Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Thank you Jean !


Yesterday was a bitter-sweet night for all of us. On one part we had the first demo day of the Betagroup, with almost 1200 signups and over 700 attendees. The place was packed and the startups doing the demos where very busy pitching.

At the same time Leo Exter was running a Betainvest event upstairs, with 30 investors an 10 startups pitching for funds.

And then Jean dropped the bomb

Jean Derely got on an improvised stage to thank the sponsors and go through all the things that have happened in the last 4 years, and then proceeded to drop the bomb: Jean will no longer run the Betagroup.

I cannot say it was a surprise for me or the other members of the Betagroup team (we had been working on his decision for about a month), but it was still a sad moment for me.

The impact of Jean Derely and the Betagroup


Without Jean and the Betagroup I would have never become who I am in Brussels and the startup ecosystem. I don’t think I would even be the same person, nor have reached my current level of happiness. If I’ve ended up organizing so many events and opening a coworking space in Brussels it is part thanks to Jean, to his motivation and to the vibe he’s managed to transmit. He’s sparked the will to organize things and to make them happen in a lot of us; he’s promoted and helped numerous events and groups to get going, to launch and to do what they love; he’s shown the example to follow, doing what we love, working hard, making it happen.

Jean is the heart and soul of our tech startup ecosystem. He’s not the only one that has created or is running events to promote tech entrepreneurship in Belgium, but he’s had the biggest impact of all. Jean has always focused on bringing value to the startups and obsessed about making things happen, with his own money and with his work to raise funding for the Betagroup, to provide for all those free events for entrepreneurs and professionals.

I still remember when I discovered the Betagroup and before attended my first event (number 3 of 37 so far, without counting all the seminars, workshops and conferences) I contacted Juanito who was running a Hispanic social network in the USA and had moved back to Belgium. He wanted to have an American style event to shake things a little and meet other like minded people. With the help of some of his friends he started setting up a dinner to discuss it and then moved to the ULB to host a growing community. I think that back then we were 80 or so, but for the next event it was already 100 and it has kept on growing. Today there are over 5500 people in our community of tech startup lovers. Thanks to Jean we are changing the world, starting with Brussels.

Why Jean is stepping down

The Betagroup has always strived to help startups grow, and one of its successes is Woorank, Jean’s own startup. In the last two years Boris Demaria and have grown Woorank into a profitable business, without external capital and to a 13 person strong team. He’s managed to turn his own dream into a reality. Woorank is growing fast and Jean needs to concentrate on this opportunity. 

What changes for you


The Betagroup will continue on operating just like it does now. I’ve taken over most of Jean’s role running the Betagroup and will be working with two great people that have already proven their value, namely Julie Foulon and Leo Exter

Julie will continue organizing the big events of the Betagroups, our pitch slams and demo days.

Leo will continue running the Betainvest, our investor club where we try to help investors and startups meet each other and heat up the market.

I will continue running the coworking space and will be more involved in the running of the Betagroup together with the other founders of the non-profit: Olivier Belenger and Julien Meganck

Jean has made sure that his parting did not hinder the Betagroup.

What you should do

Send Jean a message, by email, Twitter, blog, sms, through the Betagroup’s contact form, by post, in person when you see him… No matter how, but tell him about the positive impact he’s had on you, your company, your community. Thank him for this 4 years of hard work and support. It is the least we can do.

Organize your own event or join the organization of an existing event. We build the ecosystem together. The more you participate the better, bigger and useful it gets. Let’s make sure that no matter who moves along with life the ecosystem keeps on growing and growing faster all the time.

Thank you Jean !

With all my heart.

The Artist: lessons for entrepreneurs (don’t do as The Muppets do)


I’m on a plane, on my way to Austin for SXSW and the Global Coworking Unconference, enjoying the great service onboard a United Airlines flight. One of the movies playing is The Artist, starring Jean Dujardin, a film you should absolutely watch. Being as biased as I am towards startups and entrepreneurship, I could not help think that there are plenty of lessons and similitudes between the life of the stars and those of entrepreneurs. Or maybe it is because I was reading The Four Steps to the Epiphany that I saw in it a metaphore of entrepreneurship.

You never know who’s gonna be who or where you are going to end

Don’t treat those that are not yet somebody with disrespect. Even when I worked in public affairs this was a must. You never know where people are going to be at next. You cannot know everything about everybody, specially of those that you just met or haven’t had the time to get acquainted yet. Today’s trainnee, junior employee or young entrepreneur could be tomorrow’s big thing, not in the long time. Treat everybody with respect no matter what their status is. Respect fosters relationships and collaboration

Your network is always being built

Yes, your network is always being built, even when you are not aware of it. You are not conscious of everything that goes on around you, so remember point nº1 and keep on working hard. Even somebody you did not expect may end up helping you or giving you a lead, and the more you are out there working with people and giving your help, the more good that will come back to you.

You will fall & raise

High or low, you are going to fall and raise. Life comes around. Failure does not terminate you. All you have to do is get back in your feet, learn from the experience, and try to get something positive out of it. Even if you are just a shadow of old successful self, you are still you. 

Life is ciclycal, and the life of an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster, emotionally and in terms of success. Luckily most of it will be positive, even in hardship. 

Entrepreneurship is not a tragedy

A film can be dramatic, life shouldn’t. Even if you crash you should keep in mind and your heart the most important things: your loved ones and friends. Your work should not isolate you from your loved ones: don’t let your company push them aside.

Acohol and drugs only make things worst


And you know it. They’ve never helped anybody think clearer. All they do is push you towards inaction, depression and stupid decisions. They don’t replace guts and your brains and will not add anything good to your business.

If you think you need alcohol to do anything in life, anything, you are an alcoholic, get help. 


Don’t do as The Muppets 


The wrong movie lessons came by the hand of The Muppets, with Peggy’s use of violence to solve problems and the last minute no effort miraculous salvation moment. Silver bullets only exist in business fiction and the minds of some consulting clients.

The good news

The good news is that after the worst of hardships, even if it is not obvious you can succeed thanks to your work and persistence.

Who would have ever thought that a black & white silent movie could be made, enjoyable, watched, and praised in the 21st century?.

Success is in the heart of the entrepreneur, not just in numbers.

Interview about the Founder Institute in Tech Brew Podcast [Audio]

Tech Brew Episode 004 ??? Ram??n Su??rez from the Founder Institute

In episode #4 of Tech Brew, we drink Chimay Bleu, one of the six Belgian Trappist beers, and Gilbert chats with Ram??n Su??rez about the Founder Institute.

The Founder Institute is an intensive 4 month program designed to help someone with a business idea turn it into a reality. The goal is to provide a ???network of startups and mentors that helps entrepreneurs launch meaningful and enduring technology companies.??? This is not just a series of workshops, but is a hands-on, practical course which expects each participant to build their company. As Ramon says, it is a ???reality check??? for a lot of would-be entrepreneurs.

Helping the participants along the way are experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders, brought in from all over the world to share their knowledge and provide guidance. Participants themselves are motivated to help each other through the program???s ???Bonus Pool???. In order to join the Founder Institute, each participant must give up a small percentage of their business which goes into this pool. As each new company succeeds, everyone gets a share of the success.

There are a lot of smart people with good ideas in Belgium, but turning an idea into a business is not a skill you learn in public school. Take some time, listen to our interview with Ramon, and then check out the Founder Institute. If you sign up before September 11th, the test fee (???40) will be waived.


Always a pleasure :)

How Do I Become a Member of the Betagroup [Sign-Up]


Some people have asked me what do they have to do to sign-up to the Betagroup and become a member. Easy! It is free and simple: you just have to signup to one of the events, to the Linkedin group or to the newsletter box in the Betagroup’s website. That way you will be updated of all the events coming up and you can take advantage of the special offers for its members.

Entrepreneurship & Coworking: Interviews by Fred Ooms

Fred Ooms has just finished publishing the interview we had a couple months ago. It was really nice to have some time to talk entrepreneurship with somebody like Fred, alumnus of MBA Solvay like myself, and also working with a university to try to bring part of their research knowledge and patents to market. We just set up a video call and got the interview rolling. Nice, lean and true. In his blog you can find a great selection of entrepreneurship video interviews.

Think less, do more

Raising money and the role of the business plan

Internet marketing for your company

How we launched the Betagroup Coworking Brussels

Check out the Betagroup Coworking Brussels (#betacowork) :)

Founder Institute Grads: 77% Progressing Faster than Planned

Charts of Founder Institute Age Analysis
Age of All Founder Institute Applicants Accuracy of Founder Institute Predictive Testing
Success of Founder Institute Grads Age of Founder Institute Grads

Adeo wrotte a great article on TechCrunch about why it is nonsense to say that entrepreneurs peak at 25.

He included this four charts with stats about the Founder Institute’s participants that are quite interesting.

  • Allmost all participants are over 25 years old
  • 77% of the graduated companies are progressing ahead of their plan
  • This last point stresses what I like the most about the Founder Institute: it is about doing. There’s no better place to help you transform your idea into a company in just 4 months.

    Looking forward to the next Betagroup Pitch-Slam


    ULB Campus Solbosh

    Bulding U, Room UB2-252 (Room Name: LAMEERE)

    -> http://www.ulb.ac.be/campus/solbosch/plan-U.html



    6:30PM – Welcome drink

    7:00PM – Demos of 5 Belgian Web startups :

    1) OpenGraphy.com

    2) clickyourcar.be

    3) streetpage.com

    4) Automated Sport’s Games Reviews

    5) GossipZone.be

    8:00 PM – “Live Tweets”: everyone is welcome on stage to “tweet” their announcements (partnerships, promote an event, offering a job or any other non-commercial proposals relevant to the group).

    8:30 PM – Networking: drinks and snacks are offered by our sponsors. 

    Cobot Business Model (Lean Startup Canvas)


    What???s the problem we think we have identified?

    Running a coworking space involves too much repetitive work (which costs too much money to do by hand):

    • managing members (sign up, sign contract, change plan or other details from time to time)
    • collecting payments, invoicing

    In order to be profitable coworking spaces need to make more money by providing extra services/access to resources.

    • The management/accounting part is hard, so it keeps spaces from doing it.

    Coworking spaces don???t know how much money they could actually make because of missing metrics.


    What???s our proposed solution?

    Users can sign up and manage their memberships themselves using cobot, taking a lot of work from the space managers.

    Spaces can automate collecting payments for rent and extra services, which again reduces their work load and makes offering some services feasible in the first place.

    Our analytics section provides spaces with the numbers they need to optimize their business and make more/enough money.

    Unique Value Proposition

    What value do we provide that no-one else does?

    By combining features from different areas like accounting, payments and member management into a single tool and tailoring them to coworking we can help a coworking space much better than other, more generic and not so well integrated tools can.

    Unfair Advantage

    What makes cobot stand out against the competition, why can???t it be copied easily?

    It???s pretty complicated to build a system that fits all the different requirements the coworking spaces have. As a software company that also runs a coworking space we have a lot of knowledge about both – coworking and creating software.

    Customer Segments

    Coworking spaces around the world (at the time ~600 spaces worldwide)

    Spaces can be segmented by size and location


    • U.S. where coworking is already very popular and there are hundreds of spaces, language is English
    • Europe: ~ 200 spaces (Oct 2010), many speak English, but also requirements for localization
    • Rest of the world – probably a large market but many different languages, we don???t know anyone there yet


    • Small spaces that just started, < 20 members – don???t really need cobot that much, but it???s easier to use it from the start than to transition later
    • Medium spaces, 20 to 60 members, this is our main target group
    • Large, > 60 members, might still use cobot, but maybe some of those need their own, more specific/customized tools


    How can we reach new customers?

    The global coworking mailing list allows us to see when and where new spaces open and we can get in contact with existing spaces as well.

    Word of mouth: new spaces ask the established ones for advice, they will recommend us if we can build a great product.

    Coworking conferences and other events, where we can give talks and demo cobot.

    Key Activity

    What will our users do on cobot?

    Coworking managers will manage their members, charge people for services, collect payments.

    Coworkers will use the site to book additional services, change their information/plan etc.

    Revenue Streams

    Where does the money come from?

    We charge the coworking spaces money for using cobot, depending on their size (more coworkers = more income = higher fee)

    We expect a coworking space who uses cobot as its business backend to keep using it pretty much for the lifetime of the space (> 5 years). An average space with ~30 coworkers would pay us 3600 EUR in 5 years (2 EUR * 30 coworkers * 12 months * 5 years)

    If we can sign up 66 spaces within 1 year our monthly revenue would be 4000 EUR

    If we can sign up 200 spaces in 2 years our monthly revenue would be 12000 EUR

    Cost Structure

    After 1 year


    • Alex: 3500 EUR/month
    • contractors for sales: ?

    Servers: ~200 EUR

    After 2 years


    • Thilo, Alex: 8000 EUR/month
      • 1 support/PR/sales: 3000 EUR/month
    • = 11k EUR

    cobot is not inherently viral so we need to do sales to get new customers (esp. in the beginning, until word of mouth generates enough customers)

    • New customers are acquired by email/phone, demoing/explaining the product, giving support. If we convert 5.5 spaces per month and a sales person costs us 1.5k/month our acquisition cost would be 300 EUR

    Hosting: the more spaces we add the more servers we have to add

    • Right now we are running 170 coworkers on a small EC2 instance for ~60 EUR/month with some space to spare
    • 200 spaces with 30 coworkers would be 6000 coworkers = 20 instances; I think we could do with 15 instances = 900 EUR/month; with larger, more cost effective instances we can bring this down to 500 EUR/month

    Overall cost = 11.5k EUR/month


    Nadine and other open source projects:

    • advantages: people can extend it the way they want, don???t have to pay for it (at least no service fee, they have to pay for setup, maintenance, development though)
    • disadvantages: no commercial support (for now), spaces have to set up hosting themselves, no clear product vision or product owner

    Existing (membership) management apps:

    • advantages: they may be better than cobot at specific tasks
    • disadvantages: not an integrated solution specifically for coworking, so will never be an ideal solution

    A great exercise by Alex: public distribution of the business model of his great tool to manage coworking spaces and a step further into lean startup. Can only say bravo!