Jürgen Ingels

Driving force behind FTI SuperNova

“Making the maximum number of connections possible, that’s what it’s all about in Antwerp - and during SuperNova too.”

Jürgen Ingels
With participants from Belgium and abroad, the cream of Belgium’s start-ups and scale-ups, 200 investors (a value of no less than 28 billion euros), many inspiring speakers (including Barack Obama no less) and plenty of networking opportunities for companies (among them the longest bar in the city), FTI SuperNova 2024 was a huge hit. The initiative’s powerhouse and driving force, Jürgen Ingels, gives us a peek behind the scenes and reveals his ambitious plans for the future.

Hi Jürgen, you are sometimes called the biggest hub in the Belgian network of tech start-ups. With your network, you could in all likelihood have chosen any location you wanted for FTI SuperNova. Why did you opt for Antwerp?

“Firstly, I know Antwerp well because I studied here. But more importantly, the city is completely committed to innovation. I have also pitched this festival in other cities and it quickly became a saga of admissions, permits and waiting times. In Antwerp, they immediately talked about solutions, not problems. I really appreciate that entrepreneurial spirit and it fits perfectly with the story ‘m trying to tell.”

You could also head off to Barcelona, London or Berlin.

“Antwerp, and by extension Flanders, is an excellent region to do business in. The quality of life is very high, life is affordable and the city is centrally located in Europe. The ‘Belgian’ culture also plays a role. It is no accident that at FTI SuperNova, you can arrange to meet up with your contacts at the ‘longest bar in the city’. For us Belgians, that’s the best way to network. And international visitors who are here for the first time can immediately sense what to expect when they come here to invest or do business.”

What can they expect?

“Antwerp is completely committed to innovation and it is making it happen by bringing actors together in hubs and ecosystems. The Beacon, for example, which is not just an office building, it’s a real community. As a start-up, you will of course come into contact with other start-ups there, but you will also brush shoulders with larger companies, the city, the port... And the place offers you opportunities to bounce ideas off one another during informal moments like lunch or at the coffee machine. Making the maximum number of connections possible, that’s what it’s all about in Antwerp - and during FTI SuperNova too.”

The second edition of FTI SuperNova was a huge hit. What gives you the most satisfaction?

“Helping Belgian companies to grow, that’s what I do it for. With the most important factor being the entrepreneur’s passion, while never losing sight of the financial picture. Daring to think big is what we have to do. And technology and innovation play a big part in that. It’s no coincidence that space exploration is a big hobby of mine. As the organiser of SPACE - The Human Quest, a travelling exhibition on space exploration, I try to inspire everyone about the boundless possibilities of technology.”

Jürgen Ingels at FTI SuperNova

Is the growth potential of FTI SuperNova equally boundless?

“We are in any case seeking to grow into one of Europe’s biggest tech festivals in future. Specifically, we are aiming for 100,000 participants within two or three editions. At any rate, I was very proud of our line-up this year with top names like Clark Scheffy from IDEO, Alessia Zecchini (world record holder in freediving), and Chris Ume from Metaphysic.ai, world-famous for his deep fake of Tom Cruise. They stand shoulder to shoulder with alumni from Tesla, Apple and NASA who shared inspiring testimonies on human resilience and growth, moonshot ideas and human-centred design.”

The variety and quantity of speakers was indeed striking. Perhaps the most famous of them was former US President Barack Obama. You interviewed him on stage. How did that go?

“It was a special moment for myself, but I hope above all that everyone listened carefully to what he said. It is no coincidence that learning as much as possible from others is one of the three pieces of advice I often give to entrepreneurs. I share Obama’s vision of leadership. It is not about accumulating power or wealth, it is about creating value for others. Long-term goals are more important than quick wins.”

Now we are curious about your other two pieces of advice. What are they?

“Minimise wasted time and focus 100% on what you are doing at that particular moment. And maybe another one to finish with: buy your ticket for SuperNova 2025!”


Jürgen Ingels (1971, Roeselare) is a tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He invests in European technology companies that are growing and serves as a director for several large and small companies such as WDP, Materialise, Ghelamco, Guardsquare, RechargeM.com, ariaDB and Deliverect. He rose to fame as the founder of Clear2Pay, a ground-breaking technology company. He is also the initiator of Startups.be/Scale-ups.eu, an organisation that helps young companies to grow, with which he organised the first edition of the SuperNova technology festival in Antwerp in 2018.

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