In the markets they say you should never catch a falling knife. But the bladesmiths of the start-up business world, venture capitalists, are reporting good deal-flows and investment rates in such fields as cleantech, biotechnology and various ICT areas.
You could say the job of a venture capitalist is to forge successful businesses from promising raw materials. In this case, the raw materials were a group of 50 ventures chosen to pitch their wares and ideas at the Benelux Venture Forum, hosted 28 May in Ghent.
Throughout the day, each of the young companies was given the floor to talk about their business, its achievements to date and plans to take it forward with the investor’s help. The venture capitalists then asked questions, Dragons’ Den-style, to see whether there was any money to be made investing in the company. Talks on potential deals were arranged onsite or at a later date.
Born in challenging times
BVF’s organiser, William Stevens of Europe Unlimited, commented on the state of entrepreneurism in Europe: “Times may be tough right now but it is the ideas of today that fuel the businesses of tomorrow. Some of the world’s leading companies were born during challenging times and they grew strong as a direct result,” he noted.
ICT Results sent a reporter to some of the company presentations who confirmed that the entrepreneurial spirit is indeed alive and well in the Benelux. In the life sciences sessions, start-ups like the Leuven-based FORMAC Pharmaceuticals are capitalising on what its CEO Laurens Theunis describes as a “booming market in drug delivery”.
In the same session, Brussels-based firm BruCells outlined its work developing therapeutic vaccines against cancer, with two products in pre-clinical trials and one to follow perhaps later this year. BruCells’ work on dendritic- and cancer cell lines had European connections dating back to research done in the EU-funded DC-VACC project and DC-THERA network, according to its managing director Gilles Capart.
Meanwhile, Andreas Persidis, CEO of Biovista, presented his firm’s innovative approach to drug discovery which involves “repositioning” out-of-patent drugs to tackle unmet medical needs. “We use a multi-dimensional approach and our [special] platform means we can do it at a prolific pace,” he told the venture capitalists.
Speaking after the session, Persidis told ICT Results that he was also involved in an EU-funded project called ACGT, which has been developing open-source, semantic and grid-based technologies for post-genomic clinical trials.
Other companies that stood out at the BVF, according to the experts attending the sessions, included Epuramat and FeyeCon from the cleantech strand; Cardio3 BioSciences, arGEN-X and ActoGeniX from the life sciences sessions; and Liquavista, IASO Backup Technology, Softkinetic and bliin from the ICT presentations.