“We Want To Develop This Ecosystem And Make It Easier For Startups”

25 July 2022

Startup founders have a new platform to get their voices heard and share knowhow. Ahead of the platform launch on 18 July, chairman of Patrick Kersten explained the project.

Patrick, tell us how did the Luxembourg Startups Association came about?

There is a growing community of startups in Luxembourg, including several generations now of entrepreneurs. And there’s a huge variety of players and initiatives in Luxembourg, but all with their different angles mostly coming from the public sector. And startuppers are not being really represented in existing federations, which are either industrial or commercial, but not really covering all the aspects of what startups can be.

How do you define startup and how many entrepreneurs and startups are we talking about here?

If you look at Wikipedia, it will tell you that it is an innovative or unproven business model. So it’s not a one-man show and it’s meant to become something bigger. There’s been a lot of talk about having 600 startups in Luxembourg. If there’s 600 projects, there’s probably 1,200 or 1,800 founders. And if you add to that all the people that work for these companies – we did this survey, most had between five and 10 employees – that’s already quite a few people.

The founding board surveyed some potential members back in the spring. What were your findings?

If you look at the priorities that they would see for a collective that’s pretty interesting: they mentioned knowledge sharing, business synergies and lobbying. This really brought us to the conclusion that first, there is a need, and second, the people around the table all want to give back something to the ecosystem. So they all say that we’re the ecosystem that Luxembourg has helped them build their business or is currently helping them and they want to give something back to help the community grow further. I think as a collective of founders we can definitely assist some of the public initiatives like Startup Luxembourg, which is meant to promote the startups and help them go international. I think 99% of Luxembourg startups plan to go international because the market here is just too small to grow a big team.

There’s actually many subjects where you can work together on this sharing of knowledge. There’s loads of people who are not running a startup themselves, who are interested in giving input and helping the startups. It could be lawyers, it could be IT people, it could be marketing people. If you look at these incubators when they offer training, it’s not always from startups to startups. There’s a lot of people that want to help and have a positive contribution to the ecosystem. And we think that we can play a pivotal role on top of all of these initiatives from the chamber of commerce, the House of Startups and Luxinnovation, business angels etc.

“Next year we will create an ASBL with articles and governance rules, which then gives them probably the chance to vote on certain board members and candidates.”

Patrick Kersten, Chairman of the Board of

How will you finance the activities of

There’s going to be a fee for the startups to join us which of course is going to be more symbolic for the small ones, and bigger for more fortunate companies. It won’t be enough to execute the programme we want to present. We’re going to seek some support from the ecosystem and people close to the ecosystem. Technoport and LHoFT have supporting partners and we intend to speak to some of them to see if they can assist us so that the board and people working as volunteers for the association can really spend their time on useful things for the ecosystem.

The board is composed of 10 people, with yourself appointed unanimously as chairman for the first year. How diverse is the board currently?

I have some serious experience in the team and diversity in the sense that we tried as much as we can to get gender equality. The average is 15-16% of female founders in startups and we are at 30%, which is a good start. It’s not easy, if you have a limited base of female founders. But we’re very happy to have them on board today. It’s very important for us to be somewhat representative.

Next year we will create an ASBL with articles and governance rules, which then gives them probably the chance to vote on certain board members and candidates. 

What will be the platform’s priorities starting out?

We really want to develop this ecosystem and make it easier for startups. It’s not about complaining or having demands. Although there are certain points which have been dragging on for ages and which definitely are also part of the agenda of our international colleagues, which have also not been solved here.

What we intend to do this year is work very quickly on a toolkit because that’s something which will be of use for the startups. So if people pay a membership they should have something immediately out of it. Something really useful. The first year is going to be a build up where we reach out to the ecosystem, and the players where we listen to what their expectations are. We have done a first survey but we definitely need to do more amongst members. We have the ambition to be really representative, which means to have 25 or 30% of all startups becoming a member. So we’re targeting 150 to 200 members. And, we really want to make sure that it’s useful for them, that they not only appreciate the fact that it does exist, they have some really useful tools and advantages. 

Of course we will need to build our website, our presence, and create some first workshops to help on the networking. We really want to be complimentary, so we’re really going to stay away from things already happening. 

How do you see it evolving over the long term? is meant to be innovative and to grow. We haven’t set out the size. I think we probably don’t need to have 20 guys, but we may end up having a full-time person very quickly.

As a serial entrepreneur with 25+ years of experience working in Luxembourg and Europe, why do you think now is the right time for a platform like this?

In one of the latest speeches I gave, someone asked me to go back the last 20 years. I did a lot of research and actually in 1996 when we first got started, there were 70 million people worldwide, having access to the internet. We’re now at 4 billion, which amazes me. It also amazes me how time flies and how this ecosystem can reinvent itself and come up with new technologies and it never ends. There are all these new generations coming and mastering all news tools: AI, machine learning and blockchain etc. It’s just new territory. I think that’s part of the passion that we all have. For all the founders there is just one possible outcome which is success. Recently, I heard a VC comment about the Luxembourg ecosystem that there’s fewer moonshots in Luxembourg. So it’s really a good ecosystem to invest in because people are stable, they have their feet on the ground, and they really want to have sustainable projects.

Founders are encouraged to attend the official launch of on 18 July at 18:00 at the House of Startups.