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Belgium: MolenGeek - Silicon Valley reborn in Brussels

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The Belgian commune Molenbeek, with its high number of migrants and record poverty and unemployment rates, has sadly become famous in the aftermaths of November 2015 Paris attacks as the breeding ground for terrorists in Europe. Behind this terrible image, some entrepreneurs, mostly from migrant origin, with the help of local associations, are improving the perception of the population and politicians, as well as stimulating a entrepreneurial environment in the neighbourhood.

Ibrahim Ouassari is one of these actors of change. He has successfully developed a management consultancy business and the online HR platform Crowdfly. Inspired by Silicon Valley's investing model and european tech events such as Startup Week-ends, he brought together young project creators in the It field, as well as some professional coaches to attract investors and create the startup incubator MolenGeek.

The idea is to open doors to not only young people nor those living in Molenbeek but any project relying on new technologies including smartphones, pc’s and tablets. The goal is to both bring external expertise to Molenbeek and bring talents from Molenbeek to Brussels companies: MolenGeek is a springboard for aspiring all entrepreneurs. In fact, there are two times more companies created in the area than in the rest of Brussels: it is a real breeding ground for entrepreneurs.

The principle of the incubator is quite simple: it launches project themes such as mobility, health services and information, etc. and everyone who has an idea can develop and improve it with its team. At the end of the process, the creators present their projects to a jury made of companies, investors, politicians and public institutions which vote for the ones they want to help concretise. The result is 10 startups created so far.

Companies in sectors as varied as banking, energy and technology support the local incubator which has for example partnered with Youtube for an workshop on video storytelling and been covered by the press on several occasions.