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Supporting ICT Startups from day one with Fit for Start program

The Fit for Start initiative is dedicated to innovative startups active in the field of information and communications technology (ICT). The program has been created to support startups in the early stages of their creation, and thus improve start conditions. (Photo: Francine Closener, Secretary of State for the Economy (c) Luxinnovation)

The Luxembourg startup ecosystem has a new program, Fit for Start. The program, from Luxinnovation, supports businesses at the startup phase by providing funding and coaching tailored to the needs of early-stage companies – those incorporated less than 12 months and founded by at least 2 people. Officially launched in October 2015, Fit for Start enables these startups to create functional prototypes of their products, validate the prototypes with clients and attract investors more easily. Fit for Start meets a need which comes up regularly during discussions we have with startups: to be able to overcome the challenge of financing the beginning phase,” said Antoine Hron, Fit for Start Program Manager and Senior Adviser at Luxinnovation Startup Support.

A 16-week program

By participating in the four-month program, startups benefit from: public funding of EUR 50,000 (conditioned upon a private contribution of EUR 10,000); free access to Technoport’s co-working spaces; weekly coaching and follow-up by experts using the “Lean Startup” methodology; and a closing event to pitch their project and potentially raise funds. “To summarize, this is a 16 week course offered to startups, with different themes addressed (customer, product, market, growth, fundraising, etc.), both in a group setting and via individual coaching,” said Mr. Hron.

Qualified coaches

Admission to the program “Fit for Start” is based upon a competition held twice a year, in the spring and autumn. Luxinnovation sets up an application period, a month before each session begins (i.e. from mid-January and July.) After evaluation and selection by a panel of experienced entrepreneurs, five companies are selected for the program.

The jury for entry into the first round of the program, which was regarded as a pilot project and accepted three startups, was composed of Robert Glesener, CEO of Trendiction, Nicolas Henckes, General Secretary of UEL and Marco Houwen, CEO of BHS Services. The first three startups are currently benefiting from this program. They include: Bitbank, a secure storage platform for big data; Houser, a real estate comparison and analysis platform; and Sport50, a management platform for sports associations.

These three startups, which were selected from among many applications, are coached by certified coaches, Carl Danneels and Michel Duchateau. Through the end of the program in February 2016, companies must report to the organizers and the jury on the progress of their project on a weekly basis.

“This new public aid instrument is adapted to the specific needs of startups in the ICT sector, said Secretary of State for the Economy, Francine Closener. “Fit for Start contributes to further complement the enabling environment for the development of this sector which plays the role of facilitator cross permeating almost every area of economic activity.”

Internationalizing the program

“As with any pilot project, it is difficult to understand in advance exactly what results we’ll get, but we hope that this first edition of the program is very successful,” said Mr. Hron. “If it is, the future goal will be to internationalize the program to attract more ICT talent in Luxembourg. Luxinnovation helps guarantee the success of these startups by providing all of their early needs and guidance.”

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