As of February 1st, we have officially closed the imec.istart Spring 2024 call. This not only signifies another chance for early-stage entrepreneurs to join our community but also provides us with a new opportunity to analyse what is currently trending in the world of early-stage entrepreneurship.
Our dedicated team reviews all applications thoroughly and is curious to discover this call's standout ventures. We are enthusiastic about welcoming the next wave of innovators into the imec.istart community.
Let us dive straight in and figure out what these startups are working on.
In this 2024 Spring call, Business Services experiences a resurgence, claiming a formidable 14% of all applications.
HealthTech startups also remain a dominant force with 11% of all applications dedicating themselves to solving critical healthcare-related problems. Call after call, we notice that healthcare continues to be one of the most fertile grounds for innovation, in part because of the vibrant healthcare ecosystem that we are proud to be part of, that actively supports our portfolio companies to succeed. Since the launch of our first HealthTech pre-accelerator program (powered by BlueHealth Innovation Center), we are also able to help HealthTech startups in an even earlier stage. We’re looking forward to seeing these startups grow and hopefully becoming part of our portfolio as well.
FinTech and FoodTech jointly claim the third position, each securing a robust 7% of all applications. This underscores a notable surge in applicants, driven by a common emphasis on elevating data sharing, streamlining collaboration, and ensuring compliance within their respective industries.
Close behind are SportsTech (5%), HR Tech (5%), Construction technology (5%), Entertainment (5%) and the newly emergent Supply Chain (5%).
Other industries making waves, though to a lesser extent, include Security, EdTech, Manufacturing and Consumer Services with each 4% of the applications.
* These are the industries applicants have marked as their main industry, but their scope is often wider.
In the dynamic landscape of technological innovation, AI-driven solutions continue to surge, with a remarkable 68% of applicants dedicated to developing AI-first products. This wave of AI innovation encompasses a spectrum of applications, including Natural Language Processing (11%), Computer Vision (7%), Search & Recommendations (9%), Reasoning & Decision Support (12%), Robotics (4%), Autonomous driving (1%) and Data Mining (13%). 11% of AI solutions remained unspecified in the AI-other category.
Blockchain technology, after experiencing a sharp decline in the previous round, now holds steady ground, accounting for 6% of applications. Meanwhile, IoT, remains very present with 11%, just like Wearable technologies with 8%.
AR/VR/XR made a come-back with 9% of the applicants.
Surprisingly, the prevalence of shallow-tech solutions has decreased from 28% to 19%. Although this still shows a considerable number of entrepreneurs innovating in terms of the business model, approach, or application, we expect to see a lot of technological innovations for this Spring call 2024.
In terms of specific technologies, NanoTech, Digital Twins, Photonics, Cyber Security and 3D printing are less prominent in this call, each representing less than 4%. The technological landscape is diversifying, with entrepreneurs exploring novel avenues and applications beyond these specific technologies.
In line with each of our previous calls, the majority of teams that apply for imec.istart consist of 2 (46%) or 3 (30%) founders. The number of teams with 4 founders remains rather low at 9%. However, we noticed a serious uptick in the number of companies that are founded with 5 or more founders during the last two calls, as they represent 13% of all applications.
If you cannot apply for imec.istart yet because you are still looking for your partner-in-crime, we have good news! We are organizing our next free online co-founder matchmaking event on March 28th, for which you can already register via this link.
We’re pretty stoked about a number of teams that have already been accepted into our portfolio as a result of one of our previous co-founder matchmaking events (ask SCIMM or AI-blox, just to name a few). So, if 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!
As in previous calls, most applicants (78%) remain close to home, with Belgium being the primary base. A slight downtick is observed in startups from the Brussels region, decreasing from 24% to 15%, while startups from the Walloon region grew from 8% to 15%. The close relationship with our new partners in the area and the new office in La Grand Poste, Liège, plays a crucial role in bridging the tech ecosystem across all Belgian regions, fostering increased activity south of the Flemish border.
In addition to Belgian applicants, applications have been received from 12 other countries. The UK, Turkey, Germany, and India are traditionally represented, and this time, startups from Kenya, the US, Lithuania, and Poland have also found their way to imec.istart, which shows the global interest for the program.
In conclusion, the 2024 Spring call for imec.istart reveals a dynamic and diverse landscape across industries, technologies, founding teams, and geographical locations. Business Services marks a notable resurgence, emphasizing its resilience and growth potential, while HealthTech maintains its dominant position with a dedicated focus on addressing crucial healthcare challenges.
Even though we have seen Artificial Intelligence dominate our applications for many years, this call undeniably shows that this technology remains at the forefront. Blockchain holds steady ground, while IoT and Wearable technologies continue to be prevalent. Notably, a decline in shallow-tech solutions is observed, suggesting a shift towards more technology-centric innovations.
Geographically, most applicants remain rooted in Belgium, with a growing presence in the Walloon region and increased activity facilitated by the new office in Liège. The program's global reach is highlighted by applications from 12 other countries, showing its appeal on an international scale.
Overall, the Spring call reflects a rich tapestry of innovation, where industries, technologies, teams, and locations converge to shape the future of entrepreneurship under the guidance of imec.istart.
Now, the final selection lies in the hands of our investment committee, and we are eagerly waiting to welcome a new cohort of ambitious entrepreneurs into our imec.istart community soon.
Interested in joining our community but didn’t apply for our Spring 2024 call? Your next opportunity to get in is our Summer 2024 call, which will open on May 1st (deadline on June 1st).
Are you building a tech startup and looking for funding and support, but not sure what to expect from imec.istart? You can easily replay our info session, where we go through all the ins and outs of our program. Want to connect, or have specific questions? Feel free to reach out to our colleague Arantxa Wille by scheduling a free introductory meeting with her.