Lux Future Lab—moving toward a start-up nation made in Luxembourg
27.07.2018 | Entrepreneurship
As a multi-faceted structure hosted by BGL BNP Paribas, the Group’s Luxembourg subsidiary, the Lux Future Lab promotes entrepreneurship and project creation across the Grand Duchy. Olivier Selis, CEO of the incubator, provides an overview.
What is the Lux Future Lab?
The Lux Future Lab operates within the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) department of BGL BNP Paribas, which is comprised of six collaborators, including three that are dedicated to the Lab. The Lux Future Lab has a dual mission:
- To positively impact the economic and social dynamic in Luxembourg through our startup incubator. To this end, we have made available a 2,000m² building in the heart of the city with 32 private offices, an open space and meeting rooms.
- To foster an entrepreneurial dynamic and a culture of innovation among our collaborators through our Acceleration program, and among youth through our Start Me Up and Summer School programs.
Why did you create the Lux Future Lab?
We began with an assessment—Luxembourg is a wealthy country with a low unemployment rate and high GDP, organized around large companies and institutions. But what if we wrote a new page of history? Let’s enter the transition to the digital economy of tomorrow and support the growth of young innovators toward the future!
That is how the Lux Future Lab was born six years ago, with an almost provocative slogan, “In Luxembourg, one can be something other than a lawyer, banker or consultant!”
Olivier Selis, CEO of the incubator
How does the Lab guide startups?
We are active on all fronts, from startup sourcing to the management of different programs. The Lab is a point of entry besides the bank.
To guide startups, we leverage a network of more than 20 partners in IT, jurisdiction, consulting, marketing and recruitment. We provide our entrepreneurs with flexible offices at favorable prices. We have also established a program of regular training on key subjects such as raising funds or various regulations. All of our partners commit to providing at least two free hours of consulting. Some spontaneously provide much more. In exchange, we take special note of these volunteers and invite them to different events that we organize. Networking holds a central position in our offer.
We have achieved solid visibility and have become a key actor at the heart of the Grand Duchy’s ecosystem of innovation. We easily introduce startups to clients or potential partners, and accompany them to major conventions such as VivaTechnology in Paris. Finally, to finance projects, we rely on the Bank and Business Angels. We have access to a large network of private and institutional investors, and the Lux Future Lab hosts two capital risk funds.
How are they selected?
We launched the incubator in 2012. In total, around 60 projects have been incubated. We are currently helping 30 more. Our criteria for selection are simple—startups must want to create jobs in Luxembourg, respect our values, and integrate within our open ecosystem. We work in a community. Our companies help one another and contribute to initiatives launched by the Lab and the bank.
Today, half are Fintechs but we also welcome companies from other sectors with which the Bank can develop other forms of partnerships. In this way, the smart mobility offers from the startup KussBus are especially interesting to human resources. We also follow Univize, a platform that connects future students with current students, and which is becoming a new media partner for the Bank and its “Youth” offers. We always try to see ahead if a department of BNP Paribas has an interest in working with one of our startups. However, our model remains open and independent.
And what are the results?
We have helped 57 startups, helping to create 400 jobs in Luxembourg. Founders come from around 20 different countries nationalities. We count eight great successes followed by acquisitions. The bank has also acquired Gambit/Birdee, a robotic banking consultant. After arriving in Luxembourg in 2015, the startup went on to win the Belgian BNP Paribas hackathon in 2016. The Group noticed it then and BNP Paribas Asset Management purchased it in 2017. There is a real link between the different entities of BNP Paribas—it’s the strength of the Group. Eight internet startups have also developed proofs of concept (POC) or partnerships with the Bank. In general, our startups grow very fast. To encourage collaborations, we organize several internal events, workshops and conferences. This has been a success—with more than 100 collaborators regularly participating.
What is the Change Makers community?
the desire for change, a willingness to evolve toward new methods of working and to break down silos.
It was natural for us to associate the launch of our TIZ (The Intrapreneurs Zone) program with the Paris group’s Change Makers movement. We therefore created a local community of change actors to lead our initiatives. Comprised of 30 experts from all types of positions across the bank, this group convenes around a common vision—the desire for change, a willingness to evolve toward new methods of working and to break down silos.
You have also created the Lux Future Lab Academy. What is it about?
We first conceived a Summer School, a 2-week program for 16- to 18-year-olds, to help them in their future orientation and help them discover professions at the Bank and the startup world. We have them take personality tests, and allow them to meet and exchange with leading figures… In all, we have so far accompanied 150 young people.
This year, at the request of the Communication department, we have also launched a second program, “Start Me Up.” During the school year, people between the ages of 15 and 17 come to spend three hours at the Lab with their teachers. We present our visions, projects and ways of working. We also offer them case studies on an issue of their choice and help them to resolve them through agile methods.
Our goal is to transmit to these young people a state of mind, an openness, to show them that errors or even failures are an integral part of the creative process. There is no age to launch a project. The most important thing is to believe in it and stay optimistic.
You also encourage the development of internal projects at the Bank. Could you tell us a little more about this?
Until last year, we proposed an intrapreneurial program to collaborators with personal business projects of all types, the opening of a florist or a chocolate shop, for example. After two years, we had to abandon it due to insufficient resources. This year, we are launching a more targeted program for “Bank” projects. We are currently in a call phase for projects. Selected projects will be accelerated over the course of ten weeks with dedicated coaches.
To participate in the full program, intrapreneurs must respect various criteria—they must have a minimal impact on existing information systems, focus on the improvement of collaborative and/or client experiences, and ideally have a “4Good” dimension— which is to say, they should have a positive impact and connection with our CSR foundations.
“ Young graduates have a spirit for openness and challenge that is particularly strong. They are much more willing to question ideas and processes that are in place and want to know why they exist. That’s very healthy for any business. ”
CEO of the incubator
What has been your biggest surprise?
I was particularly and pleasantly surprised by the motivation among collaborators. Most demonstrate a real interest in progress and change. They want empowerment and to be actors within the Bank’s transformation!
we offer a unique international network to foster the growth of our start-ups.
How do you envision the future of the Lux Future Lab?
We want to further integrate the Lab within the ecosystem of the BNP Paribas Group. Whether it’s through different acceleration programs or co-development, incubators, innovation hubs, we offer a unique international network to foster the growth of our startups. Not to mention the access to our own Corporate or Private clients. It’s a value offer that is unique in Luxembourg.
We also wish to concentrate more on the financing aspect and guiding startups through their fund raising and development strategy. For example, in October, we and the Bank are co-organising the EBAN Winter Summit (for European Trade Association for Business Angels), which will bring 500 business angels and entrepreneurs to Luxembourg around a central theme: Better together: how to shape a more sustainable and innovative world? We still have a lot more to do and explore!