EFRO-project Scaleup.international

Scaleup.international gathers knowledge and develops a format to help Flemish digital scale-ups internationalise in a well-targeted way.

The aim of Scaleup.international is to meet the demand for internationalisation support from the growing group of software production startups, which is the target group of Scaleup.vlaanderen.

Software product companies are booming, from Flanders to far beyond

The software sector has changed fundamentally in recent years. The existence of online channels, for example, has removed the distribution bottleneck, as software can now be distributed globally at virtually no cost. In addition, the availability of technological building blocks - APIs - on the one hand and the many coaching programs on the other has significantly lowered the manufacturing barrier for building a software product and setting up a software company.

Scaleup.vlaanderen

Scaleup.vlaanderen focuses on scale-ups as a target group. These are companies that have already found a proven business model (the “product-market fit”) and are on the brink of a growth spurt. A startup can be described as a company that creates and commercialises a digital product that can quickly scale globally without linear dependence on human capital.

Within Scaleup.vlaanderen, Sirris and Agoria provide digital scaling knowledge specifically aimed at the scaling needs of this target group. Scale-ups are guided collectively and individually along specific themes that are important for a digital company to be able to scale. Aspects of external growth (acquisition of customers) and internal growth (the maturity of the organisation) are discussed, such as digital go-to-market, pricing, product management, funding, setting up an advisory board, HR and organisation themes.

After all, scaling and growth in the software sector require a different approach, as these things do not work in the same way as in the non-digital sectors:

  • Unlike physical products, software can be distributed at virtually no cost thanks to the emergence of the Internet as a distribution channel. This makes it possible to create and commercialise products that can scale to global levels very quickly. This has a profound effect on the business models of the software industry: because distribution coincides with the software product, the product becomes its own sales channel. This phenomenon provides the basis for rapid international growth.
  • The competition facing software houses and digital companies does not usually form a smooth normal distribution as with traditional business models such as banks and car brands. Instead it follows a 'Power Law', whereby the company at second place in the market has at most half the market share of the leader. The winner takes all. For example, Google has a market share of 95 percent in Flanders, with the others, including Microsoft, Yahoo and local players, having to fight for the remaining 5 percent. This phenomenon emphasises the first-to-scale principle, namely the necessary importance of rapid external scaling. 

Put together, this means that, in principle, digital companies can go global from day 1 of their existence, and that it is useful and even necessary to do this as quickly as possible. Given the potential for rapid international growth within this target group and the need to be the first-to-scale within a certain niche, targeted support for internationalisation of digital scaleups is vital.

Scaleup goes international

A demand emerged from the network of companies within Scaleup.vlaanderen for supporting internationalisation. This demand is even high for the network of digital scale-ups with very strong growth, known as the '1Million Club'. That is why we have anticipated this as far as possible in our offer by offering a collective workshop.

However, unlike other themes (HR and organisation themes, funding, marketing, etc.), for which knowledge already exists, we find that there is little or no knowledge about this specific theme - even within the broader ecosystem. Internationalisation initiatives are often limited to testimonials from companies that have, with varying degrees of success, internationalised.

There is therefore a large unmet demand for internationalisation support from the target group, but there is little knowledge available. We wish to build up this knowledge via Scaleup.international.

In order to be able to serve a greater number of ambitious Flemish digital companies with potential for growth in one of the main aspects of external growth, and to do this to the greatest possible extent, we aim to gather knowledge and develop an in-depth format for supporting international scale-up in a way that is itself scalable.

Would you like more information about Scale-up.International? Then get in touch with tom.klaasen@sirris.be or isabel.michiels@agoria.be.

Sirris and Agoria have been supporting the Flemish software industry for more than 15 years. Knowledge concerning both content and activities has been gathered to meet the specific needs of the Flemish software sector. 

Project partners

The project partners of the consortium are Sirris and Agoria.

Sirris, which is the collective centre of and for the technology industry, provides Belgian companies that wish to innovate with three important assets: years of experience and broad expertise in various fields, the high-tech Sirris testing infrastructure spread across the country and an extensive partner network. Sirris brings knowledge about the IT domain and digital transformation into the project. Sirris has built up an extensive track record in that regard.

The first consultancy service for software engineering in Flanders was established in 2005 by Sirris under the name SPROT (Software Product Development Technologies). At the time it was the answer to the sector’s increasing need for usable knowledge in the field of software engineering - a need that was not being net by the existing actors. The challenges and shifting focal points of the software industry have since evolved rapidly. Along with various other initiatives, Sirris has always responded quickly in developing an industry-focused and unique service (together with partners where relevant). Examples (in Flanders) include:

  • 2008, launch of Bermuda (focus: software variability, flexibility and quality)
  • 2012, launch of Smart Innovator (focus: innovation with software, smart products)
  • 2013, launch of Nebucom (focus: Software as a Service and cloud technology)
  • 2013, launch of KATALICT (focus: go-to market of software products). Associated with this initiative was the launch of the Belgian growth hacking community (https://www.meetup.com/Growth-Hacking-Belgium/ ) with branches outside Belgium.
  • 2014, launch of Elucidata (focus: data innovation)
  • 2016, Launch of Scaleup.vlaanderen (focus: scaling of companies with a digital business model)

In Flanders alone these initiatives led to more than 1,000 in-depth advisory actions, about 100 innovation projects were initiated at companies and thousands of participants were reached via organised events. The collective insights were consulted more than 1,000,000 times (blogs, articles, etc.).

Agoria wishes to pave the way for all technologically-inspired companies in Belgium that strive for progress in the world by developing or applying innovations. Agoria has more than 1,800 member companies, employing around 300,000 people, and concentrates its services in three areas: consultancy, business development and the creation of an optimal business climate. Agoria’s centres of expertise provide assistance to members with questions about talent and the labour market, innovation, energy, the environment, social and regulations and standardisation (both technical and general).

In this project, Agoria contributes its extensive knowledge of the IT industry, which comes from not only Agoria employees but also the large group of companies that give shape to Agoria and manage its projects. In addition, the Innovation expertise centre of Agoria has a broad knowledge of innovation stimulation and innovation processes, which it operates in collaboration with partners and stakeholders. As sister organisations, Agoria and Sirris often work together on projects, including the above-mentioned Smart Innovator, Nebucom, Elucidata and Scaleup.vlaanderen projects.

Contact:
Tom Klaasen (+32 475 28 17 62) en Isabel Michiels (+32 (2) 70 68 39 5)