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StartupsVsCovid19, a webinar to answer all questions

The recent launch of the StartupsVsCovid19 call, which will fund 20 projects with up to €150,000 each, has raised many questions within the ecosystem. To clarify these queries, a webinar was organised on Wednesday 22 April 2020.

This third webinar organised by Startup Luxembourg since the beginning of the epidemic, opened with a message from Luxinnovation CEO Sasha Baillie, who reminded the attendees that although the COVID-19 crisis had hit our ecosystem hard, start-ups "have the unique ability to adapt to new situations, reorganise, refocus and turn in new directions  swiftly". She added that the launch of the StartupsVsCovid19 call, which aims to finance up to €150,000 for around twenty projects focused, on combatting the impact of the virus, aims "to support startup projects with an impact on the health, economic and social consequences of the pandemic".

After a short reminder of the State aid packages already available by Frédéric Becker, Advisor for financial technology at the Ministry of the Economy, the speakers then went into details about the call itself. First, a reminder that the three challenges being presented to start-ups concerned health, economic or societal issues.

Jean-Michel Ludwig, Director Business Development at Luxinnovation, mentioned that while StartupsVsCovid19 is a competition organised by the Ministry of Economy and Luxinnovation, 4 partners are also involved in the review and selection of the 20 projects that will be retained. They are Technoport, LHoFT, the House of Startups and the Luxembourg-City Incubator. "Our objective is to have three evaluators per project to enable us to carry out a quality analysis," he said.

Avoid waiting until the last moment

The entire competition process was then reviewed. The first deadline covering the closing of the call for projects is scheduled for 30 April at 5pm. "We strongly recommend that you do not wait until the last moment to submit your applications, as we are expecting a large number and we are not exempt from encountering technical problems," Mr Ludwig said. He added that only completed submissions will be analysed. Receipt of the completed forms will be confirmed by an e-mail following submission.

After this first deadline, one week is planned for remote evaluation by all the organisers and partners.

The three main criteria that will be taken into account are: the relevance of the proposed solution in the fight against the effects of COVID-19 on the economic, health and societal level, the quality of the project implementation, especially from a budgetary point of view, and finally the impact on the ecosystem and the Luxembourg, and even European, society.

Less than 5 years old on 14 July 2020

"We are expecting to receive around 200 applications, maybe more, and we will retain around 30 for the hearings, which will be held from 11 to 14 May", added Mr Ludwig. "The hearings will not be a pitching contest, but rather a 15-minute presentation including many details about the proposal, followed by 15 minutes of questions and answers by the jury.” Some 20 projects will be chosen for funding. The announcement of the selected projects will be made on 14 May.

From a more practical point of view, it was specified that only startups established less than 5 years ago as of 14 July 2020 can submit an application. Foreign companies will only be accepted if they have a legal entity in Luxembourg and a certain proven history, meaning several employees. For startups that are not yet incorporated in Luxembourg, "they will be funded once the incorporation process is finalised and after demonstrating effective operation in Luxembourg".

"The best answers are the shortest"

Finally, Mr Ludwig recalled that the financing that will be given can go up to €150,000. A first payment of 75% will be made after receipt of all the documents justifying eligibility (statutes, shareholder structure, business permit, etc.) and the remaining 25% after submission of the final project report.

The webinar ended with a Q&A session. A recurring question asked by many startups concerned the possibility of adding additional documents or videos to the application to consolidate their applications. Nazir Zubairi, the CEO of LHoFT, who also participated in the webinar, said that "the best answers are the shortest". "We are expecting hundreds of applications (...) so be succinct, really think, practice your answers and write them down before filling in the form to make sure you communicate a strong message and the key information. You don't need a lot of words to convey a good idea," he concluded.

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