What is VRT Sandbox doing at Media & Culture Fast Forward?

And who will join them? - 01.10

We’re getting closer and closer to Media & Culture Fast Forward. So every week we’re giving you a sneak peek of the line-up. Today we’re talking to Peter De Paepe, head of VRT Sandbox. 

Let’s start at the very beginning: what is VRT Sandbox? 

Peter: VRT Sandbox is VRT’s accelerator. We look for national and international startups to set up collaborations. In doing so, we provide a link between technology and content. Furthermore, we’re part of a comprehensive European network, where knowledge and ideas can be shared.

Do you see Sandbox as VRT’s playground? 

Peter: (laughs) Actually, yes. But certainly a professional playground. We provide straightforward collaborations, without too much administrative fuss. But everything we do, has to actually lead us somewhere. The startups’ work has to fit into VRT’s strategy.

In June you celebrated five years of VRT Sandbox. In what way did you evolve over the years? 

Peter: Five years ago we started this initiative, because we felt a certain necessity in the startup community. For them it was very hard to get into VRT. And when they finally did, finding the right people turned out to be even more difficult. That’s where we come in. We support startups in finding the perfect match

Some three years later, we started an international hub, consisting of 19 (non-)commercial parties all across Europe. These days, as a startup it’s very important to immediately grow on an international scale, simply to survive. The Sandbox Hub not only matches startups with the right parties, but also supports Belgian startups in their international activities. 

Recently, we’ve also included coaching. With Media Motor Europe we’re helping startups with sales, marketing,… We also take a closer look at their organisation and help them to decide whether or not they need more people with a certain profile. 

Finally, in addition to our VRT Sandbox, we now have our own funding: Media Invest Vlaanderen, a joint-venture between VRT and PMV. This allows us to invest in promising scaleups as well. We’ve already done this for Theoplayer’s universal video player and for game developer Cybernetic Walrus

Anyone who was at Media Fast Forward last year, undoubtedly remembers the startup street. About 60 startups presented their work and interacted with visitors. What are your main takeaways from past editions? 

Peter: Last year’s edition was very successful for us for two reasons. The startup street, as you mention, has given many companies the opportunity to connect and to showcase their work. But the thing I’m proud of the most, is the Sandbox Stage. There, we really showed how these startups fit into VRT’s overall strategy. And how crucial they are to stay on top of things in a fast-changing media environment. 

Unfortunately, the startup street won’t be part of this year’s edition. But what can we expect? 

Peter: Media & Culture Fast Forward had to go through a reboot this year and so have we. We’ve thought about this a lot, because whatever we do, we still want to organize something meaningful for both the startups and the interested parties. So we came up with Meet & Greets. We’ll match startups with specific partners at VRT beforehand. They will then have a conversation at the pop-up, while other people can join in online. Join, yes, because you can also ask questions. In doing so, these Meet & Greets are fully hybrid and interactive.

And what about the Sandbox Stage?

Peter: That is in fact still happening this year, but also in a hybrid and interactive way. Magali De Reu will be hosting. You might know her from her online video series called TechMag, in which she talks to Flemish (and sometimes international) entrepreneurs.

Who will she be talking to at Media & Culture Fast Forward?

Peter: The line-up isn’t complete yet, but I can give away two names already. We’re very happy to welcome Dado Van Peteghem en Omar Mohout. The first one is one of VRT Sandbox’s coaches. He recently wrote a book on the power of collaborations called Metasystems – How Trust Can Change the World. In Belgium you can now watch football in a mobile banking app. This type of unusual collaboration is exactly what Dado will be talking about. 

Omar Mohout is someone who follows the startup market from up close. He developed an interesting way to measure trends. Looking at an increase in staff and capital, he predicts how the market will shift in the coming years. I myself am very much looking forward to this talk.

Media & Culture Fast Forward is an inspirational event. But in the case of VRT Sandbox I suppose networking is very important too. How do you see this happening in 2020’s hybrid version? 

Peter: During the Meet & Greets, networking will certainly still be possible. It’ll be more one on one than usual. But to provide an opportunity to talk some more, we’re going to keep the stream running a bit longer. 

This year, I can’t imagine anyone spending four whole days sitting in front of their screens. That’s why my advice is to select some sessions beforehand. And once you’ve seen one of them, you’ll find your way around. 

Looking forward to it! One more question: this year we’re organizing Culture Fast Forward too. What does Sandbox have to offer there?

Peter: A lot! Technology and content – ‘cultural content’ included – depend more and more on each other. Right now, for instance, we’re working together with VRT, some startups and DeBuren, a cultural organization, to come up with new ideas. Technology and content can only make each other stronger. I’m looking forward to welcoming all creatives and makers at our Sandbox Stage too, in real life or online!


Interview by Jacotte Brokken
Analog & Digital Creative
Media & Culture Fast Forward