KBC and start-ups
It was two years ago that KBC, together with a number of partners, launched Start it @kbc, an 'early-stage' incubator that not only offers start-ups a roof over their heads, but gives them support and advice to let them grow their businesses sustainably. Since its launch in 2013, Start it @kbc has opened offices in Antwerp, Hasselt, Leuven, Ghent and Brussels. Today, it houses no fewer than 227 start-ups (596 individuals) at five locations and has expanded to become the largest incubator in Belgium. On 8 December, the renovated incubator will be officially opened at Lousbergkaai 106 in Ghent.
It is a formula that has proved to work, with a number of start-ups already having received some impressive accolades for their achievements. Last year, for instance, Neoscores took second place at the Start-up Nations Conference, and Turbulent took the laurels for being this year's Best Start-Up in the World, on account of its work of tapping into minor river currents to generate electricity. Meanwhile, Elegnano has been crowned best start-up in Flanders (by UNIZO). The City of Antwerp won the prize as the best city for start-ups worldwide, thanks in part to the efforts of Start it @kbc.
KBC and crowdfunding
Johan Thijs, CEO at KBC Group, is quick to add, 'But KBC wants to do more for start-ups than just give them advice and a roof over their heads. As a bank-insurer and finance expert, KBC is ideally placed to provide financial support and guidance to businesses in general, and to start-ups in particular.'
It is exactly a year ago that Bolero became the first and only financial institution in the world to develop a crowd-funding platform. Investors can use the platform to invest small amounts of venture capital in start-up undertakings, which as a result are able to gain access to an alternative source of funding – financial crowd funding and private placement – at any early stage in their development. To date, five businesses have obtained capital funding using the platform.
KBC and the KBC Start it Fund
From its privileged position in the midst of the start-ups, KBC became aware that there was still one link missing in the chain of business finance, and it needed to find a bespoke solution for start-ups that had already progressed somewhat down the road to becoming flourishing businesses. It is exactly for this reason that KBC has created the Start it Fund, a venture capital fund for start-ups with a need for more fundamental finance.
KBC's venture capital fund, which will be launched in January, will bridge what is known as the equity gap.
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How the KBC Start it Fund works
The KBC Start it Fund will be managed by KBC Securities and will focus exclusively on start-ups participating in the Start it @kbc programme. These businesses can apply for capital injections of between 50 000 and 1.5 million euros.
All applications will be examined and assessed by an investment committee made up of people from KBC Securities and KBC Group NV.
The fund has an 'evergreen structure' (i.e. there is no fixed end date).
Start-ups expressing an interest can also apply for Bolero crowdfunding, which is an advantage given that KBC offers both facilities.
KBC's aim with this fund is to offer a return comparable to other venture capital funds on the European market.
Johan Thijs concludes: 'KBC has always been the bank-insurer for business, a place it has earned by working in close conjunction and growing along with local entrepreneurs. KBC is embedded in the local economy and knows the business market inside out, which means it's ideally positioned to appreciate the needs and requirements of companies and to offer them the right solution.'