Media expert, blogger and start-up guru Damien Van Achter from start-up accelerator NEST’up reveals how Europe can foster better momentum for start-ups at the early stage and why the future of media will be guided by editorial entrepreneurs.
Van Achter is the co-founder of NEST’up, the first start-up incubator programme in the French-speaking part of Belgium.
An expert in social media, blogging and journalism, Van Achter is also professor at the communications institute IHECS in Brussels and in sciences Po Paris. He has also been young adviser to European Commission vice-president responsible for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.
“I think the most critical point for any young start-up is really the kickoff. It’s very difficult for someone to rationalise quitting their job and going for it.”
Van Achter was attending the Digital Agenda Assembly in Dublin this week, as part of Ireland’ s Presidency of the European Union.
Van Achter said there needs to be greater cross-pollination between successful entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs, just like in Silicon Valley.
“But it’s very difficult in Europe and it’s only early days. We don’t all speak the same language, for one thing.”
Van Achter said the model applied by NEST’up is different to most established accelerators in that they don’t charge start-ups or seek equity.
“We know there are other accelerators like Tech Stars doing it differently.”
He said Wallonia has been identified as a creative district and as such NEST’up is leveraging the support to go about supporting start-ups in a different way.
The future of media
Van Achter said the traditional model of media is broken.
“We know that the old model doesn’t work anymore and we have to reinvent it.
“For most journalists, it’s not just work, it’s a passion. And just like with start-ups, if you do it in a good way the money will follow.”
He said more and more journalists will need to act like entrepreneurs when they want to report on something.
He gets his journalism students to spend days on projects and to pitch them to crowdfunding sites, like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
“They have to raise money and their story becomes a platform.
“This is a huge opportunity for those who are daring to take risks for their passion. I personally hate the idea of being ‘at work’, so yeah, let’s play.”