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Since begin 2012, we’ve been transferring our life back to Belgium. Over the last 5 years, I’ve been fortunate to live in Amsterdam, Munich, SF and Los Angeles. 4 fascinating and yet completely different cities.

I can say I lost my heart somewhat to LA. Tough city to get in at first, but great to realize your ambitions. When I arrived in LA, ‘something’ was happening, especially in and around the Santa Monica area. I’ve witnessed from nearby the evolution from having some startups, to a movement that wants to become a tech startup hub. LA now wants be a global capital for entertainment, but also for tech, and especially in the intersection of both. Initiatives will continue to grow in the near future, like creating a tech corridor which would create more inflow via universities, more ambitious funding, and hence more ambitious companies.

For some years, I’ve been alternating between LA and Belgium, but that has come to an end. Both on a professional and personal level, it just wasn’t combinable anymore. My little boy will become 5 years old in a couple of weeks, and we wanted 1 school for him. Professionally, most initiatives I’m involved in didn’t generate the traction needed to stay in the US at this moment. We’ve also been testing the waters in Singapore. It looks promising, but all has to be done. I’m a keynote speaker at the global crowdsourcing week in 2013, and this is immediately our target date if we want to achieve and launch something there. More about that later.

So I’m Back in Brussels now. Actually in the very heart of it. It’s a weird place that you sometimes love to hate, but mostly love. Brussels is an intriguing cloud of a city. Brussels center is underestimated as a creative and entrepreneurial center. Mainly because it is unorganized, but that can be arranged. It feels a bit like Santa Monica 5 years back. I don’t know yet if the local government will have the same ambition, so let’s draw a plan and start the talks. Berlin, London, Paris, Barcelona amongst others are all going focussing on talent, ambition and growth, and Brussels could be amongst that list. After all, Brussels is the capital of Europe, and everything is a short flight away.

But I’ll be also spending a lot of time in Limburg. For my foreign friends who are less familiar, Ford is about to close down the factory in this area, where I’m originally born and raised. This means a massive loss of jobs and welfare, so Limburg needs to be re-invented. Every individual has right to a meaningful job, and we need more willpower, work and imagination to create that. There will be initiatives in education, logistics, cleantech, healthcare and probably some other. The goal of the upcoming strategy will probably be double: solve the problems of the closing factory and all impacted people, and create a sustainable socio-economic climate for the future. With some perspective, Limburg is kind of a Silicon Triangle, perfectly placed between the French, German and Dutch speaking community. A mini-Europe as it may. In 2013, I’ll be launching, building and supporting new initiatives over here. Until now it have been mainly week-end work and contributions, but time to step it up. Although it’s not clearly defined yet, this feels like a mission, something that I ‘need to do’.
Besides Brussels and Limburg, fascinating things are happening in Gent and Liège as well. And probably in other centers that I’m just discovering.

Anyway, that’s what it looks like today. It’s a tough climate. It’s a new start. Tomorrow, today is just history. So the future will tell.
But let’s dare to be ambitious. Let’s dare to be proud. Let’s just do it.


Peter Van Rompuy, Belgian parliamentary and son of EU President Herman Van Rompuy, introduced a proposal today to significantly raise the crowdfunding potential in Belgium. This proposal would have quite some impact on the crowdfunding potential in Belgium, and bring us up to level with our surrounding countries such as The Netherlands and the UK.

De Tijd, the leading financial newspaper in Belgium, reports today about that this new proposal. Currently, the limit of the maximum budget to be raised is set at 100.000 EUR per project. For the music projects that we enable via – this is sufficient for most projects. But now that we’re moving into films and TV productions via FilmAngel.TV, higher budgets could quickly be required. Most importantly, we are launching to enable crowdfunding for startups to find their seed equity, and ofcourse there the 100k€ limit is clearly an issue to realize the potential of the startups, and hence the competitive situation of our country related to our surrounding countries that allow seed equity crowdfunding up and over 1 million EUROS.

I’m quite convinced that we can find a balanced proposal that enables the creative economy and the entrepreneurial ecosystem on the one hand, and protect fan investments and rights on the other.

The full article, quoting Senator Peter Van Rompuy, regulator FSMA CEO Jean-Paul Servais and myself here below (in Dutch, from De Tijd).

No need to say we’re in full support!



From: De Tijd
Crowdfunding moet naar 1 miljoen euro

Crowdfunding is een manier om projecten gefinancierd te krijgen door bij een groot publiek kleine bedragen in te zamelen, vaak via het internet. In België financierde de muzikant Tom Dice zo zijn eerste plaatje nadat hij geweigerd was door klassieke platenfirma’s. Zijn fans konden zich inkopen in zijn project en ontvingen maar liefst 260 procent winst per aandeel.

Tom Dice deed daarbij een beroep op SonicAngel. Dat bedrijf werd in mei 2010 opgericht door Bart Becks, ex-CEO van Skynet, en Maurice Engelen, frontman van Praga Kahn, om muzikanten via crowdfunding aan het nodige kapitaal te helpen. Het eerste bedrijf dat in ons land gebruikmaakte van het systeem was Akamusic in 2008.

Maar anders dan in andere landen is er in België geen specifieke regelgeving. Volgens de bestaande wetgeving kan in ons land zonder al te veel rompslomp 100.000 euro worden ingezameld. Als het om een hoger bedrag gaat, wordt het project beschouwd als een financiële instelling die een ‘beroep doet op het openbaar spaarwezen’. In dat geval moet de financiële waakhond FSMA een vergunning afleveren.

Het wetsvoorstel van Peter Van Rompuy moet het mogelijk maken dat zonder vergunningen tot 1 miljoen euro kan worden ingezameld, waardoor meer projecten in aanmerking zouden komen. ‘De kredietcrisis maakt het steeds moeilijker voor projecten voldoende financiering te vinden via de banken. Waarom geven we burgers niet de kans te investeren in initiatieven van hun keuze?’, zegt Peter Van Rompuy. Hij wijst er nog op dat de rente op spaarboekjes historisch laag is, en dat crowdfunding een hogere return op spaargeld kan opleveren. ‘De Belgen hebben maar liefst 225 miljard euro op de bank staan. Crowdfunding maakt het mogelijk een deel van dat kapitaal te investeren in projecten van eigen keuze – en  vaak ook van eigen bodem – die een grotere return kunnen hebben.’

Een goede zaak, vindt Bart Becks. ‘We willen ook films en ontwerpers financieren met crowdfunding. Daarnaast denken we aan zaaikapitaal voor start-ups. Dan heb je een veel hoger budget nodig.

De financiële waakhond FSMA zal volgens beiden wel een oogje in het zeil moeten houden, zodat crowdfunding niet leidt tot oplichting. ‘Er moet een goed evenwicht worden gevonden tussen het aanmoedigen van financiering via crowdfunding en de controle van de aanbieders’, zegt Van Rompuy.

FSMA-topman Jean-Paul Servais liet onlangs zelf weten dat de waakhond zich wil buigen over het populairder wordende crowdfunding.

I’m writing a monthly column for Datanews, one of the leading ICT/NewMedia magazines from Belgium. Only in NL & FR though.
This month it’s about Belgium’s state of entrepreneurship, perfectly in line with the great event of April 19 in Brussels.

NL version: OPINIE Bart Becks – Belgium zero points, maar een hoog BNG-gehalte


FR version: Opinion Bart Becks – Belgium zero point, mais une haute ENB

I recently wrote a couple of opinions for Datanews. And no, I don’t master the art of keeping it succintly yet. Thx Luc & Frederik for the space!

In NL:

Should I stay or Should I go (NL):

Er leeft iets in ons land:


In FR:

Cela bouge dans notre pays:

Should I stay or Should I go:

Yep, we’re pretty happy & proud that MIDEM just selected SonicAngel as one of the global music industry innovators.

Happy for the nomination, proud of our team! Team means: the team working day to day, but certainly all the fans, all the artists and everyone involved. It will allow us to tell our story to the international music scene. Additionally, Tom Dice is also selected for the NRJ music awards that is held during the MIDEM conference – so we’re present twice, with our platform AND our music!

Crowdfunding is becoming a gamechanger in empowering talent across the world, even if I see crowdfunding as a start (and not the end) of creating a new creative ecosystem. More about that later.

For now: thanks. Very grateful. Short video below (don’t mind the quality – but it does tell our story).


Paris: Official Press Release related to MIDEM – the global music conference (28-31 January 2012, Cannes/France)

Midemlab, the international pitching competition for ground-breaking start-ups and app developers across all sectors, today unveils the 30 finalists poised to be the innovators of tomorrow’s music industry. The finalists – chosen by UK digital consulting company Music Ally and French specialist open innovation consultancy, bluenove – will present their projects to a jury of leading international digital experts including potential business partners and leading investment firms.

The finalists will each outline their cutting-edge technical solutions that could offer new opportunities to industry executives, artists and brands to reach and engage with new audiences and generate revenues.

Previous editions have provided a launch pad for some of today’s major technological innovations, such as SoundCloud, The Echo Nest, Songkick and Root Music. The list of finalists for 2012 will herald the next generation of innovation.

Cannes, here we come!


We’re at a point that our company is growing in various directions: multiple platforms and multiple countries. In order to achieve the ambitions of our company, we’ll start hiring some essential key profiles. I’d like to get some feedback on the job descriptions. So every day of the week, I’ll post one. Starting with our need for a CFO. All feedback is welcome ! (and see our other open positions here:


.A CFO for SonicAngel  (incl. our new initiatives FilmAngel &

SonicAngel was created with the vision to create an innovative platforms to find, finance & release a new generation of artists powered by the fans. Central in our approach is a crowdfunding model, which allows fans to invest in the bands. However, we have a relentless focus to create success stories, so we’re also further building platforms based on social media te detect but also to optimize the release of creative work.

After a start in Belgium, we are now extending in various genres, but we’re also rapidly expanding to the US, Germany & France. As a start.
On top of it, we’ve just released FilmAngel.TV. Same concept, different domain.

And there’s much more to come.

In order to achieve our ambitions, we are looking for a CFO.

We believe it’s essential that a CFO can drive the following statements:

1.     “It’s all in the details” - A professional accounting designation is the foundation. A few years ago it was all the rage to have MBAs in the top finance role. These days, an MBA does not begin to cover the accounting, process, and tax knowledge needed to steer a company’s finances.

2.     “Let’s make a deal” - The dream team CFO not only runs the deal process for fundraising, but should also bring deal flow into the company. They should have a track record of originating and closing equity deals, and should have a long list of potential financing sources that are willing to take their call. Also you want someone who can stretch your funding by knowing which expenses to cut without harming your business.

3.     “Time to get organized” - Your CFO should take a leading role in bringing operational excellence into your company. It means installing just the right amount of process, reporting and structure. Not so much that it slows you down, but enough so that you smoothly run and grow the engine.

4.     “What happens in the company stays in the company” – Your CFO should be a trusted advisor to the CEO and other executives. Running a company can be lonely. Your CFO will a key, objective source of advice and counsel as you make the big and the small decisions.

5.     “Jack of all trades” – Able to perform other duties (e.g., human resources, technology, legal, and information technology) as needed. It will be a long time before you have in-house counsel, and you can’t afford an outside law firm for every NDA or contract to sign. So, choose a CFO who is very comfortable with legal documents, as well as finance.

6.     “Been there, done that” - Building a software based company is much different than a manufacturing one, or services. The differences are just as apparent in the financials as they are in technology. You need someone who knows the ropes in your industry. And who wans to excel in it

7.      “I have a dream” - The startup road is guaranteed to be long and hard. Investors look for someone who loves the challenge, looks and sounds like he can weather the storm, will always see the bright side despite adversity, and never gives up.

The job of a startup CFO is very different from one at a “big” company. The latter is much more of a hands-off role focused on investor relations, deal making (financing, M & A), governance, reporting and other back office matters. In stark contrast, the startup CFO is much more hands-on and integrated into the day-to-day of the business.

If you feel ‘Yeah’ while reading above statements, and you’d like to work in Brussels, call me on +32 477 62 65 74 or mail me at



It’s each time quite a stress, because ‘winning’ the opening for a major act is such a great moment for our young bands to show how good they really are, to gain experience and ofcourse to enjoy a full house in a great venue. MNM just announced that Newton will be opening for INXS at DeVooruit in Gent on December 12th.

This is the 5th time in a relatively short time that one of our band is selected to do a major opening.
1. Tom Dice for Taylor Swift @ Vorst (Brussels) & Ahoy (Rotterdam)
2. Barefoot & the Shoes for El Fish @ AB (Brussels)
3. Vienna for Avril Lavigne @ Forrest (Brussels)
4. Jerusalem Syndrome for While Lies @ Lotto Arena (Antwerp)
5. Newton for INXS @ Vooruit (Gent)

continue reading…

About 18 months after our launch, we’re now scaling in a couple of directions:

1. internationally, with currently a main focus on Germany & Switzerland, France & the US. Our homepage is customized depending on the country you surf from, so just go . If you’re a band, best to start at our auditions platform:

2. genres, with currently a main focus on:

3. domains, with currently a main focus on film & tv: FilmAngel.TV


–> Below some supplementary info, such as:
- a link to some international articles explaining our actions
- a photo with Oliver Stone at the same day we announced our FilmAngel.TV project
- the press release and the jury of our classic music initiative for young talent

Let’s go!


- – - – - -


. SonicAngel detects talent based on facebook & twitter:

. SonicAngel = kickstarter + label:
. SonicAngel artist Iris to represent Belgium at Eurovision:







Flanders Festival and SonicAngel join forces on a project to support young, classical talent using a new model continue reading…

Hey all,

today we announced our partnership with Universal Music.

Not only will our physical distribution in Belgium & Luxemburg be handled by the world strongest distributor, but we will also collaborate in order to find new business models and other experiments, and apply our joint expertise into new digital launches to connect with fans. I’m a very strong believer that our model will be the best model for finding, financing and releasing talent – and one of the key elements remains having a strong distribution. That’s exactly what we’ll do together. I’m actually pretty impressed by the complementarity and the will to create innovative models. NL Press Release below.

It’s also very interesting to see that across Europe, 3 streaming services will launch at nearly the same time: spotify, deezer and we7. Unsure what the financial benefits will be, but it’s sure that part of fans are preferring access to ownership. I’ll share our results and tests on streaming regularly in this learning period. But if it is any like what I’ve seen in Scandinavia, it will be pretty impactfull and impressive.



PERSBERICHT: 8.nov.2011
Universal Music & SonicAngel
verenigen de krachten




Universal Music, ’s werelds grootste platenmaatschappij met artiesten als Lady GaGa, U2, Rihanna en Metallica, gaat intensief samenwerken met SonicAngel, het bruisende label van boegbeelden Maurice Engelen en Bart Becks, dat muziek en technologie combineert.

Universal Music zal in België en Luxemburg exclusief de distributie verzorgen van de fysieke album en single releases van SonicAngel,  en krijgt de optie om voor bepaalde projecten de samenwerking uit te breiden naar een licentie. SonicAngel zal zelf haar eigen digitale exploitatie uitbaten en verder uitbouwen. De krachten worden ook op andere vlakken gebundeld. Zo zal er bij Universal Music een beroep gedaan kunnen worden op de expertise van SonicAngel wat digitale marketing betreft, en starten beide labels ook een gemeenschappelijk initiatief rond nieuwe modellen inzake muziekdistributie en –verkoop.

“Sinds de oprichting van SonicAngel in 2010, hebben we deze nieuwe speler op de markt nauwlettend gevolgd. Hun innoverende aanpak rond digitale marketing en sterke virale campagnes, zorgen voor een frisse wind in de muziekwereld, waar er vaak op een wat stereotype manier promotie wordt gevoerd. Naast de know-how van SonicAngel wat het digitale aspect betreft, hebben ze naturlijk ook een sterk artiestenbestand, met voorop Tom Dice, maar ook nieuw talent, zoals mastercab, Vienna, Airis, Barefoot & The Shoes, Mathieu & Guillaume en BAB. Dat de muziekindustrie het moeilijk heeft, dat weet iedereen, maar stilstaan is achteruitgaan en daarom gaan we ook samen met SonicAngel de strijd aan en zoeken naar nieuwe mogelijkheden om muziek op een legale manier aan de man te brengen”, aldus Patrick Busschots (Managing Director – Universal Music Belgium)

“We zijn verheugd met deze samenwerking en zien uit naar de strategische samenwerking op de verschillende domeinen. Universal Music is een onmiskenbare kracht in de muziekbusiness, en  er is een grote complementariteit tussen beide teams. Dat we voor de distributie van onze fysieke producten nu het brede netwerk van Universal Music ter beschikking hebben, is een heel belangrijke stap in de verdere ontwikkeling van ons label. We gaan voor een gezamenlijke toekomstwerking, waarbij experimenten en vernieuwing niet uit de weg zullen gegaan worden”, zo zeggen Bart Becks en Maurice Engelen (Oprichters SonicAngel).

De eerste projecten waarvoor beide labels de krachten zullen bundelen, zijn de album releases van SonicAngel artiesten mastercab en Tom Dice (respectievelijk najaar 2011 en voorjaar 2012), alsook de lokale lancering van nieuw werk van Universal artiesten Rihanna en Rammstein.



Voor meer informatie:
Universal Music Belgium: Dirk Van der Auwera – GSM:0497/52.71.47
SonicAngel: Femke Mussels –– GSM: 0471/73.31.72


Kind of story that makes me happy!

BRUSSEL - Hij is amper 23jaar oud en haalde in San Francisco zomaar even 1,1 miljoen dollar op. De Limburgse internet-ondernemer Davy Kestens krijgt de steun van enkele grote jongens voor zijn bedrijfje Twitspark. En dat voor een zittenblijver en een drop-out.


bravo davy. read also: (more relevant than ever)


Last Monday (Nov 28) I attended (part of) the yearly conference about the future of Classical music.

Besides the fact that I’m a classical music lover, we’re also launching the SonicAngel – Festival van Vlaanderen partnership to enable young classical talent to get discovered, earn a record deal and have huge exposure at 2 major classical music events. I’m quite a fan actually, and even though I took my wife (girlfriend then) to a 4 hour Wagner opera as our first classical music concert, she still joins me often. For the anecdote, I still remember that Wagner evening though:
During the break after 90 minutes…

. She: “I’m glad it’s over, didn’t like it’
. Me: “It’s not over, it’s the first break”
. She: “The first?”
. Me: “Yep, it’s gonna be 2h30 more !”

That said, besides the content and meeting people full of passion, I also heard about the new music note that the government will hopefully approve this week. It unites all music related organisations, in a strong and forward looking plan that will benefit the entire industry. From preserving and promoting access to practicing music, to guiding in management and a lot of incentives on the evolution of distribution and connection (digital) and financial support. It can be the enabler of a strong turnaround of the sector, if all work united. Kudos to Stef Coninx (Chief Muziekcentrum Vlaanderen) & his team for taking the time to explain me the background and potential impact. I was also impressed to hear Philippe de Coene, a parliament member, who came forward to highlight the legislative counters of this reuniting note.

Guess we’ll hear a lot about it. Let’s do all we can to build an industry based on new principles, where the artist, the fan and all other players work together to find and break amazing talent, embrace the connection with the fans, and use technology as a means where it can solve the inefficiency of the sector. Maybe some entrepreneurs will step in again, in an industry that has mainly known downsizing, restructurings and more negative news. And believe me, more companies will go out of business, but I think we’re at a pivotal moment in time during which a new reality is being created.

Let’s go

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