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MolenGeek supports digital entrepreneurs of the future
Molenbeek is blossoming with various initiatives in the wake of the bashing the borough underwent after the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks of late 2015 and early 2016.
One of those initiatives is MolenGeek, a start-up incubator that offers young people a coding school with the aim of training them to be able to create their own businesses in the digital fields, especially web and mobile applications.
MolenGeek recently opened a new co-working space attended by many political movers and shakers including Belgian deputy prime minister Alexander De Croo and outgoing US ambassador Denise Bauer and members of the Brussels government.
"We provide coaching, workshops, also big entrepeneurial events where they can learn the tools of entrepreneurship and we train them in computer science," says MolenGeek co-founder Julie Folon. "MolenGeek is completely free, but to enter you need to sit an interview and as soon as you enter the community you have to give back to the people - so everybody here has to do things to help the others."
Fellow co-founder Ibrahim Ouassari adds: "For us the goal is not to find jobs for the members but for them to start their own companies. We want really to push these people to entrepreneurship."
Ambassador Bauer, who visited MolenGeek shortly before she left office in January, said she was impressed with the group's progress since she first visited a year ago. "Julie and Ibrahimhave put their hearts and souls into it, you can really tell," she says.
"For me, someone who has spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, it's great to see the energy and the innovation, the great ideas coming out of Molenbeek. I think this is just the beginning, there's so much potential."
One of MolenGeek's members, Yahseen, has developed a program that identifies all the defibrillators in Belgium. Charles developed an application called Skillis which connects graduates with companies keen to nurture new talent. And then there is Fikri and his idea, Auto Take Care, a service which picks up your car and gets it serviced on your behalf.
Morad Chahboun, another member of the team, stresses the personal aspects: "We are trying to establish a very strong sense of community here, so everyone is invited to give some help. Definitely we've managed to create a very strong sense of family between all of us and we are very proud of it and I hope we will inspire other spaces in Belgium and elsewhere in the world."
Starting in March, young people between 18 and 25 will be able to participate in MolenGeek's Coding School which has been developed in partnership with Bruxelles Formation, the ULB, Google and Samsung.