As a rule, it is in the run-up to the launch of a project that we are in most urgent need of a helping hand. The preliminary study, preparation and set-up phase effectively call for a significant budget. To fund new business start-ups based on an original idea, Wallonia has come up with a subsidy known as the “Entreprise Feasibility Grant“. To find out more about it, consult the site dedicated to the Enterprise Feasibility Grants. To set up your own company, develop it, (re)capitalise it, gain a foothold in new markets, an entrepreneur will need funding at one time or other in their business’ development. There is no shortage of sources of capital injection funding:
- private or public banks;
- seed capital funds;
- business angels;
- the local or regional Invests;
- regional or (inter)national holdings;
- companies seeking to diversify their activities, venture capital funds.
Over and above these sources of funding, Wallonia provides entrepreneurs with a series of incentives to boost their development: investment aid, employment aid, export aid, etc.
Alongside New-York, London or Paris, Belgium is a financial centre that wields considerable clout in Europe. This explains the presence of a very large number of international banks in the country. Companies can avail themselves of a particularly broad and liquid credit offering, and the investor’s nationality is never an obstacle. Thanks to an efficient network of agencies, a very large number of Belgian or foreign banks are scattered across the territory. More than 121 subsidiaries or branches of the international banks are present in Belgium, including HSBC, ABN Amro, Bank of America, BNP Paribas Fortis, Citibank, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, ING, JP Morgan Chase, State Street Bank, the Bank of New York, UBS, Sumitomo Mitsui… Thanks to Belgium’s international outlook, more than half of banking activities are carried out within the framework of international financial activities. Most Belgian banks also have a very broad international network through subsidiaries or branches strategically located in the world’s major financial markets.
The seed capital funds
A Seed Capital Fund specialises in the funding of companies during their start-up or development phase. This funding (up to a maximum of € 125,000) mainly take 3 forms:
- a minority and temporary stakeholding in the capital (venture capital);
- an unguaranteed loan at a preferential rate;
- a subordinated loan.
Business Angels are active private investors, company directors or managers from the private or public sectors with a great deal of experience in business management and who accept to take the risk of investing amounts of between € 25,000 and € 250,000 in young companies and who wish to share their experience and their entrepreneurial skills by steering the entrepreneur(s) through the rollout of their project. Useful links: The site of the Belgian association of business angels networks (BEBAN) lists the details and links towards the sites of the Belgian Business Angels networks, including the main two Walloon networks: WaBAN and BAMS.
The local or regional Invests
The Invests are public companies whose mission is to support the creation and development of SME that create stable jobs within the territory that they cover (usually at Province level). Wallonia has entrusted the SOWALFIN with the task of coordinating the work of the Invests – provision of venture capital in favour of SME/VSE. The Invests become involved by providing financial aid, mainly through equity funding techniques:
- minority stakes with a buyout undertaking;
- venture loans convertible into shares;
- subordinated loans.
To do so, they have a mixed capital, bringing in Wallonia and private companies. There are currently 9 Invests scattered throughout Walloon territory. Its principle is simple: a capital investment is made by taking on all the risks linked to the project and, in return, the investor is paid a share of the “profit” when the shares in the venture are sold.
The Equity Fund
The Equity Fund is a federal public financial institution that supports and encourages entrepreneurial spirit by pursuing a twofold social and economic aim:
- Facilitates access to bank credit for self-employed entrepreneurs, the liberal professions and small enterprises in their start-up, expansion or transmission phase;
- Fights against unemployment by granting loans to job seekers setting up in business.
It has several strings to its bow:
- Co-financing: a professional credit shared between the bank and the Equity Fund;
- Starteo: earmarked for the self-employed or SME in their start-up phase or in business for no more than 4 years;
- Optimeo: devised for companies in their development phase;
- Micro-finance: this is a micro-credit with a professional support to finance self-employment;
- Launch loan: targeting unemployed job seekers who set up in business;
- Solidarity Loan: concerns people in a precarious situation who develop a self-employed activity;
- Young self-employed programme: reserved to young people under the age of 30 with a business idea. Co-financing of the venture capital: a loan in addition to the contribution of a Business Angel and of the entrepreneur ;
- Business Angel+ : innovative companies that are setting up or developing with the help of a Business Angel.
Public and private holdings
Wallonia is also the seat of public and private holdings that hold financial stakes in local or international companies. They thus also participate in the financing of companies active in Wallonia. Belgium’s best known holding companies are CNP, Ackerman Van Haren, la Floridienne…