Among other types of companies, startups will take center stage at the Flanders International Awards as well: a first for Flanders Investment & Trade. But why this choice – and why is it worth competing for the title of Startup of the Year? Janne Kindt, project manager for startups and scaleups at FIT, zooms in on the matter.
Why is it important for FIT to focus specifically on startups at the Flanders International Business Awards?
Janne: “The new competition formula brings Flanders-based exporters, foreign investors and startups together at one event. This way, FIT highlights Flanders’ greatest feat: the fact that the region’s economy is home to strong synergies and ecosystems. Here, all ingredients for success can be found close to one another. This allows local and international companies, knowledge institutions, research centers and so on to cooperate effectively.
Startups are an essential part of these ecosystems – especially as drivers of additional growth and innovation – and often set their sights internationally from the get-go. There’s a strong interaction within ecosystems, which FIT wants to reinforce by making the Flanders International Business Awards not just an awards show but a networking event as well.”
Is this focus on startups also embedded in FIT’s offering?
Janne: “FIT supports startups in their internationalization in many ways. For example, we offer starter packages including grants, coaching and customized guidance. What’s more, on our Startup.Flanders platform, start-ups can find information and expertise. It’s important to ensure that startups become integrated into a broad network as smoothly and efficiently as possible.”
Who can compete for the title of Startup of the Year?
Janne: “The award is meant for startups that help put Flanders on the map internationally: young innovative companies – founded after the year 2013 – that aim to conquer the world with their groundbreaking products, services or processes.
The ideal candidate is a startup that not only knows how to get things done, but also how to work together across company walls. Other must-haves: a clear vision of the future, solid international ambitions and the willingness to act as an ambassador of Flanders. In addition, aspects such as sustainability, growth potential and innovation are also important evaluation criteria for the jury to consider.”
Why is entering the competition worth the effort for startups?
Janne: “Competing for an award like Startup of the Year offers a great opportunity for extra exposure, both at home and abroad. In many markets around the globe, such recognition from the government is still considered an important selling point. Prospects or even potential partner companies often see it as a quality guarantee, which creates additional trust.
Closer to home, a nomination or victory can be used for employer branding purposes to win over new employees. A lot of people find it motivating to start working for or stay with an award-winning company. Especially in the face of the current war for talent, this is an asset that should not be underestimated.”