yoboo, Japanese for prevention, is an ambitious Antwerp startup that improves the lifestyle of the Belgian population. By making lifestyle insightful via the yoboo questionnaire and innovative tests on a dashboard, the individual is able and intrinsically motivated to step by step track his progress himself or herself. Today they rolled out this story at 28 pharmacies across Flanders and 5 companies. Olivier Kleynjans, one of yoboo’s four co-founders, met EY’s Subsidia team through EY The Factory. Koen Illeghems was part of the team of subsidy experts within EY who developed a successful application for an R&D innovation project. EY The Factory spoke with Olivier and Koen about the approach, the process and the impact of such a grant on the startup.
“When we start a grant application, we always start from the client’s needs,” starts Koen. “Is it an established company or a startup? What sector are they active in, what activities do they want to develop? In a second phase, we match those needs with the subsidy instruments that exist. We then go deeper into the company’s activities and look for similarities with what the governments want to invest in.”
Grants as part of a bigger picture in the funding mix
So is that approach for a startup so different from a grant application for a large corporation? “Surely the approach for yoboo, a startup, is very different compared to a large corporation. For a startup/scale-up, there is often a big focus on funding. Grants are then an important piece of the puzzle. A corporate will look more specifically at, say, their R&D department. Research and development is often expensive so it is opportune for a CFO to apply for grants for this and thus invest in more resources for innovation,” Koen continues.
EY Subsidia is a regular partner for both startups and established companies in writing and guiding grant applications. The team has built up years of experience and expertise, something that is not evident for companies to do themselves. Unburdening the entrepreneur is the goal here. “The legislation, regulations, and priorities of a government are always changing, and it is not easy as a company to be up to date with the latest changes in the subsidy landscape,” Koen clarifies. “We help companies respond to that switch in priorities. Of course, we also work out the entire support application for them: we make the translation between the company’s activities or ambitions and the priorities for which governments offer support measures.”
A partner who takes care of your worries
“EY was certainly not the first company we wanted to contact for support,” says Olivier. “We ended up at EY The Factory via via, because they have had a very strong presence in the startup ecosystem in recent years. EY itself is such a big company, but the contact with EY The Factory was very positive. The grant landscape is something very complex. We knew there were opportunities to win grants, but we had no idea how to get started on this and which grants we would be eligible for.”
After several positive conversations, Olivier and his team were confident that partnering with EY Subsidia would provide the right credibility and support in raising capital. “So although EY was in last place of firms we would contact for this purpose, it was a pleasant surprise to see how quickly the EY Subsidia team emerged as the best partner,” Olivier laughs.
A strategic exercise in search of focus
yoboo applied for a subsidy for their R&D project. They are developing a health platform that involves machine learning and data analysis. “We had so many ideas, but initially we lacked focus on where we should be working on in the coming year,” admits Olivier. “The partnership with EY Subsidia has really helped us strengthen that focus. There were certain challenges that we were able to clarify thanks to the dossier. That was not the reason for the application initially, but the Subsidia team asked very targeted questions that were needed to optimize our R&D roadmap. That forced us to think about where we wanted to go with yoboo,” says Olivier.
“We often hear that we can ask quite confrontational questions,” laughs Koen. “Putting your startup’s roadmap on effectively paper is very challenging, but much needed if you want to be successful in raising funding, as well as grants. What are the activities you are going to launch over the next 12, 18, 24 months? It’s not easy to set concrete goals on this, and we try to be a sounding board for the client here. The positive thing is that the result of this thinking exercise can be used more widely than just in a grant application. Investors or banks will also ask about your roadmap. They will ask just the same confrontational questions, so it is important to be prepared for this.”
“In addition, the EY Subsidia team consists of very diverse profiles,” Koen explains. “That was also such a great added value for us,” intervenes Olivier. “Based on the different work packages, we collaborated with other people on the team. Data analysis, go-to-market, the health tech sector … these are different aspects that were covered in the dossier and required expertise. The fact that the Subsidia team can bring the right expertise to the table ad hoc really made the difference for us compared to other parties!”
Investment and ambitions
yoboo successfully completed the subsidy round and raised over €250,000 for the further development of their platform. Olivier proudly talks about their ambitions: “The impact of the grant is huge on our startup. On the one hand, the grant gives us a structure with milestones of what we want to develop in the coming months. On the other hand, the grant has allowed us to enter a partnership with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. That in turn gives a huge boost in credibility around science. Getting that grant has also caused a mindset shift among our potential investors. Although we were already in talks with them before, the grant has accelerated the talks, which then led to a successful investment round. We can now finally tell you that we have completed our pre-seed round and raised an additional €575,000 in addition to the grant. With this we have sufficient funds to give ‘full throttle’ in the coming months!”
As a grants expert, you stand alongside entrepreneurs as a business advisor. Koen explains what drives him in his job: “We unburden entrepreneurs so they can focus on their business, but we also advise them in the further growth of their company. It always gives me great pleasure to see the impact a grant has on our clients. For example, there are startups that I have guided from attic room to office building. That gives me enormous satisfaction!”
The plans with the yoboo platform are ambitious. With all the steps they can take now, they want to exponentially expand the use of their platform by pharmacies. “The pharmacist is a confidant for people, and we are ready to support them with our expertise around lifestyle. We have big ambitions with yoboo, but we are moving forward step by step. We certainly still face many challenges, in which we will certainly continue to use EY’s expertise!” concludes Olivier.
Do you have questions about possible government support for your company? Would you like advice on possible funding sources for your startup?
Contact Koen Illeghems, EY Subsidia https://www.ey.com/en_be/tax/subsidies–grants-and-incentives