House of Entrepreneurship

“Would you drive a car blindfolded?”

Guylaine Bouquet-Hanus has over a decade of experience at the House of Entrepreneurship. Photo: Mike Zenari

Guylaine Bouquet-Hanus has over a decade of experience at the House of Entrepreneurship. Photo: Mike Zenari

We spoke to the House of Entrepreneurship about the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make, as well as the trends and hurdles in today’s startup world.

In a couple of weeks, tens of thousands of entrepreneurs (and their entourages of journalists and investors) will congregate in Lisbon, Portugal. Why? Because it’s Web Summit season.

In that spirit, Delano reached out to Luxembourg’s own hub for startup and new business expertise: the House of Entrepreneurship. Guylaine Bouquet-Hanus, business manager at the HoE, shared her experience of the field in Luxembourg.

Delano: What are new entrepreneurs most likely to forget or overlook? 

Guylaine Bouquet-Hanus: I will reply to that question with another question: would you drive a car blindfolded? Basically, no. Yet, in my experience, most business owners who are starting out tend to focus a lot on marketing actions revolving around the product or service and are putting way less effort on the monitoring of key financial statements.

Only a few of them are fully aware of the statistics related to the financial health of their business. Running a business without collecting and acting upon this information is equivalent to driving a car blindfolded. The financial statements that matter are the cash flow statement, the profit and loss statement, and the balance sheet, all of which should be reviewed regularly with the help of an accountant, mentor or financial advisor.

During the recent pandemic, we have noticed that small business owners are notorious for ignoring these tools, yet many answers to their problems lie within them. 

Which sectors are currently rising in the field of entrepreneurship in Luxembourg?

I will reply to that question from an agnostic angle, considering both traditional and disruptive business models, and based on the requests we have received from nascent entrepreneurs over the past 18 months.

We firstly see an emerging trend in the green economy, with projects encompassing both agricultural and commercial dimensions.

Also, space--more precisely space technologies--is a very popular niche at the moment, appealing to a certain number of foreign startups.

In parallel, we see a continuing interest for the hospitality sector, and especially food establishments.

On top of this, liberal professions--mostly exercised in the form of a sole proprietorship--focusing on the self-development and wellbeing of people are also very popular, the demand for human support being boosted by the rise of the low-touch economy.

Finally, we observe a growing interest for real estate and property management professions in Luxembourg, the real estate market being extremely dynamic but also challenging here.

Which problems have entrepreneurs faced recently?

Here is how to frame the most memorable challenge of the past 18 months: businesses have either managed to define a modified response to covid-19 disruptions, or they have been defined by it.

Certainly, the “build back better” process is now the hot topic within the entrepreneurial community. Some problems have been exacerbated by the crisis. Indeed, the complexity gap implied by the simultaneous globalisation of business, IT revolution and global environmental emergencies has driven “old” operating models into a crisis at all levels of society. 

In March 2020, the House of Entrepreneurship decided to rethink its entire organisation and strategy accordingly. Since then, our staff has been operating a series of measures and programmes focusing on aid schemes and business-model-pivoting. We also help future entrepreneurs reflect on new ventures and opportunities that include principles derived from the low-touch economy.

The House of Entrepreneurship has certainly played an important role during the pandemic, easing access to economic rescue measures, which are mostly aimed at providing essential liquidity and protecting livelihoods in the face of abrupt losses of income. Our attention is now on resilience measures to reduce the likelihood of future similar shocks.

With comprehensive stimulus packages starting to be unveiled around the world, governments, businesses and societies as a whole have both a responsibility and a self-interest not only to look for near-term measures to sustain employment and entrepreneurship, but also to take a step back and reflect on a shift towards more sustainable business practices.