The motivation for this blogpost stems from the participation of more than 150 students in the previous edition of Hack Belgium. They came from various of Belgium’s’ knowledge institutes (VUB, UGent, UCL, KU Leuven, Antwerp Management School and many more), with mindsets ranging from sheer curiosity to greed for studypoints/slight obedience. Irrespectively, we genuinely enjoyed their presence.
This instigated a twofold curiosity. What can a university (college) student take away from an event like Hack Belgium? And how do universities support student entrepreneurship these days? To satisfy my curiosity, I invited Kyra and Alexis for an interview, both entitled and eager to answer these questions.
Academic jumping boards
Alexis is Student Entrepreneur Officer at VUB. He explains that universities across the country are increasingly investing in initiatives that support student entrepreneurship in various forms. The rise of structures such as student start-, fab- and venture labs almost leads to a mushroom growth comparison. But let’s call it a welcome wave of support, one on which VUB recently started surfing.
Start.VUB is the first incubator for entrepreneurial students at the VUB, providing coworking space at the Usquare site and offering guidance and support for students who want to take their entrepreneurial ambitions to the next level. “A student incubator is a great initiative” says Alexis, “but we – and many universities with us – should also reflect about how student entrepreneurship can be promoted through the existing curricula, and not only those of students in Management”.
Not only for managers and ‘techies’
That entrepreneurial ambitions among students do not solely prevail within business or engineering faculties, proves VUB master student in Educational Science Kyra Hidding. Together with 99 fellow students, Kyra participated at Hack Belgium 2018 as part of a course in Management and Innovation. Meanwhile, she co-founded Enactus VUB, an organisation that facilitates hands-on social entrepreneurship projects that are managed by VUB students.
“The seed for Enactus VUB was planted at Hack Belgium. We drew valuable lessons from talking to experts and attending workshops, for example on how to use the business model canvas.”, she says. “Before coming to Hack Belgium, ‘entrepreneurship’ to me equalled ‘dry’ and ‘engineery’. But after witnessing how a wide variety of people ingeniously use multiple tools to tackle our society’s challenges, this image changed completely”.
Alexis’ eyes turn sparkly with enthusiasm. “This is exactly the mindset that Start.VUB wants to encourage.”, he says. “In fact, it proves that an event like Hack Belgium could be an ideal ‘pre-incubator’, complementary to ours. One that guides students through a first ideation stage and shows them that – with the right motivation and skill set – anyone can become an entrepreneur.”.
Right on, Alexis!
Check our blogpost about why and how VUB professor Koen De Pryck engaged one hundred of his students to participate in Hack Belgium 2018.