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imec.istart Summer 2023 Open Call Statistics

imec.istart Summer 2023 Open Call Statistics

On June 1st, we’ve officially closed our imec.istart Summer 2023 call. We can’t wait to discover the next generation of startups and welcome a new cohort of entrepreneurs in our imec.istart community soon. 
With applications from 10 different countries, imec.istart reaffirms its position as a leading international tech accelerator. Being awarded best University-linked business accelerator globally by UBI Global earlier this month, we’re looking forward to seeing this trend increase as we continue to build our network beyond the borders of our small country. 
A new call means new insights, so we’ve sifted through our Summer 2023 call applications to highlight some interesting numbers and key trends. Let’s dive straight in and figure out what tech startups appear to be working on these days. 


1. Industry

HealthTech continues to lead the pack, with a surge from 19% in our previous call to 23% this time around. The healthcare industry clearly remains a fertile ground for innovation, strengthened by an ever-growing HealthTech ecosystem that’s home to many facilitators of startup formation and growth. We’re lucky to have very close relationships with organizations like’s MedTech Accelerator, In4Care, BlueHealth Innovation Center and the likes, so we can offer early-stage startups the best chances of success by aligning our support activities and programs. 
SportTech is on all roll this time (likely facilitated by the imec.istart-linked SportUp initiative), as it emerges as a noteworthy contender with 10% of applicants building sports-related innovations. FinTech, on the other hand, goes from second to third place compared to our Spring 2023 call earlier this year, dropping to only 7%. In contrast, MediaTech and Entertainment gained serious momentum, going from only 2% collectively to 10%. 
With only 3% each, the Consumer Services and Business Services sectors were much less represented this time around, coming from 9% in our previous call. Industries like EdTech, Utilities, manufacturing and Telecom also experienced a slight decline in applications, while those in the Aerospace, HRTech and Travel sectors remain low but stable. 

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


2. Technology

On par with all previous open calls, software-focused startups continue to dominate the landscape. But where Artificial Intelligence was typically the absolute frontrunner, we’re actually noticing a sharp decline this time around. Coming from 70% of AI-first companies during our last call, we’re now only seeing 39% using AI as their main technology. Most of those companies are using a type of AI that’s not specified (12%), whereas Computer Vision gained some momentum. Surprisingly, Natural Language Processing, Reasoning & Decision Support, as well as Search & Recommendations all greatly decreased, from 14% to 5%, from 21% to 5%, and from 21% to only 3% respectively. 
Even though the pace of AI development is advancing at mind-blowing speed, the frontrunner in terms of technology for our Summer 2023 call is Internet-of-Things. Coming from 13%, IoT has bumped all the way to 22%. 
We’re also seeing an increase in shallow-tech solutions, where entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily innovating in terms of the technology itself, but moreover in terms of its use case, business model or application. As much as 22% of applicants position themselves on the shallow-tech end of the spectrum. 
Blockchain technology is less represented in our current call, showing a steep drop from 20% to only 7%. Technologies such as NanoTech and AR/VR/XR remain fairly stable, with a slight increase in Wearables and Robotics startups this time around. 


3. Founding teams

The majority of teams that apply for imec.istart consist of 2 (54%) or 3 (30%) founders, which is in line with what we’ve observed in all our previous calls. Where we saw the number of teams with 2 founders equal those with 3, we now have a much bigger proportion of teams consisting of only 2 founders. We did notice a small uptick in the extended team size – either silent shareholders, freelancers, or even employees – that already complement these founders during these early stages of their journey. 
The number of teams with 4 founders (13%) or 5 founders (3%) remain fairly consistent compared to our previous call, while there weren’t any teams with more than 5 founders this time around. 
If you can’t apply for imec.istart yet because you’re still looking for your partner-in-crime, we have good news! We’re organizing our next free online co-founder matchmaking event in October 26th, for which you can already pre-register via this link. We’re pretty stoked that multiple teams such as our portfolio companies SCIMM and AI-blox were connected through one of our previous events got accepted into our imec.istart portfolio! 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


4. Location

Belgium continues to be the most prominent homebase, representing 79% of Summer 2023 applicants, which is roughly the same compared to our previous call. If we dive a bit deeper, we noticed a significant uptick from startups in the Brussels and Walloon region this time. It looks like the launch of our first Walloon office in Liège is already starting to pay off, because of all Belgian applications, 22% is based in Brussels and 15% is based in Wallonia. 
Next to all Belgian applicants, we’ve received applications from 9 other countries. Among those, the UK takes up most of the application pie with 5%, followed by the Netherlands and the US with 3% each. Other countries represented in our Summer 2023 call are Canada, Finland, Nigeria, Germany, Turkey, and India. 


To conclude

Perhaps the biggest surprise comes from the technology corner, considering the number of applications that are leveraging AI has decreased compared to our previous call. All while we’re in the midst of an accelerating trend of AI development across all regions and industries. But based on what we’ve heard and read so far, we believe that many of the other applicants might not build AI tools themselves, but will heavily leverage the existing ones to the benefit of their customers. 
We now eagerly await the outcome of our investment committee's selection process, as it’s all in their hands now. Our team is very excited to start onboarding a new cohort of ambitious entrepreneurs as soon as next week, and help them bring their products to market faster. 
Interested in joining our community but didn’t apply for our Summer 2023 call? Your next opportunity to get in is our Autumn 2023 call, which will open on September 1st (deadline on October 1st). 


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!