An e-commerce entrepreneur from Montreal, I will be working with the Microsoft Innovation Center Brussels for the next three months. Every week, I will give you my take on the tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem of Brussels. I hope this will encourage a knowledge swap between the two cities will foster future collaborations and innovation.

As you may know the Microsoft Innovation Center Brussels offers a Boostcamp which is a comprehensive program that caters to early stage entrepreneurs. This week was their Kick-Off which is meant to introduce the future participants to the program with a day packed with insightful advice. We were at the DigitYser offices conveniently located next to the Yser metro station. DigitYser is the digital flagship of Brussels. Very much like the Notman House in Montreal, this space is designed to facilitate exchanges and collaborations between entrepreneurs, investors and technology aficionados. Notman House hosts an array of events ranging from artificial intelligence to virtual reality. It also has coworking spaces and a café, just like DigitYser. In my opinion, every city needs a tech playground, Montreal and Brussels seem to have well invested in their own.

The day started with the arrival of the attendees, all of which were eager for the day to start. I noted, however that only a small number of women were present. We have the same issue in Montreal where, many programs and events are in place to tilt the scale. For instance, we have the Compagnie F, Femmessor and Ladies Learning Code who support and equip women throughout their entrepreneurial journey. I found that that similar initiatives have been taken by the local community here in Brussels. In fact Women in Business recently launched Women in Tech of which the Microsoft Innovation Center Brussels is a proud member. This coalition aims to bring awareness and guidance to women interested in innovative entrepreneurship and job opportunities. A great role model is Julie Foulon who founded Girleek, a local resource for girls and women in high technologies.

We then had a presentation by Guillaume Tourniaire from Hoolders. Hoolders is a co-funding platform that allows individuals to invest in the best health and tech industries. I was impressed to learn that Hoolders will hold a live co-funding event during the final pitches. With more than 40 000 community members, the Boostcamp finalists will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to fund their projects.

For the rest of the day, workshops and teachings were held by Ben Piquard, the Boostcamp lead coach and a Chief Happy Culteur as he likes to describe himself. We did a few exercises to break the ice and help the participants break out of their shell. I will keep them a secret for future participants, but I can say that they were quite original and entertaining. They helped showcase each entrepreneur’s creativity and communication abilities which are indispensable for them to thrive in difficult situations.

Throughout the day I noticed that we talked about entrepreneurship experts like Eric Ries and Derek Sivers. Both are American public figures, and I have heard about them numerous times in Montreal. Back home, being so close to the United States, I never questioned the American influence in the business world while in Canada; both worlds go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. Here in Europe it feels a bit alien to me, I thought there would be more local examples and staples (other than IKEA). Perhaps I will get to know a few more of them while I am here. I appreciated the fact that the talks were so transparent about the struggles and inherent risks of entrepreneurship. Ben Piquard and Roald Sieberath held a well thought out Kick-Off. They went in depth into the complexities of entrepreneurship and I cannot wait to discover the projects of the Boostcamp #12 edition.

Want to know more about the Boostcamp? It will start on 3/10 and registrations are open!