Successful closing VUB BI³ Fund
BI³ Fund, BRUSSELS IMAGINATION, INNOVATION
AND INCUBATION FUND
VUB seed and starters capital fund makes a difference through high-risk investment in spin-offs
Founded in 2002 and closed earlier this year, BI³ Fund invested in 8 spin-offs of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. One of them was Collibra, the first Belgian unicorn. Purpose was to invest in an early stage when other investors were not interested to take the risk. Looking back this was the right strategy.
The company Brussels I³ Fund NV, BI³ Fund for short, was established in 2002 as a risk capital fund with financial contributions from Brustart (a department of finance.brussels), KBC Bank, BNP Fortis Private Equity Belgium, Ethias and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).
Combining its three driving forces - Imagination, Innovation and Incubation - the BI³ Fund wanted to create sufficient space for an innovative VUB policy for valorisation-oriented research and entrepreneurship. The aim of BI³ Fund was to provide seed capital, financial and business know-how to spin-off companies of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in an early high-risk stage. The university fund was successfully closed at the beginning of 2019.
During the investment period, BI³ Fund invested in 8 spin-off companies in total. The initial support of the BI³ Fund helped start the spin-offs and gap the first bridge to external financing amounting to more than € 200 million in total.
Although venture capital in an early stage involves a high risk, the BI³ Fund succeeded to ensure a nice return to the shareholders.
Furthermore, the VUB spin-offs that were supported, and especially Collibra, the first Belgian unicorn, ensured important job creation, with currently over 470 jobs that have been created, a number that is still expansively growing.
Closing event at ICAB, Business & Technology Incubator
To celebrate the successful closing of the BI³ Fund, an event was organised on the 19th of March with all stakeholders. VUB rector Caroline Pauwels welcomed the participants indicating that the university took its societal responsibility by initiating a seed capital fund where other investors did not want to take the risk. Gerard Van Acker, chair of the BI³ Fund, gave us a very interesting overview of the investors landscape back then and nowadays. Stan Christiaens, co-founder and CTO Collibra, gave an inspiring presentation on the starting up of Collibra and the crucial role of the BI³ Fund team.
“BI3 Fund has been a great partner throughout our growth. As the very first investor in Collibra, they believed in our founding team and our vision before anyone else did. That takes courage. They have always been supportive, when things were good and when things were difficult. It's been a great pleasure working with the whole BI3 team as we've scaled Collibra from an idea to a successful, high-growth software company.”
Felix Van de Maele , CEO and co-founder of Collibra, VUB spin-off in data governance - founded in 2008 - first Belgian unicorn
“BI³ Fund, a fund initiated by the VUB, has proven that it is possible to successfully transfer knowledge to the entrepreneurial world, “to be bold in business” a.o. by enabling a “unicorn” to thrive and finally to close with an attractive return for the co-investors.
Spin-offs and start-ups are crucial to realize and reinforce the entrepreneurial spirit in our country.”
Gerard Van Acker, President Board of Directors BI³Fund
Pictures by Thierry Geenen.