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The Big Score, an event that brings together scaleups and investors, will be streamed live on December 1-3 from the event’s usual home of Ghent, Belgium.

Last year’s edition was a breakthrough event for The Big Score where 75 companies from more than 13 countries and more than 400 investors convened in Ghent.

The city, at the heart of Europe, has a emerged a key hub to scaleups to charge their growth. Ghent has more than 300 startups and has seen a record number of exits. In the last five years more than 80 companies have raised rounds above €1 million.

One of its mainstays is Showpad, the sales and marketing platform that closed a $70 million series D round last year. It was founded in 2011 and has grown and expanded along with the city’s ecosystem.

A newer player like Deliverect, which scooped up over €16 million in a series B this year and took part in last year’s event, is building solutions to better connect restaurants with delivery partners in a time when delivery is proving to be a vital lifeline for many restaurant businesses during lockdown.

As startups scale and raise money, the city’s broader ecosystem has grown with them. Wintercircus, an ornate former animal circus building in the city, is being converted into large new event and office space of 13,000m² and will further support the city’s startup and scaleup ecosystem. It is due to be completed in 2022.

There are more than 70,000 students in the city. Ghent University, which has some 42,000 students, meanwhile has also become a breeding ground for innovative startups. Its TechTransfer programme manages the intellectual property created at the university and pushes companies to spin out from the institution. It has produced 62 spin-out companies to date.

Showpad co-founder Louis Jonckheere said that the city’s startup culture can be traced back to social network Netlog, which grew to over 100 million users and inspired many other companies to form.

“Most of these companies have focused on building B2B SaaS software products and became global leaders in their niche. These generations of companies are now again becoming fertile ground for employees to be inspired, learn, think big and start their own venture one day,” Jonckheere said.

“The Netlog mafia, as those companies are called, not only deliver new great companies but also created a large network of knowledgeable angel investors and advisors that support the new generation of Belgian tech companies.”

Driving investment into high growth companies is key and The Big Score in Ghent aims to help boost deal-making for Belgian companies. While the Covid-19 pandemic means that no one can travel to Ghent for this year’s event, this virtual edition will help keep the deals flowing.

“Ghent has the ambition to become a capital of technology in Europe and we have quite a number of fine assets to achieve this goal,” Ghent deputy mayor Sofie Bracke said.

“A unique mix of talent with 70,000 students each year, great expertise in technology education programs, flourishing startups and scaleups, a few unicorns within the SaaS ecosystem, a vivid and attractive historical city centre and a bustling port,” she said.

“And all of this in the geographic centre of Europe. Of course, we are very delighted to host The Big Score this year. That also boosts our ambition.”

The pandemic has brought many new challenges for companies that are trying to scale and this will influence how investors make deals.

Investors’ mindsets have adjusted, according to a report from Deloitte, one of the partners of the event, but they are still keen to make deals with scaleups that can weather the pandemic and emerge stronger.

Digitisation has accelerated greatly during the pandemic and industries from financial services to supply chain management to manufacturing all present new opportunities.

The Big Score, which is being organised by Startups.be, Scale-Ups.eu and VOKA, is a chance for these scaleups to connect with VCs and large corporate investors that are looking for nimble companies to invest in and collaborate with to address their own challenges.

The three-day event, taking place at MeetDistrict, will bring together startups and investors for talks and pitching sessions. On day one of the event, 25 CIOs and CTOs from super prospect multinationals will present challenges they are facing in certain areas, which will give startups and scaleups an opportunity to prepare a pitch to help with that challenge.

On days two and three, 25 early stage startups from Belgium and 25 scaleups from the Benelux region will pitch to the corporate investors and international VCs, making the case for how their innovations can help.

Early bird tickets remain available for The Big Score with packages for startups, investors and corporates.