What were they thinking?

What were they thinking? A look inside the minds of the imec.istart jury

We’re still eagerly awaiting imec.istart’s official announcement, but rumour has it the startup community is in for a treat! Out of the 44 startups who signed up for the first imec.istart call of 2017 and were invited to pitch their stuff, 16 made it through round one and 7 made to the final round. Want to increase your startup’s chances of joining the coveted imec.istart acceleration programme? Jury members Thomas Deschepper and Sven De Cleyn elaborate on how the final selection was made.

The pitches that sealed the deal

The imec.istart programme has always attracted some of the most promising high-tech startups Flanders has to offer, and this year was no different. Places are limited, however, and eventually it all comes down to pitch day. “There’s around twenty assessment criteria, divided into several categories”, says Sven. “If you want your pitch to seal the deal, you must definitely highlight:
  • Your knowledge of the market you want to tap into 
  • The problems you expect to encounter, and how you plan on solving them. Think competitors, legislative issues, …
  • The compatibility of your team members. Do you have chemistry? Do you have complementary knowledge and know-how?”
Although impressed with the pitches overall, Thomas noticed that most candidates forgot to include something important: “The jury wants to know what makes these startups so unique compared to their competitors. Startups should include that in their pitch as well – or at least be able to answer that question afterwards. That wasn’t always the case this time.”

The benefit of the doubt

Getting ten jury members to decide unanimously is no easy feat. “Needless to say, we don’t always agree. When it’s only a few of us who aren’t onboard, we like to give the startup in question the benefit of the doubt, provided they agree to our conditions, e.g. allowing us to select an additional team member for them”, Thomas explains. “When in doubt,” Sven adds, “I also observe how open the startup is to our input and feedback. To me, that’s a great indicator of what the collaboration between imec.istart and the startup is going to be like should we decide to accept them.”

Where is the love?

The jury is also eager to learn why startups signed up for imec.istart in particular. Thomas: “Love is a two-way street, I always say, so startups should really be able to explain why they feel imec.istart to be a perfect fit for them. At one point, someone said they signed up for imec.istart to have a back-up plan . Needless to say, that didn’t bode well for them.”

Sign up for the next imec.istart call!

Want a chance at securing a spot in the imec.istart programme? Registration for the second call starts on May 1, 2017.