Ten Start-Ups from our Region to Watch in 2018

30/11/2017

2017 was - again - a prosperous year for entrepreneurs in Belgium and no less in the Leuven MindGate ecosystem. There wasn't a week going by without one of our start-ups claiming a prize, huge partnership or investment round. By popular demand, we came up with a new alphabetical list of ten start-ups to watch next year. Keep your eyes peeled for these 10 start-ups!

Beaufort

After recovering from breast cancer, many women suffer from lymphedema; a build-up of fluid, usually in the arms or legs, resulting in swelling and patches of blue skin colour. To counter this, the patients wear an orthopedic pressure sock, often for years on end. The socks are effective, but not beautiful.

Beaufort is a Leuven-based start-up that believes in the healing power of beauty. “A patient who recovered from breast cancer but suffered from lymphedema told me she always still felt like a patient when she wore a pretty dress in combination with a bland orthopedic sock”, Lotte Martens, co-founder of Beaufort mentions. So Lotte started our by printing these orthopedic socks to make them fit any type of outfit. A first testing phase has been completed, and both patients and doctors are positive of the healing effect. The highly anticipated product was released at the BELymph Patients Day and looks set to storm more hospitals in 2018.

Bringme

Bringme is a service platform which automates your logistics. Its network of Bringme Boxes are linked to a mobile app and every box operates as a mini logistical hub which automates logistical processes involving couriers. They can deliver both business-related or private packages in the Bringme box, co-workers can return packages through the box or use it to share things. In residential buildings, the Bringme box functions as a ‘mailbox 2.0’ where less frequent waste collections such as e-waste and energy-saving bulbs can be collected.

The network of Bringme Boxes is rapidly expanding across the Benelux and the UK. Hundreds of companies, residential buildings, hospitals and schools already make use of this Leuven-made product. Recently, Bringme closed a partnership with Schindler, surely speeding up its European expansion and increasing functionality. Combined with predictions being made that e-commerce revenue will double in the next five years, Bringme is surely heading for serious growth.

Craftworkz

There’s always at least one entry on the list of whom everyone says “they should’ve been there last year”. Craftworkz is that entry. It’s impossible to not have heard about this prototyping start-up last year. Their humanoid robot Pepper made multiple showcase appearances in regional and national media just like Teddy, a teddy bear that will listen to what kids say, respond according to the emotions and keywords he hears while alerting parents through a software solution when necessary. Moreover, they held an exhibition in M Museum with Cécile B. Evans on robotics and artificial intelligence. Next to all this, they’ve been prototyping in multiple projects focusing on artificial intelligence, augmented reality, mobile, web, cloud and IoT.

It’s clear that Craftworkz found a comfortable spot within the market and the world as well. At the end of the summer, the start-up - hailing from under the wings of Cronos Leuven – opened an office in London in order to conquer the UK market after doing the same in the Netherlands. As AI keeps on growing, we expect Craftworkz to keep on doing the same.

Cumul.io

There is an abundance of data out there today. Turning it all into actionable insights in a matter of seconds, at a fraction of the cost of traditional business intelligence platforms and without writing a single line of code is Cumul.io’s mission. The Leuven-based start-up’s idea was conceived in 2015 and marketed in 2016. Midway through 2017, the first investment of Smartfin Ventures went to Cumul.io. 500 000 euro of growth capital was granted to expand the team, build out the platform in order to start competing on the US market.

On top of that, Cumul.io noted a revenue no less five times higher than 2016 –it might even be six times higher as this article was written at the end of November. Meanwhile, Cumul.io has over 100 customers in seven countries and is aiming for a revenue of 1,5 million euro at the end of 2018 and 3 million at the end of 2019. With a customer base growing faster and more international every month, we’ll let you do the math.

Happy Volcano

Leuven-based games studio Happy Volcano has had quite a year. They won the very first PC Indie Pitch at Gamescom Cologne, the biggest gaming conference in Europe, where The Guardian placed them among Europe’s best 11 games. Their crown jewel ‘The Almost Gone’ has managed to impress several other judges across the continent. Written by Belgian author Joost Vandecasteele, it’s a narrative game of exploration and mystery where a little girl must understand her own death, allowing herself and others to pass through to the other side. The highly anticipated game will be released next year.

The team consisting of three friends with a background in advertising and vast experience in game design tells stories like no other; whether it’s an app, a website or a videogame. Advertisement is rapidly evolving these days; combined with the fact that by now, pretty much everyone has played some form of videogame, advergames are definitely one of the future forms of ‘advertainment’. 

The Kobi Company

Meet Kobi, the world’s first robot that rakes leaves, mows your lawn and plows your driveway. Developed in Leuven with a little help from Comate, it’s equipped with sensors and state-of-the-art electronics from other Flemish companies, allowing Kobi to operate in nice parallel lines, rather than the random tracks today’s robots make. Its self-learning software lets Kobi get acquainted with your garden and its obstacles such as trees, a pool or even a garden hose.

Other than most start-ups, Kobi will release in North America first, before coming to Europe. North Americans take great pride in having a prestigious front yard more than Europeans do. Kobi is also a far larger and more powerful garden robot than anything else out there, making it a reliable piece of high-tech all year round. And if it’s big and powerful, it will do well overseas. With interest in North America already high and over 128 000 km² - about the total size of Greece! - of gardens to maintain, Kobi’s future looks bright. Add new demand from Scandinavia as well and we might just see Kobi’s European debut in 2018 as well. 

LynxCare

Hospitals are digitising at lightning speed. Patients will have access to their medical files from the comfort of their own home. Also doctors save time with electronic files. One of the companies that make this happen, is LynxCare. This Leuven-based MedTech start-up already does this for about 10 000 patients in eight Flemish hospitals. The software makes the whole operation process for patients – from medication to their next doctor’s appointment – easy to understand.

LynxCare partook in Leuven.Inc’s BITS programme and received support from imec, among others. Last year, LynxCare scored more means though venture capitalists, banks, PMV and VLAIO. These means will be used to go abroad to neighbouring countries; but also the US where LynxCare was selected for Alchemist, an American accelerator, giving them access to coaches, sales and funding. By starting pilot projects, LynxCare hopes to raise more funds for expansion in the US. By doing so, they already secured themselves a spot in the Deloitte Fast 50.  

Pick-It

Most picking robots these days perform repetitive, calculated work, like a robot that puts caps on bottles.  If something like a misplaced bottle breaks the chain, the robot can’t anticipate on what happened. It will continue performing its cap-twisting motion even though the chain has stopped or bottles have fallen. Thanks to Leuven-based Pick-It, this could soon be history. Their plug and play product consists of a 3D camera, processor and software for industrial robots. This allows the robot to literally see what it’s doing; whether if it’s capping bottles on a conveyor belt or picking orders from a warehouse.

Google and NASA already relied on this Leuven.Inc BITS participant, and more than 100 clients the US, Europe and Asia  have also showed an interest in this universal pair of eyes for robots. After just one year, Pick-It noted a revenue of 1 million euro, after starting out with an investment of their own. In two years, they expect to raise that amount to 3 million, eventual investments excluded. With about two million blind robots worldwide and an enormous potential within healthcare, construction and mobility,  it comes as no surprise that Pick-It was also named Most Promising Start-up by Trends. 

Rein4ced

We’ve all seen images of cyclists tumbling over their steering wheel when a frame breaks. However, this could well be a thing of the past. Carbon fibre is a widely used composite material in racing, cycling and aviation. It’s light and strong; the only drawback it has is that it is sensitive to small impacts. These can build up beneath the surface until the material breaks. The patented composite material Rein4ced has been making, combines all of the characteristics of carbon fibre but eliminates the sensitivity to small impacts, resulting in a higher reliability.

With a patent in hand, a product that is high in demand and a planned investment round, Rein4ced has all the tools in hand needed for growth and the build-out of the company. The first applications for the material will be in the frames of racing bicycles. Later on, Rein4ced will also apply it for use in the automobile and aviation sectors.

Sweepatic

As an inhabitant of planet earth, you should be concerned about your ecological footprint, right? Did you know there’s also such a thing as a digital footprint? Companies are not aware of how much of their data criminals are able to use in their attack planning process. Sweepatic’s solution is an internet platform which imitates techniques that computer hackers use in order to help spot their victims. It’s the only solution that enables companies to see right through the hacker's eyes and thus having a look at their own digital footprint and it's weaknesses.

The Leuven-based start-up has been active since 2016 and has steadily built up a customer base and its own workforce at Start it @ KBC. Next year, Sweepatic is looking to go abroad thanks to a planned capital round. A special age of cybersecurity is coming and, just like many other local start-ups, Sweepatic has come to the right place at the right time. 

Special thanks to Dirk Lievens and Omar Mohout for their advice.