ILA Governance for Start-ups: Keynote Speech of Sasha Baillie
27 March 2024

Ladies and gentlemen,

I know that after such an intense and informative afternoon of presentations and discussions, you're eager to move on to the more informal and enjoyable part of the day… and there’s a networking dinner awaiting.

So, I won't keep you too long, but I wanted to share a few key messages with you from the point of view of Luxembourg’s innovation agency whose key mission it is to help all types of companies within our ecosystem address the many challenges of the future by engaging in innovative ventures that will render them both competitive and sustainable.

Our role as an innovation agency is to guide them toward the most relevant funding opportunities – national and European, bring them together with the right partners, public or private, raise their awareness about topics that will impact them and our environment and give them the support they need seize the opportunities and avoid the pitfalls.

We do this for large manufacturing companies, for SMEs across many sectors, as well as for start-ups… who are the focus of today’s event.

So when it comes to connecting start-ups to the most relevant funding instruments, incubators, investors and potential clients - for whom they can develop and offer solutions – it is obvious that we work closely with the Luxembourg Business Angel network which has co-organised this event today.

And today through your event, you have brought in another key dimension that is so crucial for start-ups being able to grow and thrive in this challenging environment: good governance.

A term that is absolutely essential for any company or organisation. It’s about accountability, leadership, transparency, and stakeholder management. And these are the core pillars upon which a well-run company must be based.

Yet they are topics not necessarily on the forefront of a founder of a start-up as he or she sets out to build their business. Often the founder is a tech person who has fantastic expertise in that area but not necessarily the skills of an entrepreneur.

So what we do at Luxinnovation when start-ups come to us it to challenge them on their business case, on the entrepreneurial aspects of their project.

And in this context, good governance is a key factor.

So I am thrilled that ILA, HEC and LBAN have come together to organise this conference on Governance for start-ups. And I am grateful that you have invited my colleagues from Luxinnovation and myself to attend.

You have heard Martin Guérin this afternoon tell you about the services we provide to start-ups. Our Fit 4 Start accelerator programme, the different funding regimes that are relevant to start-ups, as well as the StartupLuxembourg platform we launched in order to give Luxembourg start-ups greater visibility towards investors worldwide.

So let me highlight the StartupLuxembourg platform since I’d like to believe it can be useful for you not only as potential investors to find the interesting start-ups within our local ecosystem that you might consider worth investing in.

But it is also a place for you to become aware of the many fascinating start-ups that have started to build an innovative business in Luxembourg, a business that may bring solutions to many of the great challenges we are facing in the world. It’s a place where you can maybe find a start-up you would be inspired to support directly with your expertise and experience.

For instance, you could consider contributing to a start-up by joining the board of directors or the advisory board and thus sharing your knowledge of good governance. This can be a simple pro-bono role. Or else there are models whereby your time devoted can be a sort of investment in kind in the start-ups. Maybe something you could envisage?

There is also another call for action I would like to address to you.

When the Ministry of Economy carried out a study last year with Start-up Genome, a renowned innovation policy advisory and research firm, on the status of Luxembourg’s

ecosystem and benchmarked it with other successful ecosystems, we learnt a few things about the strengths and weaknesses of our start-up ecosystem.

On the good side, it turns out we are well positioned when it comes to public funding instruments and in particular our Fit 4 Start accelerator programme that is geared at early-stage funding for start-ups. But one key factor that was highlighted as key to the success of the most thriving start-up ecosystems in the world appears to be lacking.

Start-up Genome showed us how the most successful start-up ecosystems in the world are those that have very strong connectivity within the ecosystem. People know each other, engage with each other, and support each other. This makes perfect sense since new ideas and successful endeavours emerge from such fruitful and diverse exchanges.

Now I was a bit surprised that Start-up Genome was telling us here in Luxembourg that this is something we lack!

Luxembourg, the place where different cultures and people come together and where it is so much easier to interact with various nationalities than any other place in the world!?! Yet by considering deeper the observation Start-up Genome was making, I understood what exactly they were placing their finger on.

They were referring to real concrete engagement, whereby entrepreneurs share their experience and knowledge with young founders, and devote their time to them without requiring something in return. The relationship is non-transactional.

And I know there are many of you that support start-ups in that manner. It’s a giving and caring approach. It’s what makes an ecosystem truly thrive. And I’d like to thank those of you who are engaged in this manner. You are making a true difference.

Yet we need more of you to become involved in this manner.

And the entrepreneur-in-residence programme that the report recommends we set up in Luxembourg could provide you with the right mechanism to become more directly involved and supportive. The idea is that volunteer experienced entrepreneurs devote some of their time to mentoring start-ups directly. If any of you are interested in joining such a programme, please do reach out to us!

Another way to become engaged is to become a jury member of our Fit 4 Start accelerator programme. Via our StartupLuxembourg website, you can mark your interest in becoming a jury member and thus become part of a pool of experts whom we can draw upon to set up a jury composed of a variety of experts. So please check out our website.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you can tell, I am seizing this opportunity to raise your awareness on how you can concretely support our start-ups and share your experience with them, in particular with a “good governance” dimension in the forefront of our minds.

We need you. Our start-ups need you. Please join us on this journey to bring our start-up ecosystem to a higher level.

Thank you.

Sasha Baillie
CEO Luxinnovation

New ILA Members 2024 - April