Yesterday, a group of start-up and scale-up leaders joined for lunch to talk with Philippe Muyters, who is responsible for Work and Entrepreneurship as minister of the Flemish Government.
Eric Kenis wrote a summary of the conclusions:
- The war for talent is crucial. The government can help us win that war by introducing more flexibility, e.g. making it easier to hire employees who don't have the Belgian nationality.
- We have underestimated the role of sales and business development. We have excellent universities delivering excellent engineers, but we often forget that we also need people who can sell the products we invent.
- We must eat our own dog food. It's often harder for a local company to sell its products or services in Belgium / Flanders than it is for a foreign company. Personally, I don't worry about that too much. In Dutch, I always say "het grootste land is het buitenland." Translated to English "the biggest country is abroad", the pun gets lost, but it's my opinion that Flemish countries should start developing business abroad sooner rather than later.
- We have a mobility problem. On a bad day, it can take more time to drive from Ghent to Antwerp (about 55 km) than it takes to drive from L.A. to San Diego (about 200 km). In the US people move from one state to another for a new job. In Belgium, people hardly ever move in function of their job.
It's hard to summarize everything that was said. For instance: we also touched the topic of STEM education, although I prefer to add the A of the Arts so that we talk about STEAM rather than STEM. We should have this kind of meetings more often, but also: do something about it!