5.2 min read

Birdhouse start-ups Funkey and Diacé stress the importance of collaboration

“By involving our customers in our story, we’ve built a strong community.”

Although Funkey and Diacé each focus on their own scope, they do have something in common. Both have an eye for the importance of working together. Funkey tries to increase the involvement of employees with their teambuilding activities – a must in times of coronation. And for Diacé, a webshop for diabetes accessories, the community feeling is extremely important: “We often hear from our customers that they feel alone and misunderstood in society when they talk about diabetes. We want to do something about that.”

Nick Van der Hallen (Diacese)

At the end of 2017, Nick Van der Hallen and Stefanie Van den Broeck, founders of Diacé, discovered that their son Cédric has diabetes. This turned the family’s life completely upside down. Nick: “Until the day of the diagnosis we were not aware of the disease. We were suddenly forced to completely change our lifestyle, because you always have to be careful and think ahead. This gave rise to many questions: how can a young child who plays a lot wear an insulin pump comfortably? And how do you make sure the equipment looks a bit nice?”

The family did not find the answers to these questions in the existing market. “Nowhere in Belgium did we find a webshop with a complete range of diabetes aids. Then we took the plunge and founded Diacé in 2019. With some savings, we purchased the first products and started with our own designs. That resulted in five orders in the first month. We were already very happy with that. But after that it went fast, and we closed the first year with 1600 orders in Flanders and the Netherlands.”

“Our biggest challenge is to let everyone with diabetes know they are not alone.”

Nick Van der Hallen

Besides the fact that the number of orders is increasing, Nick and Stefanie also feel the appreciation of their customers in another way: “We get a lot of nice and positive feedback. Our community is very important to us. Because of our own experience with diabetes, we have a strong connection with our customers and we can fully empathise with each other’s situation. That’s why we involved them in our story from the start, for example in the design and testing of new products. That’s very valuable.”

“We are often told by our clients that they feel alone and misunderstood in society when they talk about diabetes,” Nick continues. “We definitely want to do something about that. Because you don’t have diabetes for a while, but for your whole life. Our biggest challenge is to let everyone with diabetes know that they’re not alone. Our new slogan ‘Together we are one’ is entirely in line with that.”

Six months ago, the founders of Diacé had never heard of Birdhouse, but now the start-up is running at full speed in the accelerator program. “When we signed up we were stuck; we didn’t know how to grow faster. The Birdhouse mentors made us take two steps backwards, then move forward again. This has allowed us to grow enormously in a short period of time. We are now where we otherwise would not have been for another two years!”

Cobus Van Gheluwe (Funkey)

Cobus Van Gheluwe founded Funkey in 2017, the platform for teambuilding activities. At that time he could not have foreseen that online team building would play such a big role for his start-up. Corona firmly digitized the offer, but certainly did not diminish its importance. On the contrary: “Teleworking increases the chance that involvement decreases,” says Cobus. “That is why it is essential that colleagues know each other well. They then help each other more often, show more understanding and thus work together much better. Teambuilding, live or digital, can be very helpful in building that up.”

“It is essential that colleagues know each other well. They then help each other more often, show more understanding and thus work together much better.”

Although the prospects for working in an office are brightening again, Cobus expects digital team building to remain important. “People naturally yearn to see each other again in real life and do something cool together. That is certainly possible with our coronaproof activities. But we also expect that working from home will continue after the pandemic, and that teams will increasingly work together remotely. In those cases digital teambuilding is ideal. They are easy to organise, because you don’t need a location. Moreover, those activities are slightly cheaper.”

Funkey offers over 400 diverse team building activities from over 150 different partners on its website. The platform makes it easy to compare and find the perfect activity quickly. Cobus: “You can compare us to Booking.com, but then for teambuilding. The difference is that we offer personal advice and also organise things like the location, catering and transport.”

“Through the network of our Birdhouse mentors, we can set up pilot projects for structural collaboration with large corporates!”

At the moment Cobus is focusing on Funkey Bizz, the new teambuilding management platform for companies. This allows the complete search and booking process of teambuildings to be coordinated centrally. “In companies with many employees, managing team building is often a challenge. It is not always easy to keep track of who is organizing what and what costs are associated with it. With our new platform, we’re creating order out of that chaos.”

Through the launch of Funkey Bizz and the further expansion of partnerships in the Netherlands, Funkey wants to become the teambuilding reference in the BeNeLux. At Birdhouse, the start-up has already made great strides towards this. “Thanks to the advice of our mentors at Birdhouse, we are currently making many important decisions. Thanks to their network, we can also set up pilot projects for structural cooperation with large corporates!”

The biggest ambition for Funkey? “Within three years we want more than 1 million people a year to have a unique experience with one of our team builds. And one day we want to be on the football jerseys of AA Gent!” (laughs).