Tech, ethics, and the entrepreneurial spirit: A journey from social networks to impactful ventures

Providing advice to aspiring tech entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneur Lorenz Bogaert outlines his journey from founding social media sites to launching a €30 million investor fund.
Tech, ethics, and the entrepreneurial spirit: A journey from social networks to impactful ventures

In my experience within the entrepreneurial industry, it can be easy to make your mark with the right concept and a dedicated motivation to succeed. My entrepreneurial journey began in high school and steadily gained momentum throughout my time at university. In April 2007, my spirited team and I founded Netlog, one of Europe’s pioneering social media networking sites which amassed over 50 million users worldwide. 

However, in the true nature of entrepreneurial business, the success and scale of Facebook and Twitter ultimately championed over Netlog and its many competitors, including Bebo and Myspace. From here, undeterred we built upon our original venture and created Twoo – a social discovery app focused solely on connecting people which attracted over 200 million users, before we merged this company with other Match Group properties. 

From these successes and failures, my inbuilt entrepreneurial compass guided me towards launching a series of companies, including Rydoo (a leading expense management platform), Delta (a cryptocurrency portfolio manager), and Realo (a property data platform). In recent years, I have further diversified my portfolio by stepping into the world of investment with Maison Sport as a non-executive director, steering the ship of industry innovation via my studio start-up, StarApps, and launching a €30 million investor fund, Pitchdrive.

This diverse business portfolio has brought me incredible success and invaluable insight into the tech entrepreneurship industry. 

The changing landscape of European entrepreneurship 

The European start-up landscape has truly transformed over the past 20 years. What was once considered a geographical disadvantage, has evolved into a neutral playing field, thanks to thriving start-up hotspots across Europe and the UK. 

The era of exclusively focusing on local or nationwide market penetration is vanishing, with European companies now setting their sights on tackling the global market from the outset. This shift in perspective is palpable, encouraging an environment where innovation and imagination know no boundaries.  

The big trends

The integral nature of the entrepreneurial industry means that it is populated with creative thinkers and dedicated decision-makers. However, there has been a definite shift in mindsets in recent years. The era of what I call ‘the unicorn race’, where financial valuations are solely paramount, has (thankfully) ended. Entrepreneurs are returning to the roots of the industry, focusing on social, cultural and industry impact, rather than the number of zeros written on the balance sheet. This emphasis on meaningful contributions to society has rekindled the innate spirit of entrepreneurship. 

However, as we navigate the unchartered waters of Artificial Intelligence, caution must be exercised to prevent a whole class of aspiring tech entrepreneurs from succumbing to a perpetual AI loop. AI, while offering unprecedented opportunities for problem-solving and advancement, must be handled with care. The primary concern felt by communities, countries, and industries across the world, is ensuring that AI remains a tool for progress, steering clear of any infringements on rights and freedoms. 

Striking this delicate balance between innovation and ethical considerations is imperative to prevent the unintended consequences of technology dominating our lives entirely, and forgoing the incredible work done to design tech for the enrichment of our lives.

Technology — the bridge between industries

The malleable nature of technology is what makes it such a key player on a global scale. When we look at the consumer industry, the integration of technology in its many forms, has completely transformed how we sell and purchase goods. Maison Sport, of which I am an investor, demonstrates this indelible advancement. 

Technology has entirely changed how we plan, book, experience and evaluate travel. The democratisation of travel has become a reality, making it more accessible and affordable for a broader spectrum of customers. Maison Sport is a shining example of how tech can be used to improve the customer experience whilst also benefiting professionals; harnessing the power of AI to empower independent ski instructors to manage workload, while giving the consumer choice.

Advice to aspiring tech entrepreneurs — of all ages

Within this era of transformative technology, the sky is the limit. There are endless unique opportunities for individuals with innovative ideas and entrepreneurial mindsets to create solutions that enhance everyday lives. The spirit of entrepreneurship, particularly within the tech industry, should not be confined to a specific stage in life; it’s a journey that can begin at any age. 

If you’re still a student, embark upon your entrepreneurial adventure now. And if you’re a professional, don’t fall victim to golden cage syndrome – break out and choose creative freedom over salary. 

Lead image: Photo by Alex Lange

Beginning with the initial success of Twoo and Netlog, Lorenz now is co-founder and CEO of StartApps, as well as leading investor and non-executive director of international online ski booking platform, Maison Sport.

Follow the developments in the technology world. What would you like us to deliver to you?
Your subscription registration has been successfully created.