In the United States, govtech launches startups such as OpenGov and Quorum. They transform governments, and guide them into the digital age. In Europe, govtech is still a largely undeveloped territory, but Lode Uytterschaut, Founder and CEO of Start it @KBC, is convinced that there is a large market for startups that venture into the domain of the government.
"Rapid technological progress also presents governments, both locally and nationally and internationally, with enormous challenges. But their size and structure often stand in the way of innovation; they are not agile enough to respond to the evolution that society is undergoing around them. Startups can play an important role in supporting the government. Think about CitizenLab here, a startup from one of the very first Start it @KBC pitch waves, which already helps dozens of cities and municipalities to increase the involvement of their citizens through digital channels."
Following London and Boston
Start it @KBC wants to make Belgium the mecca for govtech. "London is known worldwide for fintech and mediatech, Israel for hardware, Boston for medtech. Belgium has everything it takes to become the place to be for govtech", emphasizes Anna Thomlinson, Managing Director Start it @KBC. "The market for govtech startups is usually limited to national and local authorities. In Belgium, their market is much larger: we are also the home to the majority of the European institutions and of NATO. The govtech startups see the number of opportunities in Belgium increase significantly. (laughs) And we do not have one, but six governments."
Federal Minister for Digital Agenda Alexander De Croo: "Government cannot and we do not do everything ourselves. It is only logical that we would look to startups for their ideas and their creativity to support the digital transformation of government. We have been working together with Itsme® since early this year to enable people to login online more securely via a mobile application. But there are many more opportunities to work together. I therefore particularly welcome the initiative of Start it @KBC to bring together innovative govtech startups and governments.”
Start it @KBC's international call for applicants will be disseminated through, among other things, the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), the world's largest network of accelerators of which Start it @KBC is part. GAN has within its membership accelerators from all parts of the world.
"In the meantime, we are working hard on an attractive offer for the govtech startups, and on an environment in which they get maximum growth opportunities," says Anna Thomlinson, Managing Director Start it @KBC. "Naturally, like over 600 other startups who have participated in our programme, they can count on practical support such as office space. But they can also fall back on our network of experts and mentors. We are currently engaged in full discussions with people who are active in and around the government, and can open doors for the govtech startups. After all, govtech also faces a number of very specific challenges, for example startups have to maneuver within very large organizations and they have to deal with exceptionally long procedures. We want to support them as much as possible."
Startups who are interested in applying can already go to www.startit.be and apply through the usual way that all startups apply to the programme. The next deadline is September 18, 2018.