Dirk Paelinck on corporate venturing

Written on
Thomas Smolders
Thomas Smolders

On April 20, Dirk Paelinck, founder of Workero as well as president of the European PropTech Association, will be our guest at our annual networking event full of workshops and inspiration sessions. This year, corporate venturing is the main focus.

In 2017, Dirk Paelinck launched his digital platform Workero, which allows large companies and building owners to manage their workplaces easily. Real estate technology, in other words - no one in Belgium knows more about this sector than Paelinck. Indeed, as founder and president of the European PropTech Association, he heads a European association of more than 3,000 tech companies focusing on real estate technology.

'PropTech is new to many people, but 160 Belgian startups and scaleups are focusing on it. In Europe, the market accounts for 4 billion in investments annually. That is not yet the size of fintech, but it is already as big as MobilityTech. The market will only grow because the real estate sector is huge, and there is still a lot of disruption possible," Paelinck says. 

Corporate venturing

One way scaleups can grow is through corporate venturing, where large companies partner with small innovative newcomers. "At Workero, we guide corporates by scouting startups from around the world for them, among other things. For Procter & Gamble, for example, we went looking for startups working on new sustainable packaging materials.'

Working with a corporate as a startup can have many advantages, Paelinck says. 'A corporate is first and foremost a customer. For such a startup, it is often also a springboard to internationalization. The corporate comes with certain insights and can assist the startup with advice. It can also be an exit strategy, where the corporate takes you over after a while.'

For the corporate, in turn, it's a smart way to attract talent and new insights, because doing everything internally usually doesn't work. 'Many corporates start their own innovation branch, but you can't compare a young entrepreneur of 25 or 30 years old with someone working as a salaried employee in a corporate. As a founder of a startup that is not under a corporate, you have to worry about much less, and you can come up with out-of-the-box ideas easier.'

Think before you act

The fact that a corporation and scaleup differ in how they work can sometimes cause problems, Paelinck says. 'The unwieldy structures are not always adapted to the agile mindset of startups. On the other hand, it is important that even as a startup, you are big enough to keep up with what is expected of you. Corporates must also free up enough manpower; you can't do a collaboration like this between soup and French fries.'

And then there are the questions of intellectual property, which can cause a breaking point. 'Because that's always a point of discussion; you must establish that before you want to work together. It's important to bring together a team of specialists from both sides to determine which pieces of intellectual property belong to whom.'

‍OnApril 20, Scaleup Flanders is organizing a theme day on corporate venturing. Dirk Paelinck will speak about PropTech and how scaleups can collaborate with corporates. You can buy a ticket here.