Hack Belgium is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker*.
No, it wasn’t the coronavirus that put an end to it (though we suspect we’d have had to cancel anyway). It was something else.
Four years ago we embarked on an ambitious adventure: to create an opportunity for all of Belgium to come together, to innovate together, to share knowledge – and to solve the truly monumental issues that we all face together – from climate change to education, from mobility to healthcare, and from work to food.
We carried out three successful editions – each with a thousand people taking part, dozens of outstanding ideas developed and with masses of knowledge shared and contacts created.
We were gearing out for the fourth – with quite a few changes to the event born out of more experience, a clearer focus, strong partners…
And then a few weeks ago we took a very, very hard decision to bring Hack Belgium to a hard
WAIT, WHY? IT WAS SUCH A GREAT EVENT!
Yes, it was a pretty good event:
We’ve received this question time and time again as we’ve communicated the decision to the people immediately impacted by it.
Long story short: we didn’t manage to get the business model to work.
Despite continued support from several companies (thank you Elia, VDAB, Actiris, De Watergroep, IBM, Proximus, and many others!) and governmental agencies (thank you Innoviris, Digital Wallonia and VLAIO!) the overall number of paying participants -especially corporate employees – never got to the level necessary to make the event viable in the long run.
It was, therefore our duty as responsible entrepreneurs to realistically appraise our situation and to make the tough call to stop the event and to wind up the business.
WHAT HACK BELGIUM ACCOMPLISHED
Hack Belgium leaves behind a rich legacy of creativity, of ingenuity and imagination, of blending technology with entrepreneurship for the common good.
You can find over 150 projects created during the last two editions at https://hackbelgium.be/projects/.
Some of them – like the amazing Yoda City electric motorcycles – are now in production. Others didn’t quite make it, but they still gave the participants an amazing amount of learning, new perspectives, new ideas, and inspiration.
The other side of Hack Belgium’s legacy didn’t even become apparent to us until we’ve started reaching out to people immediately impacted by our decision – partners, participants, and experts.
One of our Experts, An Tanghe, summed it up best:
“Hack Belgium has changed the innovation ecosystem in the country for the better.
The energy and camaraderie of teaming up for taking on big societal challenges were buzzing through the whole country, very tangibly, even for those who weren’t attending. Thousands of people got out of their comfort zones, discovered new ways of thinking and doing, contributing and belonging, and experienced the power of interdisciplinary collaboration.
The Hack Belgium team should be proud – even if the model might not have been viable, the concept itself has been a success in many ways.”
Ironically, the current crisis shows the necessity of initiatives like Hack Belgium.
The open-mindedness to rethink the entire context of an organization, the ability to deal with uncertainty, the audacity to create disruptive innovation and the courage to deploy it are all a necessity in the world in the grip of coronavirus.
These components are critical for creating resilient organizations, and for helping individuals cope with the changes the ever-more-complex, more unpredictable world brings.
Hack Belgium will live on as a smaller, more focused entity (Hack Belgium Labs) – and it will continue helping companies and individuals build resilience to crisis and capacity for innovation.
One of our experiments, Hack Utilities (https://hackutilities.com/) has proven successful in creating new, innovative – and above all immediately applicable – new ideas to solve the issues the Utilities industry is facing.
A second edition is currently in the works, and we’re also developing the concept for Hack Mobility and Hack Healthcare events, all scheduled for the second half of 2020.
We will remain available for crafting extraordinary hackathon experiences on request – like the recent Patient Hackathon carried out in partnership with Pfizer Belux and Esperity.
And, we’re experimenting with bringing our unique brand of hackathons into the digital space – a necessity given the current health crisis but also the growing trend for reduction of business travel.
If you’d like to join one of our public events in Utilities, Mobility or Healthcare space, or if you are aiming to create a hackathon of your own, sign up to our newsletter to keep track of new projects or reach out directly to Leo.
OUR MANY, MANY, MANY THANKS
Over the years it has been our privilege to work on Hack Belgium with – literally – hundreds of amazingly talented, dedicated professionals: team members, partners, and experts.
Hack Belgium was more than a startup for us, the three founders – it was a mission and a labor of love, and we are immensely grateful to everyone who has contributed to it over the years.
We can’t mention everyone here, but we’d love to acknowledge our team members who believed in our mission and who repeatedly went above and beyond what could have been expected of them: Timothee Genot, Tricia Okin, Emma Griffith, Joris Depouilon, Michael Rossi, Kira Van den Ende, Deepak Mehta, Justina Ivanova, Pieter Verlooy, Sofie Pierreux, Margot Régnier, Egle Krauliskaite, Florence Meganck, Paul Eckly, Clélia Twagirayesu and Angeliki Karampourouni.
Special thanks to Olivier Peeters (then at BNP Paribas Fortis) who sealed the deal for our very first sponsorship deal with a handshake, and to Kim Ngan Tran to made good on it; to Yves van Seters and Philippe Vermeire at IBM Belgium, Vincent Hebbelynck (then at Proximus), Tim Goossens at MSD and Evy Ceuleers at Innoviris who saw our vision back in 2016 and moved mountains to support it.
And finally, our thanks to you, dear reader, for having stuck with us through this text – don’t be a stranger, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m blown away by the fact that ideas by ‘normal’ people, drawn up in three days can have an amazing impact on the planet and the people on it.
Sarah Vandewiele, 2019 participant