Fit 4 Start has in a few short years become Luxembourg’s flagship programme for supporting start-ups. “The programme offers four months of intensive and personalised coaching to start-ups that are developing their first product and aim to find their first paying clients,” explains Programme Manager Laurence Hulin, Advisor – Start-up Support at Luxinnovation.
Participants also receive a grant of €50,000 that needs to be matched with €10,000 of equity. If they graduate successfully from the programme and manage to raise €50,000 of private capital, they will receive another €100,000 from the Ministry of the Economy.
Meeting the needs
The funding is of course appreciated, but Ms Hulin believes that the experience of the international coaches and the exchanges between the participants themselves are even more valuable. The mentoring by the Fit 4 Start jury members and the networking with various organisations that make up the Luxembourg start-up ecosystem are also crucial to help participants move forward. “Our programme mixes a group approach with tailored coaching. We pay attention to the needs of each start-up,” she underlines.
A Fit 4 Start edition is composed of four one-month modules, which each includes two days of coaching session for the whole group together as well as individually for each company. A progress presentation is also given to the programme steering committee that includes experts from Luxinnovation and the Ministry of the Economy as well as experienced entrepreneurs.
This is complemented by additional coaching sessions by external experts that are organised to answer specific needs of the participants. They can cover themes such as digital communication or how to best raise funds, for example.
ICT and healthcare
The first programme editions had only five participating companies each, which made it fairly easy to adapt to the needs of everyone. However, due to the success of the programme, the Ministry of the Economy and Luxinnovation decided to double the number of places from five to ten for the spring 2018 edition. A further extension will take place in the autumn of 2018 when, in addition to ten ICT start-ups, the programme will also offer five places to start-ups specialising in health technologies.
“The new health technologies vertical will require dedicated coaching teams and jury members with specific profiles,” says Ms Hulin. “We also plan to organise separate external coaching sessions on the challenges that they are facing, such as the complex regulations related to healthcare. Our ambition is to keep the programme ‘lean’ and flexible so that we can continue to respond to individual needs on a short notice.”
An international experience
Fit 4 Start attracts interest from far beyond Luxembourg’s borders. Over 160 start-ups from 17 different countries competed for a place in the first programme edition of 2018, and 7 of the 10 participating companies originate from outside the country.
“The international participants who have decided to create their company here tell us that Luxembourg offers very intensive and professional support to start-ups,” says Ms Hulin. “The varied geographical origin of the start-ups, and the fact that the coaches come from several different countries, give participants access to international networks and help them open new doors. Altogether, participating in Fit 4 Start is a great international experience.”