Before applying to Start it @KBC, it might be interesting to pay us a visit and get to know us first. After all, you want to know who will support your business for the next year, don’t you? It’s also a chance to see the office that could become the home for your business, and most importantly: by meeting us, you will be able to assess if our program is a good fit for you.
Between Info Sessions, AMA’s and public events that we host year round, there are many ways to ask us questions and get to know us better. Check out our upcoming events here. Can’t join us in person or no event coming up? You can probably find most answers to your questions below. Read on for some insights from our founder, Lode Uytterschaut on what Start it @KBC judges are looking for in startup applications.
A few things to know before applying
We are looking for startups that are working on a business model that has high growth potential and scalability. This can be in software and hardware or both - it does not have to be tech. Our application consists of 2 stages: an online form which asks about Profile, Product, Team, Market Potential, Status, what you are looking for in Start it @KBC, and what makes you, you.
Your written application will be assessed by our judges, and those who are successful at this stage are invited to our second stage, our next Pitch Day. Here you get 3 minutes to pitch your business with 7 minutes of Q&A from our expert panel of judges. If you cannot attend the next Pitch Day that is listed, then we cannot continue your application on this wave. But look out for the next one - we have 3 Pitch Days a year, and you can submit more than once.
We support all startup stages
You are never too far along! Check out the startups that are currently taking part in our program. We help startups at all stages, from idea to scale.
For those at an early stage, we offer a mentor from within the cohort, someone who is just a few steps ahead of you and has been through the stage that you’re in very recently.
Is you startup already at an advanced stage? Then we’ll try to dazzle you with introductions to our corporate partners and wider network, people who are eager to meet founders of growing businesses to see what you can do together.
We don’t have a ‘minimum’ requirement or a list of the ‘must dos’ for your application - we know potential when we see it but it is hard for us to put into words what ‘potential’ means. So we encourage everyone to apply. What you should keep in mind is that our program is suited to startups with potential and ambition for high growth. So make sure that your application has that ambition and show us how your business might grow fast. But don’t stress, you don’t need to know everything - we have to be able to teach you some things.
What makes a great application?
We love to be convinced that you have the skills to run the business that you are pitching to us. If you don’t have all the skills in your team yet, then tell us who you need to accelerate your business. Tell us about your plan to get these people on board, how you will pay their salaries, or how you will convince them to give up their time and expertise in exchange for equity and a future return.
Far too often, we hear or read the phrase ‘I don’t really have competitors because this is a new idea’ or words to that effect. If you cannot find competitors, then you have probably not looked hard enough. Or you haven’t thought about how much easier it is for a company in a neighboring country to enter your market, then it is for you to startup. To us, having no competitors also suggests that there is no market (yet).
You will have to coax people away from using products that currently meet their needs. And if you are only solving a small pain point for customers, then you will spend a lot of marketing money encouraging them to change. If you have created something truly innovative, then you will need to educate your future customers about how your product is better than something less advanced that they are currently using. It won’t suddenly occur to them that your product is much better, affordable and trustworthy, just by seeing it. So don’t expect them to simply switch. Remember that competition also tells us that there is a market that customers are willing to pay for.
Your application can be in French, Dutch or English, we don’t mind, we have judges for all of the above. Nevertheless, confidence in English shows an ability and ambition to reach a global scale. But whatever language it is in, it should thoroughly convey passion and dedication!
What about the 1 minute video?
We often see people leaving their application to the very last minute. When that happens, they often don’t look at the last page of our application form. That means they don’t realize we ask for a video. Or they realize, but as the clock ticks towards the midnight deadline, they forget that the lighting in their bedroom where they are finishing the application will be terrible for filming.
Your video does not need to look like you hired a pro to shoot it. But it needs to show you (and your team, preferably) and your product in a good light, quite literally! Be yourself, show us that you have a great product or idea, and make it personal and simple.
Remember, it’s better to have a bad video than no video at all. If you don’t have time to film something until 23:30 on the night that applications close, try to be creative, and do include something.
What else? Here is some specific feedback, direct from our team.
Company & Vision
We know that we only give you short boxes to write your answers but this is for a good, tried and tested reason.
We know that you can think big and dream big, that there is lots to tell about the background to the idea or the wide range of features that your product will offer.
But we need to know that you can get to the point when it comes to convincing customers, future hires, investors and yes indeed us, that you are onto something really great.
Situation & Commitment
Starting a business should not be about making you rich - most people who start a business don’t succeed and come out of it financially poorer but hopefully richer in skills and perspective. “It should be about an ambition to change something for the good in people's lives. That's the ambition that will keep you going, even when you hit bumps in your road as an entrepreneur.
We don’t want to hear that you will just give it a go, work on it with only a small percentage of your time and see what happens. We want to be really convinced that you will go for this - this is a startup, it needs more time, more passion, more creativity than the larger businesses above it if it is going to succeed in catching up with or surpassing the competition.
We also want to know that you understand what you are getting into - being a startup is hard but rewarding. Many people don’t give up their day job completely until they have gained some traction, and this is fine. But we have to believe that you will one day take this leap. Most often founders have to carefully choose a moment when the business is not making enough to cover costs, but won’t grow unless they give it more time. So you hand in the notice, push harder and if all goes well then this pays off with the extra customers and traction, and catches you a few months after your salary stops.
We need to see that sparkle in your eye and persuasion in your writing that tells us you will take that risk when the time is right. It is even better if you can show us that you have already started winding down the commitment to your day job - “entrepreneurship is about taking risk. If you don't jump, there is no stress and pressure behind you to succeed and walk an extra 100 miles for what you should really strongly believe in…”.
About your team
We want to know about how you met as a team, whether you have worked together in the past, even on personal projects, not necessarily a startup. We have seen many quarrels between founders, unfortunately, and we know that people who have worked together before have found ways to get through the more stressful times to reach the sunshine on the other side - there WILL be tough periods in starting and running any business. Most of the time when we see these quarrels, it's about who will take the lead in the startup and make final decisions once scaling kicks-in. Talk upfront about this and remember that not all founders make great CEO's.
We don’t need to see traction through sales, but it is great to see any validation from the market - Likes on a Facebook group, survey results, hundreds of readers of a few articles that you have published on LinkedIn. But any growth that you can show, even if it is small in the beginning, is nice to see.
We cannot know your market as well as you do, so expect us to be skeptical until we see evidence. And if you have results, no matter how small, they are not insignificant - we want to see that people believe in your idea or product, and what you’ve learned from your customers.
The vast majority of people tell us in their application that they have ‘sufficient capital to cover initial investments and achieve equilibrium’. Of course we see different when these people start the program. We prefer honesty and good estimates - we know that many will need to raise grants, loans, investment, we don’t look down on applicants who tell us that they only have enough for the early days but that they have a plan. However, we do prefer to see that you have the commitment and the confidence in your business that you will put in your own cash! Always consider that if you don’t want to put in some of your own money, why would an investor?
Tell me more! Tell me more!!!
Wondering if Start it @KBC is the right place for you? Wondering if your idea or business would florish within Start it @KBC? Grab a beer and join us for a presentation by our local community managers to hear how we help startups, and how to apply to our program. At the same time you will get to see one of our co-working spaces that could be home to your business if you join our programme (here you can get up to 12 months of free office space!). We are organising this event in every hub, please check here the schedule and register for the right date and place!
We hope these tips helped! If you have any further questions, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications are open year round to join the program in one of our 6 offices in Belgium. Pitch Days to accept new startups into the program take place 3 times a year. Check out our events, to meet our staff and alumni here.