45% of Brussels startups go bankrupt. How do you create a sustainable company ?

To launch your own company is a genuine challenge in its own right. But to make it viable over time represents an even greater challenge, especially within the first three years of its life. Groupe One is specialized in raising the awareness and coaching for the creation of sustainable companies, and has developed several innovative eco-management tools.

BusinessPlan

A sustainable company can be best described as an enterprise which acts responsibly towards people and the environment, while remaining economically viable. Yet how ever promising they may be at first, many such start-up companies never live to see the day beyond two or three years!

In Brussels, the figures are unequivocal: out of the 4,399 companies created in 2012 (most recent year for which statistics are available), 1,943 of them went bankrupt. Still in the same year in Wallonia, 5,373 companies were created of which 1,902 went bust.

These figures become even more alarming when we discover the situation has been deteriorating over a decade. Indeed between 2003 and 2014 the number of bankruptcies has increased by more than 76% in Brussels and 50% in Wallonia!

Among the causes for these bankruptcies, we can point out the under-capitalisation in the creation phase on the one hand, and the entrepreneur’s lack of management skills on the other. In many cases, the latter tends to face a growing number of organizational and management issues in addition to costs that had not been projected, cashflow problems, social security costs, VAT, late invoicing and bad payers.

To avoid these bankruptcies, it is not just a question of better preparation ahead of launching these companies, it is also a question of ensuring a robust follow-up beyond the start-up phase. However, while important means are traditionally injected into the creation of companies, very few resources are dedicated to supporting the post-creation phase.

Over the last few years now, Groupe One has developed a range of tools to help entrepreneurs in optimizing their young structure with a focus on eco-management such as:

  • a management tool for free-lancers and very small enterprises (« TPE ») : EcoBox
  • a coaching methodology based on the identification of the entrepreneurs’ recurrent needs
  • training sessions adapted to this particular audience
  • a tool to manage the environmental dimension and to achieve substantial savings: EcoToolkit

Groupe One ASBL is an NGO specialized in the awareness raising, training and coaching for the creation of companies with a focus on sustainable development. The association is in charge of running its enterprise and coaching centre Village Partenaire in Saint-Gilles (Brussels), and also has an outreach in Wallonia with its office in Braine-le-Comte.

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Groupe One is also the initiator of the design and development of several training sessions and role plays in the field of company start-ups and sustainable development.With entrepreneurship at the heart of its DNA, the team also leads a number of innovative projects in « green development » (aquaponics, urban agriculture, complementary currency,…)

Groupe One has therefore developed in-depth expertise in the follow-up of start-up companies and has been doing so for more than fifteen years! If you wish to learn more about these eco-management tools and these projects, please get in touch:info@groupeone.be.



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Personality of the starter has an impact on business performance

This article was written by by Michiel Crommelinck from Securex. More info about Securex and its services to starters.

Increasingly you hear investors saying: “We don’t just look at the idea, but also the founder of the startup team, before we make an investment.” Rightly so, as it turns out, because research shows that someone’s personality has an impact both on the intentions to become an entrepreneur, and later on business performance.

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Personality

Although in practice a wide variety of personality tests are popular (e.g. the MBTI), researchers agree that the Big 5 is the most reliable way to determine someone’s personality. The Big 5 combines five personality traits, namely:

  • Openness: people who score high on openness are curious, creative and keen to find new ideas and experiences.
  • Conscientiousness: conscientious people are those with a high level of organization, planning and responsibility, are often highly work motivated and have a lot of self-control.
  • Extroversion: extroverted people are social, energetic, active, friendly, optimistic, and are often dominant in social situations.
  • Agreeableness: people who score high on agreeableness are modest, cooperative, altruistic, and trust people quickly.
  • Neuroticism: neurotic people have low emotional stability. They often have more worries, are less well to handle stress, and often have less self-confidence.

Based on an analysis of more than 15,000 entrepreneurs, recent research concluded that openness, conscientiousness and extroversion have positive relationships with entrepreneurial intentions and business performance. Neuroticism, on the other hand, has a negative impact, and only the trait of the agreeableness shows no relationship to intentions or performance.

Through what mechanism does the effect of personality work? The role of teamwork

Researchers have shown that there can be two types of conflict in teams: task conflict and relationship conflict. In teams with a lot of task conflict there is frequent discussion about the best ways of doing things, a lot of information is shared to support arguments, and team members are open to the opinions of others. In teams with a lot of relationship conflict there is often a great deal of hostility and incompatibility. Team members are often less inclined to share information that is relevant to a task or project, and frequently launch personal attacks.

In a study of 323 startups it was found that task conflict firm increased business performance (measured by the gross margin), while relationship conflict decreased business performance. Moreover, it appeared that the effects of two personality traits, neuroticism and openness, on business performance could be partly explained by these two types of team conflict. Personality thus appears to have an effect on business performance, including through the impact on team conflict.

Conclusion

There are many factors that affect the performance of a new company. Often one automatically thinks of the sector in which the business is located and the innovativeness of the idea. On the basis of recent scientific research, we can conclude that it is also important, for example for investors, to look at the founder and the team. The personality of the entrepreneur appears to be able to account for 10 % of the variation in business performance.

References

de Jong, A., Song, M., & Song, L.Z. (2013). How Lead Founder Personality Affects New Venture Performance: The Mediating Role of Team Conflict. Journal of Management, 39, p. 1825-1854.

Zhao, H., Seibert, S.E., Lumpkin, G.T. (2010). The Relationship of Personality to Entrepreneurial Intentions and Performance: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Management, 36, p. 381-404



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How to win a Startup Weekend using Agile

Michel Duchateau will be the facilitator of Startup Weekend Changemakers. He’s a Global Facilitator of Startup Weekend Europe, the Founder of CreaDelta.be , a Startup coach, an Agile trainer, and the Curator of Startup Digest Brussels. Here’s what he wants to tell you if you want to win Startup Weekend.

I took part in almost 20 Startup Weekends, and each time I noticed that most of the teams lost precious time and focus in various ways.

DON’T:

  • Run an endless giant brainstorming session with all team members.
  • Ask every team member to give his/her opinion on every idea, action and suggestion.
  • Plan the weekend using a detailed agenda for everyone.

These are the best ways to break down the creativity, spontaneity, and motivation of your team members.

Hopefully, other teams have used key entrepreneurial best practices that are really easy to learn, and really powerful. Check them out!

1. Work in iterations of 2 hours

Don’t plan everything, just do it.

Some Startup Weekend wining teams have worked step-by-step in sequences of 2 hours. These time-boxed sequences are called iterations in the Agile world.

Every 2 hours, all team members stop working and, together, go through what has been done. Then they fix an objective for the next iteration.

In that way, the team keeps the focus on achievable objectives, instead of working on endless tasks for a long-term objective. Moreover, the team updates the direction of the project based on experience, outcomes and insights, taking into account new opportunities and results in real time.

By moving step-by-step, the team focuses on project results instead of project management. They drastically reduce their “time-to-market”.

2. Form 2 subgroups

By forming two cooperating subgroups, the team effectively divides its forces: one subgroup working on the problem, and the other one on the solution.

The first subgroup works on identifying their customers and their needs. They get out of the building to interview potential customers and pick up the phone to prospect. In other words, they regroup market information for the team.

The second subgroup works on making a prototype (called Minimum Viable Product by lean entrepreneurs). They design, code and build the functionalities of the product.

Both subgroups debrief every 2 hours together.

3. Use simple visual tools

One of the best Agile tools used during Startup Weekend is the Kanban board.

It is a visual management tool representing the tasks to be done for the ongoing iteration. It helps the entire team to get an overview of where they stand and what has to be done.

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4. Focus on the startup trinity

Best teams work on these 3 questions simultaneously:

  • Who are the customers and what are they needs?
  • What solution should be built?
  • Is the business model viable?

Winning teams have achieved to get:

  • Paying customers
  • A running prototype
  • A validated business model.

The winning team of Startup Weekend Brussels 2013, Meet Ginger, performed outstandingly because they rigorously practiced Agile. They successfully got paying customers after 40 hours of project development.

Come to Startup Weekend to use Agile best practices, to collaborate efficiently with your teammates.

And remember: it’s not about the idea, it’s about the execution! J

See you there!

Michel

 



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5 Challenges Changemaking Start-ups are Facing

OksigenLab logo

Oksigen Lab is a Brussels-based research and incubation centre providing support to social entrepreneurs, both start-ups and scalers. By working on a daily basis with social entrepreneurs, we have identified the following key challenges faced by starting social entrepreneurs:

1. Overlooking the market while focusing on the societal challenge

Social entrepreneurs are driven by a strong ambition to solve a specific societal challenge. This is your purpose and what motivates you. And this is also very important to convince your first customers, investors and partners.

However, putting too much attention on the societal challenge can lead to a narrow-minded vision and might conduct social entrepreneurs to overlook the key starting point of any business idea: the market. Is there a market? Is someone willing to pay for my service/product?

Defining your market and your value proposition is key before starting your social business. Even if we meet an increasing amount of social entrepreneurs with great business skills, the majority of social entrepreneurs we support often lack business acumen. An important part of our work consists in helping entrepreneurs identify and quantify the market and value proposition.

 2. Creating a complementary team in terms of skills and mind-sets

If you want to be impactful and successful with your venture, you need to attract the right people. The difference will not lie in a great idea or great social business, but in the excellence of implementation. And implementation is driven by the people. Of course, it is important to identify a promising idea and further develop a robust business plan and strategy. However, what matters most is your ability to implement your strategy effectively.

Attracting great people in your venture is key. And we are not only referring to paid employees, who are often difficult to enrol in the start-up phase due to limited funding. Also identify your key stakeholders and engage with them. Make them your allies.

When composing your founding team, avoid people with similar competencies and mind-sets. It is all about complementarity. Map your personal weaknesses and identify your needed skillss. This will help you better target your search for potential partners.

3. Keeping focused

As starting entrepreneur, you will face different moments where you will have the impression to be “lost”. You see a lot of opportunities and want to explore them all. Sometimes you are overwhelmed by requests from potential partners and customers. It is exhausting but also inspiring and motivational when you book the first success. Still there is a danger zone. Being distracted by a variety of actions can dilute your focus.

When you have the impression of losing control of the situation, take a step back and go back to your initial plan and strategy. If you feel that your strategy needs to be adapted, please do. Be agile. But if you still believe in your initial strategy and have the impression that you are losing focus to implement it, it’s probably time to stop some activities.

Focus is a powerful strength. It gives you a certain serenity, fresh mind, creativity and professional attitude towards other stakeholders.

4. Building resilience

As a social entrepreneur, you have a great mission: making the world a better place! This is a huge task and it requires collaboration with partners. Do not take this responsibility for yourself only. It is also important to build your resilience as the entrepreneurial path will by a mix of inspiring moments but also some challenges. It is key to keep your energy level up in order to be able to continue your journey, even in difficult times. Your mission is worth it, so be determined but kind with yourself.

5. Securing funding

Securing funding for your start-up is a big challenge. It often requires a mix of funding types: funding from friends/family, bank loans, equity debt, convertible debt, crowdfunding, etc. In order to convince potential investors, it is key that you have enough funding to invest in your project This demonstrates your commitment and belief in your venture. And obviously, a robust business model and a strong team will help to convince funders.

Consider funders as partners by engaging with them for advice and networking. They believe in your project and have the ambition to make your project work. It is not only about “money”.

Wanna live this for real? Participate to Startup Weekend Changemakers: www.swbru-changemakers.org



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7 Keys To Become a Changemaker

Ashoka


1. 
Lead the way

A Changemaker is above all a leader. He embraces a new form of leadership which is cooperation-oriented and empowers others to drive change. In the XXIst century, a leader is prepared for change and able to anticipate the societal changes the world will be going through. He is agile and ready to make decisions. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. (Steve Jobs)

2. Think big & Believe in yourself

Audentes fortuna iuvat. Fortune does favor the bold! You’ll never know what you are capable of if you don’t try. A Changemaker is able to go out of his comfort zone. What if Christopher Colombus never dared to cross the ocean? What if Caesar never dared to cross the Rubicon? You should trust your capacities in making the world a better place. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. (Martin Luther King)

3. Be resilient

Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day. After having embraced your career as a Changemaker, you’ll experience failures and successes. Resilience is the ability to anticipate and recover from failure and difficulties. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” (Confucius).

4. Work with communities

Dreaming and thinking big is a huge part of what makes a human a Changemaker. But he cannot be only a dreamer who is developing an outstanding project for his own good. A Changemaker will strive to maximize his/her impact on the society. “He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.” (Aristotle).

5. Do what moves you

Life is too short to do something you don’t like. If you do something you truly love, you’ll bend over backwards to not only do your best, but also to be the best at it! “Where the needs of the world and your talent cross, there lies your vocation.” (Aristotle)

6. Change yourself in order to change the world

If you change yourself you will change your world. If you change how you think then you will change how you feel and what actions you take. And so the world around you will change. Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. The capacity to change the interactions you have with the world that surrounds you lies within each one of us. You possess the incentives to make this world a better place. Accept it and meet the change. “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” (Leo Tolstoï)

7. Attend Startup Weekend Changemakers

Join Startup Weekend Changemakers in Brussels on 13-15 November 2015. You’ll connect with like-minded people, share stories and ideas, develop confidence and new skills, find the energy, and eventually build distruptive startups that challenge the status quo and have a positive impact on society. Join Startup Weekend Changemakers and come out as a new individual ready to implement Change!

 
What is Ashoka?

Ashoka is an international organization whose mission is to create the best entrepreneurial and innovative solutions to social and environmental challenges, having the effect of inspiring everyone in society to act as Changemakers.

The role of Ashoka consists in identifying, enhancing and supporting these innovators in order to: inspire, encourage, facilitate the co-creation of activities for a strong social impact, to break down barriers between stakeholders and society and to equip the younger generation with the necessary skills to become a Changemaker.

Learn more about the activities of Ashoka in Belgium at belgium.ashoka.org



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Startup Weekend Changemakers and Securex Partner To Unite Industry, Education, and Action

LogoSWChangemakers paysage_web

We’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Securex for Startup Weekend Changemakers edition that will take place on November 13-15th on the Brussels campus of Vlerick Business School.

Startup Weekend seeks to be the starting point of any startup, where ideas pop up, exceptional teams form, and business models are developed. Securex appears to be the next step after Startup Weekend as it focuses on offering guidance and support to budding entrepreneurs.

Their end product is two-fold: Lead entrepreneurs through each of the formalities they face when starting a business and personal guidance for starting their business, like fine-tuning a business plan, assessing risks, financial support, and much more – all in one place.

Its a natural partnership for both organizations, as it gives the opportunity to Startup Weekend to offer continuity and follow-up to the winning teams. Also, both Organizations believe that putting smart, driven people from separate parts of the tech world together can yield amazing results. Startup Weekend, for example, has long been successful because it brings together people with very different backgrounds and provides them with a platform to work together.

As Securex grows, they’re looking to foster innovation in the Belgian startup ecosystem as well as refine how they support entrepreneurs and individual growth.

As part of the partnership, Securex is offering significant financial support to scale up the Changemakers edition, 12 hours business coaching to winning Startup Weekend teams, and three free tickets to Startup Weekend Changemakers (grab your chance on Je lance ma boîte or Ik Start mijn Zaak).

Learn more about Securex at www.securex.be/en

And don’t forget to get your ticket for Startup Weekend Changemakers at www.swbru-changemakers.org.



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Discover the inspiring testimonials of BEES Coop and Poseco

Enrico De Sanso from BEES Coop

Beescoop

Please tell us what you do in a few lines?
BEES coop is the first consumers’ cooperative in Brussels and it will be a real alternative to giant food retailers for people who care about sustainability, food quality, prices and social integration.

In fact, BEES coop will be more than a simple supermarket. We wish to broader the access to good quality products trough an innovative model of management, by creating short supply chains and making our shop a living place where all Brussels citizens could meet up and exchange. For BEES coop, commercial activity is one of the three pillars of the project: supporting local economy and organic products, integrating citizens and promoting another way of living together.

According to you, what does it take to be a Changemaker?
Courage, innovation, networking, team, spirit of observation and analysis, capacity to free creativity

What is the Change you would like to see happen in today’s world?
The big Change we want to see is a real transition of our economic system to a environment friendly system. We are part of the organisations who support the slogan “Change the System not the Planet”.

Logo-BEES coop-Pastille-RVB

BEES Coop just launched its new web site, check it out on bees-coop.be and support their crowd-funding campaign via Kiss Kiss Bank Bank.


Thierry Vadebroek from Poseco

 thierry2

Please tell us what you do in a few lines?
Poseco, center for a positive economy, was created to stimulate entrepreneurs to put their societal values at the center of their economic activities. The aim is to support the individual commitments of the market participants so that their actions, products and services are directly beneficial to the collective.

According to you, what does it take to be a Changemaker?
A Changemaker is a utopian at the root which takes into account economic realities to carry out his idea. This is a person who believes in humanity because he knows that on its own, he won’t succeed.

What is the Change you would like to see happen in today’s world?
I would like to see a world where it’s possible to combine economic viability and strong societal impact, through socially innovative products and services. All based on deep and sincere human individual values.

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Learn more: www.poseco.org



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