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Flanders' ‘madtech’ scene on a European high

Due to the increase in online data, marketing and technology, the ‘madtech’ scene is evolving rapidly. Many start-ups and scale-ups in Belgium and Flanders as region are active in this action-packed sector. Flanders-based Showpad (Ghent) and Sparkcentral (Hasselt) are two of the best known. Omar Mohout, entrepreneurship fellow at the Sirris knowledge center: "Flanders ranks fifth in Europe for the number of investments in madtech and even fourth when it comes to total investment amount." 

City Hall Ghent - Market hall and central square of the old city of Ghent_architects Robbrecht & Daem & Marie-José Van Hee

Playing in the big league

Ghent, the largest city in the province of East Flanders, is a leading force in the European madtech scene and is in no way inferior to large cities such as London, Paris and Berlin in this thriving sector. “Although Brussels, the capital of Belgium and Flanders, has the largest number of madtech start-ups and scale-ups, no less than 69% of the funds raised in this sector goes to Ghent," says Mohout.  

“Thriving local companies such as ShowpadTeamleader, Hello CustomerEyeSee and data pioneer RetailSonar are definitely playing at the European level, and the market is far from saturated.” Showpad founders Pieterjan Bouten and Louis Jonckheere – who raised more than USD 150 million in venture capital – have themselves become investors in competitive agencies like Influo and Cardify

From Flanders to Hollywood

But why stop at Ghent? Other cities in Belgium and Flanders as a region follow its example, as illustrated by this impressive overview of the Belgian madtech cluster: 

  • Leuven-based Prezly is a successful technology company specialized in PR software. 

  • located in Aalst, Spott is a specialist in interactive shopping – earning itself the title of scale-up of the year in 2019 – and on its way to Hollywood, thanks to a fruitful takeover. 

  • Hashting's marketing technology platform operates from Lint (Antwerp), and focuses on customer promotions and contests via SMS or QR code 

  • Limburg-based Ambassify is a marketing consultant agency that creates fan communities around popular brands. 

  • in Brussels, internet startup WooRank and marketing recruiting platform Sortlist are the ones to watch. 

  • Qualifio is a rapid growing software company from Louvain-la-Neuve and the European market leader in software for interactive marketing and data collection. 

  • based in the Hainaut municipality of Enghien, eRowz develops software to analyze secondhand products on search sites

Solid network of growth accelerators

Few industry branches evolve as rapidly as the madtech scene. To responde to the lack of a specialized venture capital fund, various marketing technology networks have come into being, gathering the competences of different companies into their own ecosystem. In Flanders, Duval Union, &Koo, Community Brand Network and Intracto Group are some of the best-known examples.    

Reported by
Trends magazine
3 August 2020

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