Belgium is surreal

I hear so many Belgian start-up entrepreneurs or companies that want to expand globally complain about the non-existence of Belgian Venture Capital and the lack of support from Belgian banks. I don’t complain, I confirm.

There has never been so much capital on Belgian bank accounts, but so called VC’s only invest in proven business (and then they need a majority of the shares for 100K, and most of them can’t even follow through)  and Belgian banks require a balance sheet of the past 3 years to get 100K… (which you don’t have and if you have it, it shows that you are investing and they bloody hate that). Oh and by the way, if you are going to use that money for international expansion you’ll scare the hell out of them. Oh and don’t ask them their balance sheet of the past years by the way….

Most Belgians even think you can become a global brand on the cashflow of your existing business. Get real! Ripping of your existing customers to finance your investments??? I don’t think so!

It’s surreal – I know – but that’s why Magritte was so successful. It is what it is. Don’t complain and don’t try to change that culture. It’s naive, it will drain you and take your focus away.

Go find capital in other parts of the world. They will understand you. Start from your strengths, to name a few:

  • Belgium has the best Universities in the world, even though others have better marketing.
  • Belgians can easily work with all nationalities. We can easily lead a very diverse team without posing a threat to all the big ego’s from the big countries. We have one of the smallest and most complex countries in the world, so I guess we can manage everything.
  • Belgians are humble and hard workers. They get things done, while others talk about it.
  • Belgians are the perfect mix of North and South. Structure from the North and good life from the South.
  • A lot of great things started in Belgium and were bought by big countries. Is that a problem for you as an entrepreneur? Why should it be? Let your baby grow! You want to be a global brand anyway, so why would you care? You won’t get any appreciation for what you did in Belgium anyway. Is that a problem for the Belgian government? It probably is, but they don’t care and you shouldn’t. They have other things to do like making sure you pay all your taxes.

So to all Belgian entrepreneurs (and no, that’s not the managers who work in big companies and claim to be entrepreneurs because it’s the new sexy): buy a ticket to UK, US or AE and convince venture capital there. It’s the only way!

Good luck! You’ve got my support and let me know how it went.

Are we cute or what?

We just released the official after movie of Hercules Trophy 2012 in Belgium. Great to see all these happy faces. Soon we will launch the 2013 editions. I promise you: we’ll set the new Olympic record in our industry. You’ll be surprised!

Sports for all: it really works!

A few weeks ago we marked another lifetime event in our young Herculean lives: the inaugural Hercules Trophy in New York was a big hit! Another proof that sports for all really works! We are now in Europe, Middle East, Africa and the US in only 2 years time.

305002_423650324358204_978859210_n[2]Fans from all over the world sent us very sweet personal messages saying they were amazed we pulled this off in only a few months time in one of the most difficult markets in the world. Even my mum was proud for a second Smile

Did we work hard? Oh yes! Is it hard to organize a good Hercules Trophy? Yeps, extremely. Did we have serious setbacks? Daily! Were we challenged by the Gods? O yeah baby. Do we have an awesome team? Yes we have (and Koen Blanquart: you are a rockstar!). Did we have amazing fans believing in us? Yes we did!

I’m always happy to be in the USA for a week. Especially in New York. So much energy, such an entrepreneurial spirit, such hard working people, so extremely hard to reach them, but once you get a chance to talk to them: they open their hearts and love to help you with your dream and make it their dream! In a few months time we made some “new best friends for ever”.

New York is one of those markets where business leaders understand why team sport is such a brilliant metaphor for everything that happens on the corporate work floor. That sport unites people. That sport doesn’t care about who you are. That you can do a lot of good through sports. That it’s a great networking opportunity. That you should bring supporters and kids to join you in all the fun. That it’s an investment and not a cost. In Dubai and Johannesburg we get the same messages. Wonder what the British did to get that message across. That’s probably one of the reasons why London was Olympic host for 3 times already.

A lot of of European business leaders still struggle with these statements, although we host more than 500 Hercules teams a year. In Europe, most people discovered corporate sports for individuals, but corporate teamsport is not generally accepted yet. Some still think that running the Ekiden with a few people or climbing the Mont Ventoux with colleagues is a team thing. No guys, these are corporate sporting events but they are not about teamwork, they are about individual achievements. Once you’ve participated in one of the Hercules Trophies, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Wonder if we will take a break now? Who needs sleep when you are having fun? We are in full preparation mode for 2013. Our US Managing Director is here with us to discuss the future, this week we are in Dubai for the launch, Inge is in India in 2 weeks and I will be in Australia shortly. In the meantime we are working on mind-blowing new plans for Belgium and we’ll soon launch the South African edition. Hope to see you there.

So that was the secret mission

Those who follow me on Twitter know that for weeks now I’ve been preparing for a new and exciting mission.

The Special Olympics Summer Games 2014 are coming to Antwerp and I will take the role of CMO (Chief Marcom Officer). In the next days and weeks I will create a dream team of professionals who will work on this exciting mission for the next 3 years. As I will remain President and CEO of Hercules Trophy I will divide me time between both challenges.

Why I’m so excited? How many reasons do you need? For me, the video below was crucial to understand I want to be part of Special Olympics.

Special Olympics

In 2007, Special Olympics Belgium with the assistance of McKinsey and company developed a bid document to bring the games to Belgium. They succeeded. In September 2014 the Special Olympics Europe-Eurasia Games will come to Belgium for 9 days. Special Olympics specifically target athletes with a intellectual disabilities. Antwerp, one of the 22 Olympic cities, will host the event for 2,000 athletes and their delegations from 57 countries. More than 4,000 volunteers will help to make the multi-sport event unique and unseen.

The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

  • “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”, that’s the Special Olympics athlete oath.
  • “Everyone can be a hero”, says Herculix.
  • All sports for all people. This is surely a phrase that people will consider foolishly utopian. That prospect troubles me not at all. I have pondered and studied it at length, and know that it is correct and possible.”, said Pierre de Coubertin.
  • “Sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” That’s what Nelson Mandela taught us. At Hercules Trophy, we use this statement to make people understand the value of sports for teambuilding.

Understand why I’m so excited about this?

I hope we can make you all fans of Special Olympics in the years to come.

Fans of Special Olympics

 

You can find the press release here.