The place to be for start-ups

PwC study highlights why Brussels is so popular with fledgling firms

While Brussels ranks in just 28th position in HR Consultancy Mercer’s 2019 list of best cities to live in, the self-proclaimed “Capital of Europe” is a firm favourite with the start-up community.  A recent PwC European Start-up Survey found that a massive 90% of Brussels-based start-ups rate the city as a great place to do business. A similar number - 87% - commended its excellent IT infrastructure and start-up coaching offerings. This puts Brussels ahead of more known centres of innovation such as Paris, Berlin and London.

Indeed, so enamoured are start-ups with Brussels that 87% of respondents to the survey, undertaken in cooperation with Münster University of Applied Sciences, said they weren’t planning to relocate their business anywhere else.

A stark contrast to the European average of 59%, according to the survey. Should they decide to up sticks and move, they’d likely be looking at Scandinavia as a destination; Stockholm topped the rankings with 100% and Oslo came in second with 97% of start-ups based in these cities rating them as the best place to be. Amsterdam and Zurich also came in ahead of Brussels with 93% a piece.

An article by Griet Helsen - Partner, Clients & Markets Leader

Griet Helsen - Partner, Clients & Markets Leader

How could Brussels move up the rankings in future surveys? By facilitating greater access to customers and top talent. Brussels-based respondents to the PwC research reported customer acquisition to be a greater challenge (35%) than found on average across Europe (23%). They also face more difficulty in attracting quality staff (18% vs. 10% in Europe), mostly due to the lack of necessary skills of potential candidates. Although it appears that lack of higher education isn’t a requirement; with more emphasis being placed on soft skills, such as interpersonal skills or creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, only half of start-ups require candidates to have a higher education degree. A third challenge is access to finance; approximately 77% of Brussels-based start-ups said they relied on self-financing (compared to a 66% EU average) and about 39% noted the need for more venture capital for future projects.

The verity of these challenges can partly be confirmed by the lack of networking possibilities in Brussels; only a third of the surveyed start-ups are satisfied with the availability of trade fairs and events, which is significantly lower than the European average of 60%.

 Playing an active role in the country’s start-up ecosystem, we support fledgling firms not just by offering guidance and advice, but by facilitating introductions, bringing parties together when we see they make a good fit and can help each other.  This is precisely the raison d’être of PwC’s Innovation Night powered by Slush. This year, T-Mining, a start-up that uses Blockchain solutions to help parties in logistics and maritime supply chains yield increased operational and administrative efficiencies, improve overall security and safety and address complex trust and governance concerns, won the event and will join us at the full Slush event in Helsinki in November.

As a global partner to what’s become known as the world’s premier event for start-ups, PwC’s ideally placed to facilitate networking for our guests’ and introduce them to corporates and investors from across the world.

Contact us

Griet Helsen

Griet Helsen

Managing Partner, Entrepreneurial Business, Culture & Innovation, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 475 89 16 21

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