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imec.istart Summer 2022 Open Call Statistics

Our Summer 2022 Open Call is now officially closed! We can’t wait to comb through all the applications and find the next cohort to join our impressive community of entrepreneurs.

Since our previous call 4 months ago, we’ve talked to more than 150 (soon-to-be) founders to help them figure out whether imec.istart could be the right partner at this point in their journey. Mapping out the insights of these conversations and comparing it with those that have submitted their application, allows us to better understand some of the trends in the current entrepreneurship landscape.

Here's what we’ve learned:

1. Industry

HealthTech tops the list once again, as over 21% of the entrepreneurs we’ve talked to are focused on building solutions to solve pressing healthcare challenges. Similar to last year, industries such as Business Services, EdTech and Entertainment remain popular hotbeds for innovation, but we’ve also noticed increased activity in sectors such as HRTech, Utilities, SportsTech and Mobility. On the flipside, we noticed less conversations with start-ups active in sectors such as AgriTech, FinTech and Supply Chain.

Comparing it to the actual Summer 2022 applications, we see similar trends emerge. The HealthTech industry comes out on top as well, representing a whopping 30% of all applications. Business Services comes in second with 8%, with HRTech and SportsTech each representing 6% of the applications. AgriTech, Mobility and Consumer Products & Services occupy the 4th place with almost 5% respectively, while EdTech, FoodTech and FinTech each represent around 3,5%.

* These are the industries applicants have marked as their main industry, but their scope is often wider.


2. Technology

It seems like the majority of startups are focusing on software products, even though imec.istart’s nano-electronics expertise clearly attracts hardware-focused startups as well. Artificial Intelligence (still) appears to be the driving force, as more than 50% of the founders we spoke to are building solutions with AI components at its core, or with plans to implement AI components in the (near) future. With that, we see Reasoning & Decision Support, Search & Recommendations and Data Mining to be mostly referred to, but we’ve seen AI for Robotics and Computer Vision purposes as well. The number of start-ups we spoke to that are using Blockchain and Web3-based protocols doubled from 3% to 6% compared to last call, and it’s not too farfetched to expect a further increase towards our upcoming calls. Additionally, piggybacking on the hype around the metaverse, we’ve also seen an increase in Virtual, Augmented & Mixed Reality startups (6%).

Mapping this onto our Summer 2022 applications, 33% of startups mention AI as their main technology, of which the majority is in Reasoning & Decision Support, Search & Recommendations, or a non-specified type of AI. Almost 5% of the applications is focused on Virtual, Augmented & Mixed Reality solutions, while a whopping 15% is focused on IoT.


3. Founding teams

Most startups we spoke to beforehand seem to have a team of 2 to 3 co-founders, often with one or two freelancers and/or advisors on board. Some have their first employee(s) on the payroll, but this is more the exception to the rule. 

This is again reflected in our Summer 2022 applications, where 43% of the teams consist of 2 team members and 30% consist of 3 team members. 17% of our applicants have 4 team members, with a few outliers that make up the rest of the applications.

About 10% of the startup applicants are solo founders. At imec.istart we don't invest in single founder companies. Ten years of experience show us that startups with two or more founders have a much higher success rate. That's why on a regular basis we’re organizing  “co-founder matchmaking events” where solo-founders and people without an idea can meet each other and potentially collaborate together. Next edition is on June 23rd, free registration here.


4. Location

The vast majority of founders we spoke to are based in Belgium, but we’ve noticed an increased interest from Dutch startups. The most plausible reason is the fact that our open call ran in parallel with our Dutch imec.istart call, which has led to higher awareness overall. There’s a clear bump in interest from US-based startups, while startups from 17 other countries found their way to imec.istart as well, including Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, UK, and France.

The actual Summer 2022 applications paint an even bigger international picture, 33% of the startups are based outside of Belgium. The Netherlands, the US, and India each take up 6% of the application pie, with 10 other countries represented, including Romania, Estonia and Italy.


Key takeaways

With a record-breaking number of applications, our Summer 2022 call proves that startup formation isn’t slowing down anytime soon. But considering this to be the start of a tough selection process, time will tell whether our number of investments per call will increase just as much.

Almost half of the applicants have followed another (incubation) program prior to applying for imec.istart, which shows that startups are preparing their run up to imec.istart as best as possible. A positive trend, given that well-informed and well-prepared startups increase their chances of getting in.  This is why we’re committed to continue to build bridges with other programs so we can better refer and support startups in their journey.

It’s all in the hands of the reviewers now, and we’re really curious to see who will make it into our Summer 2022 cohort. If you didn’t apply for our Summer 2022 call, the next opportunity to join our community this year will be our Autumn 2022 call, which will open on September 1st.


Are you a tech startup interested in the imec.istart program, but not sure what to expect? Feel free to reach out to our colleague Maarten Van Gorp or schedule a free introductory meeting with him, to find out if there is a match!