Building Startup Ecosystems with Yonca Braeckman
Digital nomad Yonca Braeckman discusses building startup ecosystems between Lisbon, New York and San Francisco.
- Hometown: Ghent, Belgium
- Born in: 1983
- Lifestyle: Nomadic
- Projects: Founder and CEO at Impact Shakers
- Industry: Business Services
'I was born and raised in Ghent, a beautiful medieval city in Belgium. It's a vibrant university city with a long line up of festivals and a full cultural calendar, but also a historically tolerant multicultural hub.
Five years ago I got offered the opportunity by Karen Boers to help grow the Belgium startup ecosystem at a random meeting and I didn’t hesitate one minute. I quit my job and started my rollercoaster startup life. We helped many companies with their first steps abroad, organized the largest startup event in Belgium, connected the different players and strengthened the European ecosystem together with a bunch of other European hubs like Beta-i in Lisbon.
Then I was asked to build a new startup hub in my hometown by private investors who were renovating an old factory building on the edge of town. I got to pour all of my ideas on uniting different actors on certain societal challenges in the concept and strategy of Watt Factory. It became a smart city hub with an in-house accelerator program.
After the launch of Watt Factory, I did not only feel ready to launch my own venture, but also to leave my safe and cozy nest, Ghent. Combining my love for startups with my passion for social impact: Impact Shakers was born.
I moved to Lisbon for a couple of months, a year to New York and the next one to San Francisco. Living by the Mary Schmich quote, “Live in New York once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.”'
'Impact Shakers is a venture studio, we invest in and develop impact ventures together with founders who beat the odds before and will do so again in the future. Different from an incubator or accelerator, a venture studio invests its people into companies and helps to build and grow companies from within. Here's an article on our learnings with Impact Shakers (also on remote work).
I have been building Impact Shakers from wherever I am at that moment in the world. Deciding where I want to live first, and making sure it does make sense for building the company as well.
Our first two companies are a biotech company, Tiamat-Sciences, which is developing plant-based proteins for the pharmaceutical industry and a community and academy for female entrepreneurs, the GUILD, helping female entrepreneurs all over the world to connect, learn and grow together.
I’m currently also busy curating our next TEDxGhent event next May. Any undiscovered ideas worth spreading can be sent my way!'
What's next for me?
'We are leading the global expansion of the Silicon Valley startup the GUILD into Europe and Asia. The coming months I'll be traveling and launching in different Southeast Asian hubs, including Ho Chi Minh City, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok. Connecting women on a local and global level, opening our virtual GUILD Academy to women all over the world. We’re looking for ambassadors to help us with this expansion and local and global partners which want to support female entrepreneurship. Applications for our GUILD Academy are open until Dec 20th!'
My Outsite Experience
'I stayed in the Outsite Lisbon space for the first when it just opened. It is such a beautiful and well-located home/office. We got to organise our first Impact Shakers Meetup in Lisbon in the coworking space after hours and we created some very lovely memories that night.
When I returned, the place was even more lively, a coffee shop opened in the coworking space offering great Portuguese ‘café’.'
'Talking through the expectations on physical coworking with my co-founder early on, the only left for us to figure out was how and when to communicate, but since we agreed upon the principle upfront, it didn’t cause any issues between us. This doesn’t mean we got into a good rhythm immediately, it took us several months to establish a very smooth working relationship but was absolutely worth it.'
What's got me excited
'I’m very excited about the Zebras United movement. They are leading the charge for a more ethical and inclusive movement to counter existing startup and venture capital culture. They believe creating an alternative to this status quo is a moral imperative.
Happonomy also has me excited. Our goal is to drive the quality of life of people forward. We do so by creating awareness about those things that matter in life and the role of our economy to achieve this. We drive knowledge and build solutions so work, money and technology can support our life quality instead of detracting from it.'
Get In Touch
'Any aspiring or early stage entrepreneurs can apply for the GUILD Academy before Dec 20th 2019!