Belgian startup expert Omar Mohout, an experienced mentor and adviser to companies and investors alike, tells us which 10 companies have caught his eye in and around Brussels
Belgium is bursting with creative and engineering talent. Meeting close to 1,000 Belgian tech founders and CEOs every year, I am always wowed by the often unique and innovative approaches of many of the country’s startups.
Two thirds of the startups in Belgium are B2B, the complete opposite of the 2/3-heavy B2C Silicon Valley. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Belgium is right in the middle of the so called Blue Banana, the region with the most diverse industrial capabilities, expertise, and infrastructure in the world. It’s not a coincidence that Raspberry PI and Arduino were born here. It explains why the renaissance of hardware (startups) is taking place here and not in China or the U.S. So if you’re a B2B or hardware SME, leave the Valley aside and embrace the capital of the EU.
The biggest challenge in creating this list is to select just 10 companies. I could have easily chosen 100 startups given the wealth of talent and know-how here. However, I decided on these 10 startups that can act as the “innovation business card” for Belgium. I expect these startups to have an international breakthrough sooner rather than later so keep an eye on them.
1. Evolved Analytics
From the Dutch-speaking Flanders region of Belgium (yes, the GIF had a purpose), Evolved Analytics is rapidly monetizing the so-called profession-of-the-future: data science. It offers AaaS — analytics-as-a-service; upload your data and the machine learning algorithms give you a strategy back. Fast and easy.
It also works for other industries: advanced materials, consumer products, market research, or manufacturing companies to name a few. Another very practical application for their solution is pinpointing the optimal moment to buy a secondhand car.
The company was founded by mathematician and economist Katya Vladislavleva.
Foodpairing brings together the best of Belgium: innovative science, great engineering, and the burgundy food culture to create culinary happiness. They’ve developed one of the world’s largest ingredient-and-flavor databases in the world by creating a series of unique algorithms capable of selecting surprising and novel food and drink pairings. Chefs and foodies use the solution to inspire their menus, bartenders for new cocktail creations, and marketers or product developers in seeking ideas for in-line extensions.
It takes just seconds to create new and exciting flavors based on local, global, or seasonal products. Visiting their office and lab in historic Bruges is a sensation for all senses.
Visupedia is a visual and collaborative encyclopedia that lets you rediscover concepts, things, and events on the tip of your tongue but can’t remember the names of. It solved the paradigm of finding something whose name you don’t know. By interconnecting visuals, Visupedia allows people to find, understand, and buy things easily among millions of items, even when they don’t know their exact name nor have a reference or even an image available.
For instance, what is the name of this small spare part of my bike that you broke?
REstore‘s concept is beautiful in its simplicity. Companies that require a lot of electricity receive a financial incentive to stop consuming temporarily during peak hours. REstore’s smart energy platform can curtail power demand in near real-time. In other words, REStore is been building a virtual power station selling NEGAWatts instead of MEGAWatts.
The business model should have strong network effects if it rolls out across Europe as the founders plan. By joining REstore, businesses not only receive tens of thousands of euros in cash per year but also reduce their carbon footprint by eliminating peaks in consumption. What’s not to like?
REstore was founded by Pieter-Jan Mermans (ex-Arthur D. Little energy strategist) and Jan-Willem Rombouts (ex-Goldman Sachs quant) and is supported by an experienced board of serial entrepreneurs, including Paul Carpentier.
Ontoforce launched its Disqover search platform for professionals in medicine, biotechnology, bioinformatics, software and engineering. Disqover’s advanced semantic technology delivers unexpected connections in health and life science, and goes beyond regular searches, revealing relations and new insights in drug discovery. It literally builds links for life since any discovery can change the lives of millions.
Founder Hans Constandt is an active member of the Belgian startup ecosystem.
SoundTalks provides algorithms for monitoring livestock’s health status using sound. It’s delivered as a plug and play package containing a portable shock and waterproof hardware platform to process audio in real-time, and distress monitoring software and a SoundTalks microphone. The package allows the user to start overseeing herds’ respiratory health in less than 5 minutes.
SoundTalks makes it possible for farmers and veterinarians to observe large herds on a frequent basis with fast detection and identification of infections. SoundTalks offers easy-to-use, automated monitoring tools to assist the farmer and the veterinarian in their daily decisions in the management process. Based on objective data, faster and more accurate actions can be undertaken to optimize the growth process and ensure an improved economic result. Because diseases can be detected earlier and animals can be treated on an individual basis, the overall use of antibiotics can be reduced and a sustainable way of livestock farming can be achieved.
The company is a spin-off of three research units out of the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) and University of Milan.
Musimap is a cognitive computing music technology based on advanced cross-weighted music taxonomy – an extremely detailed underlying map of the world’s music history weaving artists and genre influences based on 3 billion data points. Using a socio-psychological, musicological and lexicological approach coupled with traditional signal analysis and text retrieval, Musimap’s technology is a unique hybrid between human expertise and automated algorithms. Musimap’s technology decodes the DNA of music, understands the listeners’ contextual needs, and solves the complex problem of music discovery.
All this is offered as an API to create personalized recommend engines and enhance music experiences. Given that Belgium has the highest number of music festivals per capita worldwide, it’s not surprising that Musimap was conceived and born here.
The company is run by CEO Vincent Favrat, CTO Frédéric Notet and Head of Research Pierre Lebecque.
The value proposition of Mappamathics is unfortunately characterized in the acronym PNaaS: Prime-Numbers-as-a-Service. Primes are heavily used in cryptography but also for compression, calculating mechanical vibration, and in database technology. Prime numbers come cheap: for just €1, you can buy your own set ranging from 256-bit up to 4096-bit. They’ve developed an algorithm that generates and confirms large prime numbers much faster than existing solutions, typically between 16 and 22 times faster.
Connect your devices with web services, let them interact using if-when-then rules, then store and visualize data using mobile or web dashboards. Beyond prototyping, the AllThingsTalk cloud is production-ready, built to scale and can be white labeled for any brand products. Build an IoT app in as little as two minutes with just your smartphone or computer: no app download or hardware is required.
Martijn Joris, who has a passion for 3D creation, founded Twikit. It’s an exponent of the ‘maker’ era with a strong consumer oriented point of view. Twikit enables customers to tweak and build products in the easiest way possible and subsequently order their 3D-printed creations. Twikit takes care of the production and finishing of the products and ships them around the world.
Products include customizable trophies, jewelry, fashion items, home décor, toys, accessories, and even 3D-printed lamps. Basically every product category is 3D-customizable, opening a new world for brands and retailers.
The views expressed are of the author.
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