The Luxembourg Venture Days is an initiative by Luxinnovation, the Luxembourg Private Equity and VC association (LPEA), the Luxembourg Startups Association (Startups.lu) and the Luxembourg Business Angel Network (LBAN), with the support of the House of Startups, Women in Digital Empowerment (WIDE), Girls in Tech and the Luxembourg Open Innovation Club (LOIC). The closing session was honoured by the presence of H.R.H the Hereditary Grand Duke, Prince Guillaume.
Luxembourg is an extremely buoyant and dynamic location for start-ups.
“Good ideas don’t come from sitting around in isolation – they emerge when you mix and mingle, share experience and stimulate each other. This is how the Luxembourg Venture Days came about,” said Sasha Baillie, CEO of Luxinnovation. “The idea emerged when colleagues from Luxinnovation and the LPEA were chatting at Finnish start-up event Slush and realised that we need to bring the same actors together back home in Luxembourg, to combine our forces and connect our respective networks.”
“Luxembourg is an extremely buoyant and dynamic location for start-ups. It is also a big hub for venture capital, so it makes sense to combine the two worlds,” Michel Rzonzef, President of LBAN, underlined.
Addressing ecosystem challenges
Diversity is at the heart of the Luxembourg start-up ecosystem, which is a highly international community. One challenge, however, is that women are clearly underrepresented as founders and co-founders. This topic was discussed in detail during the panel discussion “Empowering women in the startup world”. “This concerns all of us,” Ms Baillie emphasised. “According to the European Commission, women in deep tech often face the additional hurdle of gender bias and stereotypes, particularly prevalent in the tech world. I would like to encourage all of us, women as well as men, to challenge ourselves and reflect on whether we have maybe certain attitudes and mindsets that – perhaps unconsciously – make the road to successful entrepreneurship more difficult for women.”
We have fantastic resource: a number of large international groups that can become customers of startups and scaleups and partner with them to help them scale across the world.
A second challenge addressed in the programme was that of connecting start-ups and the corporate world. A session co-organised with LOIC offered several big groups the opportunity to present their innovation challenges to a group of start-ups that might well have technologies that could help.
Kenneth Graham, CEO of Vodafone-sponsored accelerator Tomorrow Street, underlined the importance of this type of cooperation. “Luxembourg has a multinational workforce able to understand the languages, cultures and regulations used across Europe, an excellent access to the EU market and open-minded decision makers. We also have another fantastic resource: a number of large international groups such as Vodafone that can become customers of startups and scaleups and partner with them to help them scale across the world,” he said.
Fit 4 Start selection
One of the highlights of the event was the pitching sessions where 65 hopeful start-ups presented their businesses to expert juries in order to obtain a place on the renowned Fit 4 Start accelerator programme. The programme, which offers 6 months of coaching as well as funding, has been highlighted by the Luxembourg government as one of the cornerstones for Luxembourg’s favourable environment for early-stage start-ups.
Even if you are not selected for the programme, you can still count on the support from the Luxembourg ecosystem to develop your start-up.
11 digital, 5 healthtech and 4 space start-ups from 10 different countries were selected for participation and will join the programme early next year. However, this was not the end of the road for the candidates that were not retained. “Even if you are not selected for the programme, you can still count on the support from the Luxembourg ecosystem to develop your start-up,” Ms Baillie pointed out.
Forthcoming scale-up programme
The Luxembourg Venture Days clearly testified to the dynamism of the start-up ecosystem, but the country does not intend to rest on its laurels. “Our objective is to turn Luxembourg into a complete ecosystem with a wealth of opportunities for start-ups,” said Stephane Pesch, CEO of LPEA. “The extensive participation of LPEA members today shows their interest in helping out with this mission. We want to collaborate more with others, and today is a proof of what we can do.”
By combining all the tools that are available – Fit 4 Start, the forthcoming scale-up programme, national and European funding instruments and scale-up support initiatives – our objective is to create an interconnected journey from brilliant business idea to unicorn.
A point on top of the agenda is now to help promising start-ups succeed with their scale-up phase. “We have been called upon by the Ministry of the Economy to develop a tailor-made programme to support companies in their development from start-ups to scale-ups,” said Ms Baillie, and underlined that this is not a task that Luxinnovation will do on its own. “We have invited a group of experienced and visionary entrepreneurs, investors, corporates and institutional facilitators who fully understand the needs and the potential of Luxembourg-based businesses to help us design a pilot programme.”
The intention is to have the pilot up and running in early 2024. “We hope that in time, this new programme will gain the same solid reputation as Fit 4 Start and propel our ecosystem to new heights. By combining all the tools that are available – Fit 4 Start, the forthcoming scale-up programme, national and European funding instruments and scale-up support initiatives – our objective is to create an interconnected journey from brilliant business idea to unicorn,” she concluded.
Photo: © Luxinnovation/Sophie Margue