Interview with Growth Inc.
“Growth is not created by governments or central bankers, but by entrepreneurs.”
With a start-up scene in full swing, Peter De Keyzer and Olivier Van Horenbeeck illustrate perfectly that start-ups are not always initiated by young novice entrepreneurs.
Peter, economist and opinion maker, was in the recent past chief economist of BNP Paribas Fortis and author of the book ‘Growth makes you happy’. His colleague Olivier is a lawyer by training and worked successfully for Anheuser-Busch InBev, BNP Paribas Fortis and his own company.
With Growth Inc., these two progressive optimists, as they like to refer to themselves, want to help companies and authorities with their strategic communication towards the outside world.
‘I strongly believe that both individuals and organisations can still make great progress here in Belgium. Take the story of Uber. Instead of trying to undermine the taxi market head-on, they could’ve positioned themselves as an alternative solution to part of the mobility problem in our country. We would love to help companies with an intelligent way of communicating’, says Peter.
Peter, why did you swap the ‘secure’ existence as chief economist of a reputable bank for the ‘uncertain’ existence of entrepreneurship?
Peter: ‘Over the past 15 years, I’ve made countless presentations to clients, convinced of the fact that it’s not governments or central bankers who create growth but the entrepreneurs themselves. At a certain point, the urge emerged to put my preaching into practice. As chief economist, I acquired a clear overall view of what was happening in the economic and political spheres. But of course, there is also a lot going on towards digital communication and technology’
“It’s precisely on that intersection between communication, politics and technology that we see opportunities for Growth Inc.”
When exactly did you start?
Olivier: ‘We’ve been working on several specific accounts for a few months now, and at the end of September (2016, nvdr.) there will be the official opening event at the WATT tower in Antwerp. Michiel Vos – correspondent for the United States for VRT and NOS, among others – has been invited as a guest speaker. Two days after the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, he’ll join us to talk about the impact of the American presidential elections, which will also have a significant effect on Europe.’
How did you end up in the WATT Tower?
Olivier: ‘We heard that a new creative ‘hub’ would be set up in the former Electrabel Tower. Although we both worked in Brussels, we’re both Antwerp natives. You cannot ignore the fantastic positive vibe that’s currently being fostered here. There are a lot of start-ups, a good ecosystem, a university, the famous Antwerp port, several strong global actors in the business world,… you name it. In addition, the iconic location was very appealing and the flexibility there is a huge advantage.’
Peter: ‘We have no idea how fast we will grow. Therefore, thanks to the concept of Fosbury and Sons and LIFE in the WATT tower, it’s a great comfort knowing we don’t have to worry about the aspect of offices.’
Do you want to conquer the world from Antwerp or are you looking inwards to Belgium only?
Peter: ‘Only the future will tell. We remain open to everything. For now, we’re starting in Flanders and Belgium, but other countries are certainly a possibility. We’ve already been to the United States and Germany, but we will not be actively recruiting there for the time being.’
Olivier: ‘First of all, we want to grow our local activities here in Belgium. That’s why we have also hired two senior communication specialists who will help support our clients.’
“We have no idea how fast we will grow. Therefore, thanks to the concept of Fosbury and Sons and LIFE in the WATT tower, it’s a great comfort knowing we don’t have to worry about the aspect of offices.”
What is your USP compared to the competition?
Peter: ‘Our strong point is the combination of us both. Olivier’s experience in lobbying and public affairs, combined with my background as an opinion maker and chief economist of a financial institution, makes us very multifaceted. Compared to the classic communication agencies, we simply have a lot of know-how. We’ve done most things in our past professional careers. That in itself is quite unique.’
At the start of your journey, where did you encounter the most resistance?
Olivier: ‘There’re always organisations that blindly persevere in their attempts and are not open to trying new methods. But I’ve noticed that if you come up with a positive story, the resistance soon evaporates. We truly believe in long-term vision. Companies appreciate it when you work with them on a structural level with the necessary know-how and empathy for their specific situation.’
In what area do you think you can most make a difference?
Peter: ‘We’re convinced that the government does not have an answer to everything. Take the lack of mobility in Belgium, where the government is not providing the answer, or it would have happened already. In our vision, it will be innovative companies who’ll provide creative solutions: Uber, BMW’s Drive Now, … Belgium is still thinking about mobility in terms of company cars and public transport … People or companies with long-term visions will therefore determine the future market. We want to make it clear to companies that they have to let the world know their solution. Companies and citizens must work together based on their strengths. Helping to shape that story is our goal!’