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A closer look at Luxembourg’s startup ecosystem

One of Rockstart Answers most enthusiastic Local Chapter Leaders is Charles-Louis Machuron. I spoke with him in early September to learn a little more about why he hosts Rockstart Answers events and why it’s so important for entrepreneurs in Luxembourg.

“Founders need this kind of event.”

Machuron is a 33 year-old Frenchman, who has lived in Luxembourg since 2009 when he moved to the country to work for an ecommerce startup. Three years ago, he began to focus on the startup ecosystem in Luxembourg and today publishes Silicon Luxembourg magazine 9-10 times a year concentrating on the tech news of both Luxembourg and Brussels. He also hosts 15 events per year including conferences and match-making opportunities through a business club he’s created.  

Luxembourg – where “everything is possible”

With a population of nearly 600,000, compact Luxembourg is located between Germany, France and Belgium, making it an easy flight to and from most of Europe. And, as a part of Benelux, the market facilitates much of the commercial expansion process throughout the Greater Region (Luxembourg, North East of France, Wallonia and West of Germany). 47% of the population is international, ensuring a worldly perspective and globally focused businesses. But even if Luxembourg is a tiny country and a tiny domestic market, it has the government support and infrastructure required for startups and innovative companies to establish themselves and expand internationally.  

Today, financial services are the predominant driver of the economy, though transportation and communications are growing in influence. As a result, you’ll see many startups focused on fintech, ecommerce, banking and insurance but there are also a good number of startups focused on IoT, industry 4.0, Internet and IT & Services.

Luxembourg’s startup scene  

While the startup scene is quite small (+/- 200 startups) and in its infancy, there are more and more initiatives to support startups including incubators, accelerators, startup programs, pitching events and co-working spaces coming up every day.  In addition to Luxembourg-city, Esch-sur-Alzette and Differdange (two former industrial cities in the SW of the country) are also amping up their resources to welcome and support startups and their founders.  Some stand out tech companies lifting the ecosystem include:  Doctena, JobToday, Etix Everywhere, Supermiro, All Square, Nexvia, Digicash Payments and old hand Talkwalker.  

The government of Luxembourg is actively working to ensure the country’s startup not only survives but flourishes. They’ve created a legal framework to support development and innovation, established RDI aid and the Young Innovative Enterprise grant and much more. All this support seems to have an impact – Machuron’s Silicon Luxembourg notes there’s been a 25% year over year increase in startups since 2014.

Machuron notes the typical early stage founder in Luxembourg is more experienced  and older than those we normally see at Rockstart. Many have already completed their studies abroad, come back to Luxembourg and have extensive work experience under their belt. They face many challenges though like the lack of other early-stage entrepreneurs, developers and investors. “I must admit we don’t have much in the way of early-stage venture capital,” says Machuron. “There is the Luxembourg Business Angel Network which is really dynamic and two great initiatives have been launched recently: Expon Capital’s Digital Tech Fund and Luxembourg Future Fund. The accelerator nyuko recently launched nyuko funding to support entrepreneurs in their fundraising and there are many people who are investing directly in startups without being identified as business angels or working at investment firms.  But it’s the same old story. To grow the investor scene, we need more investors taking risks, particularly at the early-stage level. To attract investors, we need more startups. We definitely need more people taking risks all the way around.”  

    

“Rockstart Answers:  I wish I could have attended this event a few years ago”

Charles-Louis started looking into Rockstart Answers when he heard about it in early 2016. Knowing how badly entrepreneurs need positive and direct feedback, he got in contact with Rockstart and organized his first Rockstart Answers event in June 2016.  

For startups, the benefit is pretty clear – you get feedback and answers to your most challenging questions from an audience of entrepreneurs, investors and other founders. “Mentoring works really well here as there are numerous experienced entrepreneurs (sometimes also investors) who are supporting young entrepreneurs and startups,” says Machuron.  

For the audience, though, what’s the advantage? Charles-Louis thinks that answer is also pretty clear. “It’s all about the new. I want to introduce the audience to 5 startups they’ve never heard of.  I want them to meet potential partners and clients, introduce them to new concepts and new ideas, startups, entrepreneurs, new types of events. And to have a good time. My goal is to grow the community. Rockstart Answers is a great way to do this. It doesn’t hurt that startups who participate come home with 10-15 business cards and the feedback of 15-20 entrepreneurs.”   

About Rockstart Answers

Rockstart Answers is a global event series where early-stage founders and experienced entrepreneurs come together to solve startup challenges. To learn more about the program visit our website. To attend the next event in Luxembourg on December 1st, RSVP via eventbrite.


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