New record: 323 start-ups want to accelerate at Start it @KBC

New record: 323 start-ups want to accelerate at Start it @KBC

40% leave their employer and set up their own start-up to create “real impact”

  • 64 start-ups were admitted to the accelerator programme of Start it @KBC in the first selection round in 2021.
  • 39% of founders consciously leave their employer to make a real impact on the world through a young, agile organisation.
  • More than 1 in 2 founders (54%) who left their employer always intended to start a start-up but first wanted to learn within a corporate environment.
  • The Corona crisis has hardly influenced the step toward entrepreneurship and the establishment of a start-up (7%).
  • 64% founders run start-up in main profession at the start of their Start it @KBC trajectory.

Antwerp, 29th of March 2021 – For the sixth year in a row, Start it @KBC breaks its own record: no fewer than 323 start-ups registered for the first pitch wave of 2021 to accelerate their business at Start it @KBC. 64 of them were eventually retained by the ten jury teams, after two intensive, digital pitch days. They will be coached in the coming months to scale up their business. More than one in three founders (35%) left their previous employer to start their own start-up. Remarkably: four out of ten do so deliberately in order to have a real impact on the world within a young, agile start-up.

For many people, changing the world and preferably improving it is the reason to leave their employer and set up their own start-up. 39% of founders choose the relatively uncertain start-up life to have more impact. This was the conclusion of a survey held by accelerator Start it @KBC among the 203 start-ups that came to pitch their business ideas on the 24th and 25th of March. It is the sixth year in a row that Start it @KBC is organising pitch waves to attract innovative start-ups, with the aim of helping them scale up. Year after year, the number of start-ups applying continues to increase.


Mieke Daniels, COO of Start it @KBC: “It is striking how many people say that they will have more impact on the world by starting a start-up themselves, rather than working for a large organisation. The question arises as to why people feel they cannot make a difference in large organisations. Herein lies a very great challenge for the corporates.”
Mieke Daniels, COO Start it @KBC
Mieke Daniels, COO Start it @KBC
“Corporates lose a large proportion of their most innovative employees. There are plenty of reasons: they cannot find a way to detect those enterprising employees, the employees do not have the confidence to share their innovation with their employer, there is no structure to validate an idea, … Why don't more corporates make it possible for their employees to develop their own ideas and ventures within the company, even make them co-owners?”, adds Lode Uytterschaut, CEO of Start it @KBC.
Lode Uytterschaut, CEO Start it @KBC
Lode Uytterschaut, CEO Start it @KBC

A third (35%) of the start-ups that came to pitch their business idea at Start it @KBC left their previous employer to start their own company. More than half of them (53%) always wanted to start their own business, but saw a larger organisation as a good learning experience. 7% of the start-ups indicate that they were forced due to Corona to find other sources of income, but made a virtue of necessity to realise their dream and set up a start-up.

65% of start-ups focus 100% on their start-up and make it their main profession. 15% run their start-up as a secondary activity.

First wave of start-ups of 2021

Overview start-ups Start it @KBC.

  • 64 start-ups were admitted.
  • Of the new group of start-ups, 45.4% have been working on their start-up for one to twelve months, 27.1% have been working on their start-up for a year, 13% have been working on their start-up for two years and 9% have been working on their start-up for three years or longer.
  • The admitted start-ups are mostly active in digital services (50%), Agro&Food (17%) and the health sector (13%).

Start it @KBC and its strategic partners Accenture and KBC, are joining forces once again in the coming year to help start-ups scale up their business through an intensive acceleration programme. The accelerator uses an approach focused on the founders themselves, the market validation of the product, the generation of revenue and the establishment of a sustainable business. In the Start it Academy, the start-ups are coached in sales and marketing, customer orientation, product and service development, leadership and finance. The dedication and enthusiasm of the start-ups is all that is expected in return.

The next pitch wave of Start it @KBC will take place in October 2021. Start-ups can apply again soon via


Press Contact

Maxene Willems
Maxene Willems Press Relations Start it @KBC
Saar Dietvorst
Saar Dietvorst Press Relations Start it @KBC
About Start it @KBC

Start it @KBC is Belgium's largest accelerator and supports and promotes entrepreneurs with an innovative idea and scalable business model. The international Start it @KBC community consists of a network of more than 830 startups and scale-ups that share their experiences and expertise.

Start it @KBC was founded in 2014. The accelerator is founder-centric and offers their program completely free of charge. Start it @KBC does not take shares in the startups and only imposes one condition: the joint pursuit of maximum economic and social impact, diversity and sustainability.

The Belgian hubs of Start it @KBC are located in Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, Hasselt, Kortrijk and Leuven. In addition, Start it @KBC has international offices in Budapest, Gyor and Prague and pied-à-terres in New York, San Francisco and London. Since 2017, Start it @KBC is a member of the exclusive Global Accelerator Network (GAN), which offers the startups additional expansion and sales opportunities abroad, as well as a wealth of benefits from technology partners worldwide.

Start it @KBC has strategic partnerships with large companies to better support startups. Today, strategic partners of Start it @KBC are Accenture and KBC. Since 2019, Start it X also immerses intrapreneurs of corporate companies in the Start it @KBC network.  

Startups who want to participate in the one-year Start it @KBC acceleration program and wish to make free use of mentoring, network, workshops and co-working spaces, can apply throughout the year via the website:

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