I have the pleasure to interview Béatrice the Mahieu, CEO of Co-Station, in Brussles last week for Economía Creativa Podcast series #CreativeLeaders. Below you read the transcript of the interview (or you can listen the podcast on sound cloud > https://soundcloud.com/economiacreativa/antonio-carlos-interviews-beatrice-de-mahieu-co-station-economia-creativa-creativeleaders
Antonio Carlos (AC). Hello everyone and welcome to Economía Creativa podcasts! I am Antonio Carlos Ruiz, founder and director of Economia Creativa. Our mission is to shape the #creativesociety with people, businesses, startups, NGOs and the public sector. You can discover more about as at our website www.economiacreativa.eu
Today we are in #Brussels, at Co.Station with BNP Paribas Fortis.
Co.Station is a workspace and accelerator where tech startups, scaleups, entrepreneurs and companies can meet, connect, create opportunities to grow together. We have the honour to interview Béatrice de Mahieu, CEO of Co.Station.
AC. Hello Béatrice and welcome to EC podcast series #CreativeLeaders! 😊
Béatrice de Mahieu (BM). Hi
AC. Tell us more about the work of Co-Station?
BM. CoStation started 5 years ago, first in Brussels, where you are here now. First started as a coworking space for Fintech scaleups. It is a place where we wanted to putting together young companies active in financial sector. It was initiated by BNP Paribas Fortis, which logically wanted to know what the fintech are doing and getting inspired for banking and financial purposes. So we evolved during these five years to really become a hub where we still have startups, but not only fintech, we have a lot of data, IoT, AI; we have various industries. We facilitate also open innovation programmes between the startups and externals corporates which would like to have collaboration in an open innovation frame. We are not only active in Brussels at the moment; we are also in Ghent, in Antwerp and Charleroi.
It is really the question of how could you work together to help the startup to grow with commercial collaborations with corporates and how you can help the corporates to innovate with the talent and the technology knowledge of startups
AC. Which are the key elements for Co-Station’s success?
BM. We are the result of four corporates together (apart from BNP Paribas Fortis, also Proximus, SD Worx and USG ). We were initiated by BNP Paribas Fortis, but our shareholder is composed by banking partner, Telco and two HR partners. We have four shareholders. So we are the result, let’s say, of an open innovation collaboration between four corporates. What we do at Co-Station is the result that we are ourselves an open innovation from these four corporates who work and support the work of Co-Station. We are also at the cross-road of these corporates, own shareholders and other external clients and the residents that are present at Co-Station. In total, within the four locations, we have 130 startups. These are not starting startups, there are more the matured startups or early scaleups, up to the maximum 15-20 employees, because after that they just move to bigger offices, something more appropriated to their size.
What makes Co-Station quite unique is that we are really the crossroad of those bigger companies who want – not just to do a ‘Startup safari’, or we want to ‘see’ or ‘meet’ startups… it is not the question of seeing or meeting them, it is really the question of how could you work together to help the startup to grow with commercial collaborations with corporates and how you can help the corporates to innovate with the talent and the technology knowledge of startups. That’s really the focus we are doing. And that’s the way in which we help startups to grow.
This is really sometimes a bit of a schizophrenic behavior when we have these two business models and is not so easy to manage them both, but they are both helping the other to succeed
AC. Which challenges have you faced developing projects at Co-Station?
BM. I think the biggest challenge is that we have two business models in a certain way. We have real estate business model; we have, I think, a total of 10.000m2 on the four locations in total. So we have people with ‘real estate knowledge’, so we rent offices. And, on the other size, we have more a consultancy business model, because we facilitate this open innovation programme. This is really sometimes a bit of a schizophrenic behavior when we have these two business models and is not so easy to manage them both, but they are both helping the other to succeed. The fact that we have physical places helps this ecosystem and this open innovation programmes; also to have safe harbor where they can collaborate together. And on the other size, it is interesting for startups to come and have an office at Co-Station because they can be also the ones we scout for the open innovation ecosystem. So it is really on both sides. It is an opportunity but also a, like you say, something difficult.
I think the other thing is that the ‘slowness’ that you often have on corporates, and then you have startups who want to work more rapidly
AC. So the different ways of understanding the business
BM. So we are like the middle man, who facilitates the things between both of them.
Stay humble in asking questions and asking for help. And speak about your project. Because if you do not speak about nobody will know about it and you would not learn also things, how to make it better or differently.
AC. Which advice would you give to a startup to scale up faster/more robust way?
BM. Before I was at Co-Station I was also an entrepreneur for 10 years, and still now. I think going fast is good, but you have to know where you go. You have to have an aim or something, a point where you want to go. This point can change, but don’t make the change every week or every day in a total direction, because then you will get lost yourself. Fast is good but know where you go. And I think also, as I see other entrepreneurs, ask questions, be inspired, let yourself be humble enough to ask also help, and help also towards corporates. Stay humble in asking questions and asking for help. And speak about your project. Because if you do not speak about nobody will know about it and you would not learn also things, how to make it better or differently.
So curious and creative are really two words that enforce one another, so, if you want to be successful within an innovation framework, or to create innovation to the world, to the citizens, to the customers, curiosity is really really needed otherwise you’d not be creative and find any solutions.
AC. To conclude our talk today, as I’ve introduced earlier, Economía Creativa’s mission is to building a ‘creative society’. So, Béatrice, could you describe in a short sentence what means for you a ‘creative society’?
BM. Im very into the creative world. I’m active into innovation, of course. Innovation requires curiosity, so if you are curious you’ll know how to be creative. So curious and creative are really two words that enforce one another, so, if you want to be successful within an innovation framework, or to create innovation to the world, to the citizens, to the customers, curiosity is really really needed otherwise you’d not be creative and find any solutions. For me people who are not curious will have the handicap not to be creative. If you stimulate your creativity you will also stimulate your curiousity, and vice versa. So for me, I will really recommend everyone to stimulate curiosity because this will bring the outcome and you will learn, etc., so it will become an inspiring circle.
AC. Thank you very much, this is wonderful. Thank you for having us here today at Co-Station and for being in our podcast, and thank you very much for listening.
BM. Thank you