Freddy Nurski is the managing director of n2euro, the official host organization for GEW Belgium. N2euro focuses on startup companies with disruptive technologies: from developing go-to-market strategies to implementing alliances with global technology and consulting companies.
Having obtained his Master’s in Business Economics from the University of Leuven, Nurski is Chairman of the KU Leuven Faculty of Business and Economics Alumni organization (Ekonomika Alumni vzw), and Director of Alumni Lovanienses.
GEW Belgium has ambitious plans for GEW 2014 so we checked in with Nurski to see what he had to say about GEW Belgium’s progress, breaking world records and building inter-regional collaboration.
How would you characterize the entrepreneurial environment in Belgium? If you could change one thing to make it better, what would it be?
We have always had great international potential. Historically, we have been at the center of Europe, with many international headquarters and organizations, each coming from their own economic and cultural background. Most young people find jobs with an international component and growth opportunities. The downside is that many do not look to entrepreneurship as an appealing alternative. This is what we hope to change.
Why is Global Entrepreneurship Week important—overall and to Belgium, specifically?
Despite being a relatively small country with 10 million inhabitants, Belgium has a large number of entrepreneurship initiatives and organizations. GEW is a fantastic opportunity to not only showcase all of these initiatives but also initiate collaborations, in particular across regional and national borders.
GEW and its global community are of great help through the intensive communication between country hosts as well as through participation at international congresses.
When and how did you first get involved in Global Entrepreneurship Week?
In 2011, I was with TiE Brussels when it became the host organization for Belgium and we were immediately charmed by its values and objectives. In 2012, I joined the project and a year later we co-hosted GEW with the Pulse Foundation who took the lead in developing the week. Since August, n2euro has been the GEW Belgium host, and as managing partner I’m now back in the lead for coordinating GEW in 2014.
Are there challenges or barriers that you would like to overcome to increase participation?
A challenge we have faced in Belgium has been to better quantify Global Entrepreneurship Week’s added value on a national level. GEW Belgium is currently in talks with all relevant organizations to make GEW’s value more apparent and to be able to respond better to requirements with GEW global resources. This is quite important as there are more than 200 entrepreneurship-focused organizations in Belgium, many competing for the same audience and the same contributors.
What event(s) are you most looking forward to for GEW 2014?
GEW 2014 is kicking off in Belgium with an attempt to break the World Record for Speed Business dating. On November 17, speed daters of different kinds like entrepreneurs, corporate executives and students will gather in Hasselt around the longest networking table in the world. The goal is to have 1,000 people participate: experienced entrepreneurs sharing tips and tricks, startups gathering information, executives sharing ideas and students having their first networking experience. The current record published in the Guinness Book of World Records is currently held by the Australian Institute of Management with 475 participants. The event is organized by JCI Limburg, and employer organizations Unizo, Voka and VKW Limburg, with the support of more than 40 partners.
We will also celebrate women in entrepreneurship, with an event at the Brussels Stock Exchange. The keynote will be given by Michèle Sioen, Chairwoman of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises, and CEO of Sioen Industries.
Additionally, we will have many diverse activities and events throughout the week with a focus on longer term job creation that promise to be highly engaging.
What makes your campaign unique?
Our campaign is truly national. Entrepreneurship is a regional priority in Belgium, and GEW facilitates and encourages inter-regional collaboration throughout the country. We also reach out to other countries beyond Belgium by involving our large multi-cultural immigrant communities.
Who are the local stars promoting entrepreneurship in Belgium?
We have many organizations: government agencies, schools and universities, corporations and banks, and many regional or national associations: all of them put entrepreneurship now at the center of their programs. There is a broad conviction that we have to create our own jobs, our own employment.
What kind of an impact has GEW had on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Belgium?
We are only in our third year but we continue to bring parties together that normally would not work together. GEW is an ideal facilitator for promoting collaboration. We also help to reach out internationally, opening possibilities for great initiatives outside of the traditional ICT domains where we have great organizations like startups.be.
Over the past few years, GEW Belgium has grown from being a brand new initiative to having more than 50 events throughout the week, organized by 35 partners around the country. With each year that passes, our campaign continues to grow and reach new people. This year promise to be the largest and most successful one yet for GEW Belgium.