At the end of last year, we made an alphabetical list of ten start-ups from the region who would go on to do great things in 2017. Let's have a look at how they are doing as the end of 2017 draws near and see if our predictions were right.
Comate CEO Wouter Foulon (Center) with the award of JCI Young Flemish Entrepreneur 2017
Last year, Comate's growth from being a one man company to a workforce of nearly 20 engineers and designers caught many's attention. Designs like Kobi, the ‘world’s first fully autonomous all-season garden robot, gained quite a lot of attention overseas while a set of surgical tools for Medenvision won them the award for ‘Most Innovative Product 2016’ in Belfast. The future looked bright.
At the beginning of 2017, Comate expanded its team of engineers with four new additions reaching the milestone of 20 employees. Their Slimbox design, an innovative machine to create custom-made and perfect-fit cardboard boxes, won the prestigious Postal Technology International Award in the category 'Environmental Achievement of the Year'. Next to that, Comate co-developed Formula Electric Belgium's electric race car which got a third place finish in Hungary last summer. To top it off, CEO Wouter Foulon (picture: center) was crowned both JCI Young Entrepreneur of Flemish Brabant 2017 and JCI Young Flemish Entrepreneur 2017. Let's hope they designed themselves a bigger trophy cabinet as well.
The DataCamp team at the end of 2016; smiling because they can predict the future?
We predicted this KU Leuven spin-off to scale out of this list real soon. Logically, since they doubled their financial total to over $2 million while going overseas in 2016. At the end of last year, they had trained 680 000 data scientists.
In order to maximize potential, DataCamp moved their HQ from Boston to New York City. This gave teachers easier access to their recording studio and helped the start-up get a foothold in one of the USA's biggest start-up scenes. But activities and development are still going on in good old Leuven as well. The local team has been expanded with over ten engineers. The biggest feat, however, happened last summer, when DataCamp raised €3,5 million from investors. At that time, DataCamp had trained over 1,2 million data scientists. By now, they have more than doubled last year's number as they currently have a whopping 1,6 million users. Time to hand in those baby shoes.
A drone performing an inspection run for Eneco, one of DroneGrid's new partnerships
Last year, DroneGrid started to generate noise about their inventive cloud-based solution to simplify drone operations for industries that require regular inspection and monitoring, like agriculture or security. With partners like Airbus and Intel, they were off to a good start.
DroneGrid continued in that fashion as more partnerships were made in 2017. For the inspection of solar panels across their Belgian network, Eneco closed a strategic partnership with DroneGrid. Through DroneGrid’s Platform, Eneco will streamline the monitoring of the majority of its solar sites and will create efficiencies in the inspection and maintenance process. Their drones are also spreading across the world. In collaboration with ENGIE Laborelec Chile, DroneGrid deployed its Aerial Intelligence Platform to perform automated inspections of solar sites in Chile's Atacama desert. It's safe to say DroneGrid are going places, expanding their team while doing so.
Having won both the Deloitte's Rising Star 2016 as the Red Herring Top 100 Europe awards, GuardSquare must've caught everyone's attention last year. The Leuven-based company made sure mobile cybersecurity is taken seriously from now on.
GuardSquare continued its winning ways with the Innovative Pitch360 FinTech prize and being nominated as 'Scale-up of the year' at the Tech Startup Day Awards and the India FinTech Awards 2017. They expanded their workforce and moved into their own new office in Leuven. The larger workforce further optimized security software like ProGuard and the new DexGuardand iXGuard. With numerous new partnerships closed with developers from Silicon Valley and the world's largest banks, GuardSquare has secured its place in worldwide mobile cybersecurity.
Mobile often is a source of growth. Magazine.live taps into this and are on a mission to help communication professionals create and publish internal or external magazines, event guides and other communication materials in an easy-to-use, easy-to-read and mobile focused platform. As the platform wasn't even finished, customers were already signing in.
Within the past year, they focused on working closely with customers from the local market to develop relevant new features for the platform. Magazine publishers can now benefit from branded kiosks with multiple categories, access restricted publications, teasers that can be integrated anywhere in the magazine and beautiful floating pages to highlight their most stunning images. As digital publications offer much higher profit margins, magazine.live and its mother company Twipe are expected to continue along this line.
Maxenta was mentioned in the Best 100 Startups in Belgium by Digital First in 2016. With Pretparkdeals being one of their forefront projects, both in Flanders and Wallonia, Maxenta seemed to have found its place in the market.
From 2017 on, blogs, newspapers and other media seemed to have trouble finding the Leuven-based startup. Their own channels such as their website and social media haven't shown any movement. In most cases, our start-up list from last year was the last news feat that was shown. Has Maxenta gone silent, took a sabbatical or is it working on something huge under the radar? Maybe next year we'll find out.
In 2016, Qaelum had established itself as Belgian market leader in medical imaging quality control and were active in Europe and the Middle East as well. After increasing its capital by €2 million, Qaelum opened a new subsidiary in the United States to target radiology departments in both the US and Canada.
The year started off with a new partnership with Virtual Phantoms, allowing Qaelum customers to obtain advanced organ dose data in their monitoring software. They expanded their solution to hospitals in Russia, Spain and Denmark among others. In the summer, Qaelum released COACH, a software solution to optimize quality and efficiency in order to create an environment where patients feel and are safe, both in Europe, the Middle East and North America.
Jan Verlinden relaunched Ritchie; a Belgian all-natural lemonade based on an old family recipe made with 100% ingredients of natural origin. 2016 was the year of pre-production but that didn't stop Ritchie from already winning the Delinnovation Award. The lemonade was available as soon as our list published. But how did it fare in 2017?
Our laptop nearly crashed while loading the map with all of Ritchie's selling points. After starting out in the region, Ritchie has spread all across Flanders. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops, drink warehouses, supermarkets and even shops or barbers. In and around Leuven, it's hard to find a place that doesn't serve our local lemonade. Blessed with great marketing, a very instagrammable product and a great taste - trust us, we've tried it - Ritchie seems to be reliving its old glory days.
SettleMint's BallotBox, an application which records voting to the bitcoin blockchain in an easy and secure way; check out the video.
SettleMint helps organisations take advantage of blockchain and adjacent technologie, whether those enterprises are looking to improve efficiency, to extend their current products or to completely reinvent an existing business model. In 2016, Medici Ventures added SettleMint to its portfolio of investment companies.
It's clear that Blockchain has been all over the news in 2017. From election results to bitcoin. Chances are you might've seen somebody from SettleMint being featured in that news item. The past year has been very good for SettleMint. They worked on Sharia-compliant financial products for the Islamic Development Bank, joined the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, released their very own crypto coin and were finalists for the SDO Blockchain Challenge in Dubai. All while giving trainings in their Blockchain Academy and growing out a pretty big team around them. What a year for SettleMint, undoubtedly one of Start It @ KBC's success stories.
THEOplayer quickly turned heads and signed big names in 2016. By the time this list was published, they were already named Best Video Player Solution/SDK in the 2016 Streaming Media Europe Readers' Choice Awards, based solely on the votes by users, customers and readers.
The move to their new HQ alongside the Vaart canal saw an increase in workforce for THEOplayer. They went on to increase their number of partnerships, prolonged their title of Best Video Player Solution / SDK, integrated Ramp and also V-Nova Pursues 2 in their universal player to maximize picture quality (the latter winning them the Best New Product Award of IBCShow & TVBEurope) and recently also won the Streaming Media Award for Best Video Player 2017; yes, another award. Was it the growing workforce or shortage of trophy stacking space that made them move into their new office?