Brussels accounts for 30% of all of the new start up companies in Belgium, according to Quentin Nerinckx of BNP Paribas Fortis. He was speaking at a recent seminar organised by the bank together with the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium on “Expat Financial Affairs”. There has been a surge in new start ups in Belgium in the last 5 years, and many of these companies have foreign branches in the USA, France and the Netherlands. More than 70% of them operate in the business to business sector, and they tend to be concentrated in the health technology, advertising and manufacturing sectors.
One such successful Brussels start up in the consumer retail sector is “Neveo” which this month has just launched a new version of their application in time for Christmas. Neveo is a service which enables family members to upload their photos and news snippets onto a home page; then every month Neveo prints and sends by surface mail a printed paper monthly newsletter and photo album to all of the members of the family across the world who have been registered to be included in the circulation for their family network. They deliver world-wide for the same price. The cost of the service is €9.99 per month for up to 50 photographs per family, or €14.99 for 100 photos per family.
All the content is transferred by family members to the central network hub which means everyone in the network can use it and contribute to their own family monthly newsletter easily; the monthly fee covers distribution to everyone in the network, which is astonishing value for a family newsletter that is posted internationally to everyone who has their postal addresses registered on the circulation list. It is all inclusive, so all family members in the network can upload photos with a few clicks on the internet or via the application on their mobile ‘phone, and then at the end of each month Neveo compiles, prints and sends to the surface mail letterboxes of everyone in the network that month’s collection of family news.
The Co-Founder of Neveo, Simon Desbarax, explains that he got the concept for the business from the simple observation that many older people feel disconnected from modern digital technology. Today out of the millions of seniors older than 75 years, more than 80% are not connected to digital technology devices; they have no access to computers, tablets or smart phones. So he developed Neveo to help them to keep in touch with the whole family and all of their relatives across countries and generations in a user friendly format that is inclusive and keeps them connected. The principle of the business is that the best present people can give their elders is to stay closer in touch with them. But the service can also benefit those who are bombed out by relatives’ digital photos on Facebook, Instagram and Google+ or who simply want to stay in touch with their extended family across the world, so that they can follow family news of relatives in far off places at their leisure.
For the time being the working language of the website is French, but it is easy to navigate for non-French speakers, and an English version is due to be launched in January 2018. The product makes a great Christmas present for those who want to help the elder generation to reconnect with the whole family, but it also has the potential to revolutionise family communications and to eliminate Christmas cards, and that dreadful institution the “annual circular email” to bring the family up to date once a year on what you have been doing which is often a time when you realise that you have not been in communication with your loved ones for 12 months, and that you have even lost their addresses and ‘phone numbers!
From its first tentative steps Neveo was already printing 50.000 photos per month in October for a client base of 2.000 families; but it is so popular that it will soon pass the barrier of 400 000 photos per month, and is set to enjoy exponential organic growth in the months ahead as its increasing number of expatriate customers and their friends grow the international appeal of the product.