with the programme leader or mentoring sessions, as well as workshops on product development, digital marketing, financing, law, leadership and personal development, human resources, etc. Throughout the track, participants also develop the soft skills needed to realise their project.

Building a community

The four actors who joined forces and launched the training programme are:

  • BeCentral, the digital campus in Brussels;
  • Google;
  • Bruxelles Formation, the public French-language professional training service;
  • BeAngels, the network bringing together start-ups and investors.

They also offer their facilities to the participants, so students can, for example, access the co-working facilities of Google Digital Atelier and the Ecosystem of investors and entrepreneurs of BeAngels.

Moreover, more than 100 entrepreneurs were willing to take up a commitment to mentor participants. This allows the participants not only to broaden their skills and knowledge, but also to build a strong network, that may be of help in growing their business.

A very successful first edition

The first edition was a big success, with 28 participants selected to participate in the programme. The participants are quite diverse: men and women, young and old, all with a great diversity in cultural backgrounds. Some 50% of the candidates had a jobseeker status.

Examples of the projects include: Stream’Her (a community supporting and promoting women in the streaming world), OUED (natural, honest and healthy cosmetics) and Korekt (online platform for proofreading, editing and reviewing English texts by native English speakers).

Of the 28 participating projects, 21 completed the 9-month track, with satisfactory results:

  • in 12 projects jobs were created;
  • 12 projects already had customers;
  • six projects raised funds (more than EUR 400 000);
  • 15 web platforms were rolled out;
  • five applications were developed.

Ready to repeat

Because of the good results, Bruxelles Formation, Google, BeCentral and BeAngels launched a second edition of ‘We are founders’. A total of 128 applications were registered. This second edition runs from September 2022 until June 2023. Fields such as sustainable retail, education and digital technology were favoured by the 19 new participants.

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Please cite this news item as: ReferNet Belgium; Cedefop (2022). Belgium: ‘We are founders’ programme: strengthening entrepreneurial skillsNational news on VET


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ReferNet Belgium