In 2011, before Luxembourg had fully embraced its identity as a startup hub, lux future lab was just an idea floating around the offices of BGL BNP Paribas. Over the past five years, it has generated roughly 400 new jobs and housed over 50 groundbreaking tech startups. While the lab has firmly established itself as an incubator and support system for entrepreneurs and early-stage startups, it seeks to continuously build upon the quality and range of its services. Lux future lab’s new Head Olivier Selis commentates from the front line, sharing how he and his team plan to strengthen the lab, not only as an incubator, but as an accelerator.
(Featured Image: Head Olivier Selis talks acceleration & operating like a startup / Image Credit © Silicon Luxembourg)
What makes lux future lab different from other incubators?
The lab is a private but not-for-profit initiative. I think this is what makes it special, and its role is well understood within the ecosystem. We can work with private and public initiatives with no profit in mind. There isn’t another private initiative like the lab in Luxembourg today.
“We want to stay diverse & international in every sense, from the sectors our startups represent to the nationalities of our entrepreneurs.”
With BNP Paribas, we’re part of a huge group that is present in all cities where a startup would want to go. We have support from the bank, but run autonomously. This lean approach, which once seemed challenging, is now one of our biggest assets, allowing us to stay nimble & adapt to the changing needs of startups.
What is lux future lab’s niche in the ecosystem?
We want to stay diverse & international in every sense, from the sectors our startups represent to the nationalities of our entrepreneurs. We don’t want to focus solely on fintech. It’s important to support other areas too. Digital transformation affects all sectors, so these startups will eventually impact banking anyway.
We don’t have the resources to help very early-stage projects, but we would eventually like to develop these solutions with partners. For now, we serve startups from all sectors that have an MVP or are just starting to go to market and want to attract initial clients and develop their businesses.
As the new lab Head, what is your strategy?
All of the success factors are here and everything is working pretty well, so I don’t want to completely transform something that’s not broken. However, there are some areas we can develop.
I’d like to refocus our energy on funding because it’s still an issue for startups despite the various initiatives out there, like Fit 4 Start and the Digital Tech Fund. We’ll continue building upon our current partnerships, for example with the European Business Angel’s Network (EBAN). We already held a Business Angels Day that received positive feedback, so we’ll do that again.
I’d also like to see us work more closely with the bank, the bankers specifically. With our support and an understanding of the lab, these bankers can be our link to clients who are interested in investing in startups, helping drive money from the usual investments. This request is not one sided: clients want it too! It’s important to them that we’re involved in the ecosystem.
“We’ve established ourselves as an incubator. Now I would like to see us become more active on the acceleration side.”
Consequently, increased access to funding opportunities presents the need for complementary training: pitching practice, fundraising workshops and valuation support.
Any plans to alter the programs you offer?
A 2018 relaunch of the intrapreneurship program for employees is on the list. Previously, the program had a set structure, but this new installment will be flexible, catering to the individual needs of each startup and accepting applicants on an ongoing basis.
We’ve established ourselves as an incubator. Now I would like to see us become more active on the acceleration side. A four-month initial acceleration program for new lab members would help direct them down the right path and set a fast pace from the start.
Besides funding, recruitment and access to talent can also be problematic for startups. So, in collaboration with BGL BNP Paribas Human Resources department, we have introduced a skill-sharing program to alleviate the recruitment demands that startups face. Lab members have the opportunity to send profiles of the candidates they need to help with specific projects. Interested BGL employees with the relevant skills will then be assigned to that startup project for a period of up to six months. It’s an ideal solution: startups will receive support at no cost, and employees will be exposed to the startup world. This is a one-of-a-kind offer in Luxembourg.
The country’s momentum, when it comes to startups, is something that we should leverage together as an ecosystem. We plan to do everything we can to help transform Luxembourg into a true Startup Nation, one where that entrepreneurial spirit seeps into every area of our education system, legislation & investment decisions.