Connecting Brussels with Silicon Valley, October 24-28, 2016
Almost each year, Brussels Invest & Export Office in San Francisco organizes an ICT Mission to introduce Brussels-based companies to the Silicon Valley ecosystem of founders, subject matter experts, and investors. For its 3rd edition, BIE in San Francisco welcomed eight amazing startups - iDklic, Urbantz, Upcall, Facility Lockers, Emixis, Lansrode Capital Management, Pyco Group, and Himeta. – to participate in its ICT Mission Connecting Brussels with Silicon Valley. For startup companies the world over, Silicon Valley conjures up hockey-stick startup growth, vast networking and funding opportunity, and cutting-edge technical innovation. Indeed Silicon Valley is a new territory for Belgian Startups, and an important one: The US has witnessed a tenth-consecutive quarter [since 2014Q1] of more than $10 billion in venture capital invested in a single quarter according to the Q22016 Money Tree Report, and the Silicon Valley region has claimed the top regional spot in dollar amount invested since 1995 according to Regional Aggregate data provided by PwC’s Money Tree Report. The evening before events began, delegation participants met at the historic Tonga Room, established in 1945, in the Fairmont Hotel, to become acquainted and prepare for the start of an intense week-long program in Silicon Valley.
Connecting Brussels with Silicon Valley, Stanford University Tour, October 26, 2016
From left to right, front row: Juan Bossicard of Impulse Brussels, Galen Reichbaum of Brussels Invest & Export, Eric Gabrys of Brussels Invest & Export, Marc Daugherty of Brussels Invest & Export, Miriam Taub of iDklic, and Maxime de Caritat of Facility Lockers
From left to right, back row: Michaeal Darchambeau of Urbantz, Olivier Costa of Brussels Invest & Export, Alain Decorte of Lansrode Capital Management, Youri Balcers of Himeta, Philippe Druez of Emixis, Jean-Charles Figoni of iDklic
The next morning, with Henri Vantieghem the Consulate General in Los Angeles and Oliver Costa the Trade and Economic Counsellor to the European Union in attendance, Connecting Brussels with Silicon Valley kicked off. Rick Rasmussen, an expert in entrepreneurship and technology, provided insight into the “secret sauce” that potential investors are looking for when evaluating a business pitch, while Nathan Gold, “the demo coach”, shared effective strategies for story-telling. A team of entrepreneurs-turned-investors - Rick Rasmussen, Jeff Wallace of Global Kinetics, and Naeem Zafar of Concordia Ventures - provided an afternoon of business mentoring on validating each company’s product or service as a fit for the US market, and working with the startup co-founders to fine-tune their business position. Ronald Star, our host for the first two days of our program at the law firm Arnold & Porter, spoke to Belgian Startups about incorporating in the US as it relates to considerations of equity, financing, intellectual property, and compensation incentives. Hopsy, an innovative craft-beer distributor, co-founded by a Belgian Sebastien Tron, presented on how Hopsy has gained tremendous traction within the investor community due to its innovative approach to the traditional supplier-to-consumer distribution model. Having been around for a little over a year and a half, Hopsy boasts an impressive board of advisors and investor list that has bode it well in developing a HomeTap machine in partnership with Nespresso and KRUPS (Link).
Later that day, our group visited LinkedIn’s brand new headquarter-campus after its acquisition by Microsoft corporation. Our delegation had a short break during which we got to take the campus bikes for a spin. That afternoon we learned how data science at LinkedIn plays a pivotal role in customer retention, product development, and business growth from our guid Albert Cui.
The next day our group visited The Batchery, a global incubator for seed stage entrepreneurs located in Oakland, where we learned the distinctions between incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces, as well as had the opportunity to hear from US entrepreneurs Ucella and Shipbird, startup companies similar in many ways to Facility Lockers and Urbantz, respectively, within the fast-growing delivery and logistics sector.
As well, a breakfast reception at the collaborative workspace and innovation
hub, The Vault SF, introduced us to Paul Kallmes a specialist in the global venture capital and intellectual property domain, who provided advice on how to further grow your company while keeping your IP protected. As well, a breakfast reception at the collaborative workspace and innovation hub, The Vault SF, introduced us to Paul Kallmes a specialist in the global venture capital and intellectual property domain, who provided advice on how to further grow your company while keeping your IP protected.
In the second part of the mission, our participants had the opportunity to engage in the American and very-much-silicon-valley-tradition of pitching a business idea to a panel of potential investors. They began with a pitch rehearsal at Foreign Startups Mixer and Pitch Night founded by Pawan Mehra in 2013 with the goal of integrating technology with diversity and cross-cultural connection. Pawan noted, “it was fun hosting your group and meeting the promising entrepreneurs from Brussels”.
Using the feedback from this event, our Belgian startups polished their pitches for the Belgian Entrepreneurs Pitch Night hosted by Brussels Invest & Export at BelCham | The Belgian American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco’s historic Jackson Square neighborhood. The panel of potential investors during the formal pitch night included Valley stalwarts - Dr. Ronald Weissman of the Band of Angels, David Smith with FirstCapital-US, Radhika Iyengar-Emens CEO of DoubleNova, Jorden Woods president of Silicon Valley Fundraising, and Philippe Jansen a General Manager in nano-technology labs formerly with IMEC and currently with Texas Instruments Kilby Research lab. These panelists asked tough questions and gave honest feedback, ultimately encouraging each company to reflect on how their current business model would have them achieve their business goals within the US Silicon Valley business environment. Michael Darchambeau of Urbantz was selected the winner of the Pitch Event by the investor panelists, and awarded a 2-week office space to l’Atelier at BelCham. The winner of the best presentation was Youri Balcers with Himeta Technologies.
On the final day of the mission, Belgian startups attended the 500 Startups Pitch Day of David McClure’s 500 Startups, a leading global venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator that manages $200 million in assets, to experience a high-stakes entrepreneurial-investor forum.
Throughout the mission, each company met with potential businesses and partners, for example: A pharmacy sales manager with CVS one of the top 4 largest pharmacy retail chains throughout the US; a manager at InstaCart as well as at Good Eggs, both are popular internet-based grocery delivery services in the Bay Area; and, a specialist in the intersection of intellectual property management, venture investment, and foreign start-ups entering the US. The co-founder of Urbantz secured three pilots with US partners, and provided Brussels Invest & Export the following feedback: “I would like to thank you so much for the amazing week we spent together and that you have organized so well. I really would like to keep in touch to connect Urbantz to Silicon Valley. You did a very good job for us. In addition, you are a great time and this is very important”. Indeed, A US business partner in the logistics tech domain, who had met earlier in the week with Urbantz and Facility Lockers, commented that, “[Facility Lockers] and [Urbantz] were strong meetings with bright entrepreneurs”.
On the final evening of the Mission, the delegation met at the downtown Hilton for a Bon Voyage meeting to recap the week’s events before their return to Brussels. The Co-founders of iDklic felt they received important guidance on how to better target their services so as to increase revenues more exponentially, and had the following to share: “thank to both of you for this mission. We learned a lot from this experience in Silicon Valley”; moreover, iDklic co-founders shared that they saw the opportunity that perhaps in the future they will find themselves pitching in front of a large audience such as at 500 Startups. Additionally, Facility Lockers Co-Founder shared his thoughts, “Thanks a lot for the great job and opportunities you created for us”.
The State of Clinical Research in Life Sciences Companies: Belgium as a Life Sciences Destination
With consistently rising R&D costs and a need to innovate, Life Sciences companies continue the trend of outsourcing clinical trials to clinical research organizations (CROs) around the world. In choosing where to employ CROs, Amgen, Pfizer, SGS Life Sciences, and Merck (MSD) choose Belgium as a top destination. During the BIO 2016 conference, Brussels Invest and Export, in partnership with Brussels LifeTech and BeCro, hosted a luncheon to discuss Belgium’s advantages when it comes to clinical research: short approval time for clinical trial applications, high-quality clinical centers, expert authority in its regulatory committees, and attractive tax rates.
In a globally competitive industry such as Life Sciences, time to commercialization of research and development efforts is a competitive advantage. Approval time in Belgium is 15 days for phase I and 28 days for Phase II and III. When it comes to making smart choices for his company’s go-to-market strategy, Bruno Speder, head of clinical regulatory affairs at SGS Life Sciences, noted “Belgium has a speed advantage in Clinical Trials”. With the new 2016 EU Clinical Trials Regulation, there are challenges for Belgium’s regulatory bodies to maintain their standing for the speed at which they offer robust review of clinical trial submissions. This is a challenge of which Maggie De Block’s Social Affairs and Public Health ministry is well aware, when in 2015, she signed The Pact for the Future, an initiative between the pharmaceutical industry in Belgium and the Belgian policy and regulatory bodies, around initiatives for regulatory support and resources for small and medium bioscience start-ups.
Clinical centers in Belgium have access to top-notch university researchers, departments, and facilities. ThromboGeneic and TiGenix were both built out of collaboration with Katholiek Universiteit Van Leuven (KUL), and KUL and Universiteit Gent (UG), respectively. Recently Pfizer opened a Clinical Research Unit in Brussels (its sister center is near Yale Medical Center), which according to Dirk Vander Mijnsbrugge, Medical Director of European Markets at Pfizer, highlights the valuable network of resources that makes Belgium a high-caliber location for clinical trials: “[this] clinical research unit in Brussels is the first pharmaceutical unit that obtained accreditation from the Association for the Accreditation of Research Protection Programs”. The high quality of clinical trials in Belgium is an attraction for industry stalwarts and bio start-ups alike. Belgium has a clustering of life science companies totaling 457 in the country, with 24 in Genk, 27 in Ghent, 42 in Rochefort, and 364 in Brussels. Clinical trial luncheon panelist, Yves Zinggeler of Amgen Belgium, emphasized that Belgium is “the first in number of Amgen Clinical Trials per Capita, and that of 1,000 active patients, 10% are from the Brussels Region”.
Belgium’s Federal Agency for Medicinal and Health Products (FAMHP) – equivalent of the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) - and regional Ethics Committees work in collaboration to offer expert regulatory oversight of all clinical trials in Belgium. In 2014, 1507 clinical trials were ongoing in the following key therapeutic areas: oncology (21 %), cardiovascular disease (13 %), Central Nervous System Diseases (8.3 %), and Respiratory Diseases (7.6 %). Moreover, Belgium has strong industry representation through pharma.be (http://pharma.be/fr/) and BeCro.be (http://www.becro.be/), both organizations work to represent business interests in the life science industry, with a focus on therapeutic innovation and Contract Research Organizations, respectively.
Based in part on industry feedback in 2013, Belgium listened, and restructured its tax programs to better support innovation, in both researcher costs and patent and innovation costs. Belgium’s R&D Investment Deduction allows for 2 different levels of tax deduction on capitalized R&D expenditure for either the acquisition of patents or of assets used in R&D for environmentally beneficial products and technologies. Moreover, this investment deduction can be applied as a tax credit refundable after a five-year period. For human capital costs within life sciences, 80% of payroll taxes on salaried researchers can be exempt. Income from patent license fees or patent royalties are granted an 80% tax deduction.
When it comes to maintaining innovation and remaining competitive on research and development costs, Belgium offers tangible, valuable gains to life science companies in their clinical trial and research operations. This is why multinational Life Science companies, Merck, Amgen, SGS Life Sciences, and Pfizer not only choose to operate clinical trials in Belgium, but why they find such a pleasure, ease-of-management, and concrete business return in doing so. For many pharmaceutical companies, Belgium plays a pivotal role in the development of new medicines, thanks to its world leadership in clinical trials. There is no doubt that all stakeholders are fully committed to maintain this situation.
How to get started running your Clinical Trials in Belgium?
- Visit LifeTech Brussels - http://lifetechbrussels.com/ - to subscribe to their newsletter, learn how to start your CRO operations in Belgium, and to make an appointment with a representative
- Contact the San Francisco Brussels Invest and Export Commissioner, Eric Gabrys, at email@example.com, for more information on the 2015 clinical trial luncheon, and how to become involved in future events
- Attend next year’s BIO Conference, June 19-22, 2017, in San Diego, California - details on BIO 2017 and instructions on how to register as part of a delegation with Brussels Invest & Export can be found here
Clinical Trial Luncheon
Left to right (top row): Eric Gabrys, Commissioner of Brussels Invest & Export; Dirk Vander Mijnsbrugge, Medical Director European Markets at Pfizer; Moderator, Philippe Van Der Hofstadt, CEO of B&C Group and Board Member and Head of Training & Events of BeCRO.be
Left to right (bottom row): Patricia Massetti, Managing Director of Merck Belgium-Luxembourg; Yves Zinggeler, General Manager of Amgen Belgium-Luxembourg; Bruno Speder, Head of Clinical Regulatory Affairs at SGS Life Sciences
 “2016 Global life sciences outlook: Moving forward with cautious optimism”. Deloitte.
 SynteractHCR. “The New EU Clinical Trials Regulation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. Dr. Martine Dehlinger-Kremer, VP Global Medical and Regulatory Affairs
 Minister Maggie De Block’s Address, delivered June 7th, during BIO Conference 2016. June 7, 2016. Vive La Tarte. San Francisco, California.
 PharmExec.com. “Country Report: Belgium”. April 1, 2013.
 BIO Conference 2016. Clinical Trial Luncheon: Panelist: Dirk Vander Mijnsbrugge, Medical Director of European Markets at Pfizer. June 7, San Francisco, CA
 Site Selection for Life Sciences Companies in Europe: 2015. KPMG in association with Venture Valuation.
 BIO Conference 2016. Clinical Trial Luncheon. Panelist: Yves Zinggeler, General Manager of Amgen Belgium-Luxembourg. June 7, 2016. San Francisco, California.
 BIO Conference 2016. Clinical Trial Luncehon. Moderator: Philippe Van der Hofstadt. June 7, 2016. San Francisco, California
“The International Fiscal Landscape in Belgium: Opportunities for Direct Investments”. PricewaterhouseCoopers Presentation. Wednesday, April 10, 2016. San Francisco, California