The birth of Gimv

Gimv emerged at a crucial time for Flanders, at a time when old industries were slowing down and new opportunities needed to be generated. As Dejonckheere says, “Gimv started 33 years ago, when Flanders region realised it needed to invest. In those days, we had the national sectors in Belgium. We had coal, steel, textiles, shipyards, and so on. Of all those splendid companies, maybe just five have survived. At the time, there was a growing interest in working together with universities and with new ventures to create new industries, because people understood that coal mines and steel and shipyards did not have assets for the future.”

“A couple of years later, the organisation was split into parts. The new part of it, which was a tiny little part, was set apart to protect it from the big, traditional industries - industries we know now are of the past. The new part became so successful that out of it came Gimv. It was partly privatised in 1997.”

With the establishment of the organisation, they seized the opportunity to invest in new areas. Dejonckheere says, “Gimv invested in Silicon Valley to learn about technology venture capital, and in Boston to learn about life sciences venture capital. We did the same in Flanders. We invested in Plant Genetic Systems, and Telenet. We created MobiStar. We were able to attract international, often Anglo-Saxon, investors. This meant we had a multiplier effect on our investments, but we could only do that if we were sufficiently international ourselves. So we invested in the best that Boston had to offer, and then invited our co-investors to see what we had in Flanders.”

“This meant for every euro we had, we could invest three or four or five as a syndicate. In fact, Gimv has hardly ever invested alone. Our biggest asset is intangible: it’s our network. The network is like a factory of ideas and experience which we can use.”

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The birth of Gimv

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