On February 1st, midnight sharp, imec.istart's spring 2023 open call has officially closed its applications. Yet again, we have seen the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is still alive and kicking. With applications from 12 different countries, imec.istart continues to strengthen its position as a top-tier international tech accelerator, further emphasized by our recent nomination as a Top 3 University-linked business accelerator by UBI Global.
In this article, we aim to take a closer look at our Spring 2023 call applications and highlight some interesting facts & figures. Ready to unravel the current tendencies in the entrepreneurship landscape with us?
There’s no slowing down for all things health innovation, as HealthTech tops the list once again with 19% of applicants building products for the healthcare industry. Even though we’re an industry-agnostic accelerator, our program always had a strong track record of attracting startups across this domain. Having a dedicated and growing HealthTech ecosystem; with plenty of industry partners such as BlueHealth Innovation Center, hub.brussels MedTech Accelerator, Verhaert Medical Solutions Accelerator, In4Care, and many more, is clearly paying off as we see an uptick in health-focused applications from 12% in comparison to our previous call.
FinTech comes in second with 12%, a significant increase in comparison with only 3% during our previous call. Belgium has typically been lagging behind in terms of FinTech funding compared to the record-breaking investment tickets in the US, Asia and other EU countries, but it's great to witness more entrepreneurs willing to take on the challenge of disrupting our financial systems for the better. Ecosystem actors like FinTech Belgium are indispensable to facilitate this growth and offer support where needed.
Just like our previous calls, Business Services remain a substantial industry with 9% of applications, followed by SportsTech (imec.istart linked sports accelerator SportUp might have played a role here) and Consumer Services with 7% each. Utilities, Telecom, Manufacturing, and EdTech took up 5% of the total applicants respectively, while Consumer Products and Construction each represent around 3%.
It's worth mentioning that our Spring 2023 call didn’t see as many applicants in MediaTech and HRTech compared to previous calls.
* These are the industries applicants have marked as their main industry, but their scope is often wider.
On a technological level, we notice software-focused startups continue to dominate hardware-focused ones. It seems like Artificial Intelligence is (still) the driving force, as almost 70% of all applicants mentioned their product is using AI as either a major or minor technology. As to which kind of AI technology is used in their product, we see Reasoning & Decision Support (21%) and Search & Recommendations (20%) is mostly referred to, followed by Natural Language Processing (14%).
The number of applicants that are building products underpinned by Blockchain technology continues its upward trend, growing from 6% to a whopping 20% compared to our last call. As we’ve now witnessed a rise in these Web3-based solutions the past few calls, we’re curious to see whether we’ll see a further increase during our upcoming calls.
An increase in IoT solutions among our Spring 2023 applicants is noticeable as well (13%), while entrepreneurs building Nanotech, AR, VR & XR products, as well as 3D printing solutions remain rather low this time around.
Given that it’s a prerequisite for imec.istart to have a team of at least 2 co-founders, we didn’t receive any applications from solo-founders. 36% of the teams consist of 2 founding members, and an equal percentage of teams consists of 3 founding members. 16% of our Spring 2023 applicants have 4 members in their founding team, with a few outliers that make up the rest of the applications. This is in line with our previous calls, where we have noticed a similar breakdown.
We often get questions about why we don’t accept solo-founders in our program, but our experience tells us being a solo-founder significantly reduces your chances of success, hence our decision to make this a prerequisite. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to help you find your partner in crime. Therefore, we organize the next edition of our free online Co-founder Matchmaking event on March 16th, where anyone can connect with potential co-founders. Whether you’re still looking for someone with a specific skillset to bring your idea to life, or you’re an entrepreneurial soul that’s eager to join someone else as a co-founder, don’t hesitate to sign up!
The vast majority of founders who applied for our Spring 2023 call are based in Belgium (76%), which is in line with our previous call. But in comparison to 4 months ago, we haven’t received any applications from startups based in The Netherlands. This is no surprise, and we conceive this a positive evolution, as this means Dutch startups find their way to our Dutch counterpart, the imec.istart.nl program, directly.
With applicants from 11 foreign countries, we’ve attracted startups from more countries than ever before. The UK takes up 5% of the application pie, India 3% and other countries that are represented are Estonia, Finland, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Oman, Slovenia, Turkey, and the US. We’re clearly cementing our position as a top-tier international tech accelerator, and we’re curious to see how this trend will evolve over time.
It’s worth shedding a light on the vibrant broader Belgian entrepreneurship ecosystem that helps founders figure it all out. It’s great to see that startups continue to search for support at the earliest stages, after which they find their way to imec.istart to support them in their next steps. Not less than 35% of our Spring 2023 applicants indicate that they have followed another program prior to their imec.istart application. That’s why we’d love to give a shout-out to all these great initiatives. If it wasn’t for their support, many of these founders would remain overwhelmed and might struggle more to reach their next milestones. We’re committed to keep building bridges to better support startups in their journey, together.
While a looming recession left many in doubt about whether the time is right to build a startup, we've clearly noticed that the spirit of technology innovation and entrepreneurship is still out there!
We would like to thank all applicants for believing in their idea and trusting us with recognizing their potential. We can’t wait to find out who succeeds in convincing our investment committee and makes it into our next cohort. Selected companies will be joining an impressive community of tech entrepreneurs, committed to build ambitious solutions to equally ambitious problems.
The next opportunity to join our community this year will be our Summer 2023 call, which will open on May 1st (deadline June 1).
Are you building a tech startup and looking for funding and support, but not sure what to expect from imec.istart? We strongly advise you to watch our info session webinar replay where we go through all the ins and outs of our program. Feel free to reach out to our colleague Maarten Van Gorp or schedule a free introductory meeting with him, if you would still have questions after watching our info session webinar!