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December 08, 2023

More than 80 media start-ups supported thanks to European accelerator led by VRT

VRT actively collaborates with start-ups and scale-ups to boost innovation. This is done via VRT Sandbox, an in-house accelerator that looks for the ideal match between growth companies and VRT. By testing technologies together, VRT can experiment and innovate efficiently. At the same time, Flemish and European start-ups can tailor their products more specifically to the needs of the media sector, and thus also become more successful.   

To do this in a sustainable way, VRT led the European accelerator 'STADIEM'. STADIEM (STArtup Driven Innovation in European Media) is the first pan-European programme that accelerates digital transformation in the European media sector by allowing promising start-ups and media players to innovate together. Selected start-ups get access to coaching, funding and the Future Media Hubs Network. The impact of such a programme cannot be underestimated. During the project, the income of participating start-ups increased on average by 25% and three start-ups have entered into commercial partnerships with VRT. 

Innovative start-ups for a strong European media sector 

Start-ups need to be able to scale up in order to be successful in the long run. An international strategy and access to the market are crucial here. However, the European media sector is fragmented by cultural, legal and linguistic borders and relatively small media players. As a result, start-ups with growth ambitions often focus on the more attractive US and Asian markets, leading to a loss of talent and intellectual property to global competitors. This is where STADIEM makes a difference: its phased accelerator programme allows start-ups to collaborate smoothly with the European media sector. In turn, the participating media companies are exposed to disrupting and emerging technologies. 

“With STADIEM's unique growth program, we were able to provide Flemish start-ups with the opportunity to align their media solutions more effectively with the European media sector, enabling them to expand internationally. Through STADIEM we could for instance introduce the Ghent-based start-up Trensition to the German market, resulting in a collaboration with the German broadcaster SWR. On the flip side, we can also discover impactful start-ups that address our technological needs for VRT” - Mathias Teuwen, Scale-up coordinator STADIEM

As many as 250 start-ups from 26 different European countries applied for the project. 81 of the most promising start-ups were selected to participate in the growth programme. This led to 40 collaborations with 32 media players from 12 European countries. Those collaborations focused on challenges such as disinformation, content creation and AI-driven solutions. 

Accelerating digital transformation, business growth and funding 

STADIEM accelerates digital transformation within European media organisations. Out of the ten start-ups that completed the full programme, nine succeeded to establish a long-term commercial partnership with their media partner. The other start-up entered a partnership with another media partner a few weeks after the programme ended. 

Three startups successfully collaborated with VRT: Norwegian start-up Web64, Dutch start-up Smartocto and Flemish start-up Tinkerlist. These new collaborations enable Radio2 to create local news faster, Sporza to get inisghts based on real-time interactions on their website and VRT NWS to direct live shows with an automated script platform. 

"Before STADIEM, we needed two people to edit short TV news, which took 30 to 45 minutes. With the amazing results we achieved with start-up Television.AI, we only need one editor. This one person got the job done in 15-20 minutes." - Willy Lamm, Project engineer at RBB 

STADIEM accelerates the business development of participating start-ups. On average, STADIEM connected each start-up to thirteen interested media players. The startups' 'ARR' or annual recurring income increased by 25% on average during their participation in STADIEM.  

"Before we entered STADIEM, our planned turnover was 250,000 euros. After our participation in STADIEM and our cooperation with VRT, Roularta and NOZ, we are reaching 500,000 euros, mainly with our newly developed solution. In addition, we recently received another offer of 200,000 euros to triple our expected revenue." - Andrey Esaulov, Founder of BotTalk 

Finally, STADIEM accelerates investments and acquisitions in the start-up ecosystem. A crucial moment for a start-up is achieving an exit through an investor or via acquisition, a milestone that only a few achieve. According to data from the State of European Tech 22 report, an exit in Europe takes seven to eight years on average, with only 1-3% of startups achieving it. STADIEM offers start-ups the chance to present themselves at international events from Helsinki to Milan, giving them a platform to connect with both media players (corporate buyers) and private investors. After three years of STADIEM, four participating start-ups achieved a successful exit, while five other start-ups successfully raised capital in funding rounds. 

A European wide collaboration 

An overview of the STADIEM beneficiaries and their innovative projects can be consulted on the STADIEM website. Thanks to the laudatory feedback from the European Commission and its demonstrated impact for the European media sector, VRT, together with its partners, is exploring a new edition in 2024. In addition, start-ups with innovative ideas and technologies, from AI to virtual productions, can always turn to VRT Sandbox

“STADIEM built the first pan-European accelerator for the media sector by bringing together four leading media accelerators in Europe - VRT Sandbox, NMA.vc from Germany, Media City Bergen from Norway and Storytek from Estonia - and leveraging on the communities of F6S, Martel and EBU. This ensured the synergy and exchange of expertise between the hubs and partners, enabling promising start-ups and solutions to be selected for the programme. Participating start-ups gained direct access to European markets and media companies, as well as support from top experts from all corners of Europe.” - Wim Vanobberghen, Project coordinator of STADIEM

The STADIEM project is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme under Grant Agreement number 957321.