Content provided by Life Project

What is Failing Forward?

Failing Forward is an inspirational keynote conference, where seasoned entrepreneurs will give an honest testimonial about the hardships they encountered on their way to success and the lessons learned that got them through, breaking through the stigma associated with failure in Belgium and Europe.


Speakers 2015

- Paul Carroll (journalist, author, thought leader)

Paul Carroll has operated at the highest levels of journalism for more than 35 years and has spent the past two decades as a thought leader, focusing on innovation and, in particular, the lessons to be learned from failure. 

After graduating from college at age 19, Paul spent 17 years as an editor and reporter at the Wall Street Journal in the U.S., Europe and Mexico, mostly covering the world of information technology. The paper nominated him twice for the Pulitzer Prize. He was a finalist once. While at the Journal, he wrote Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM, a critically acclaimed best-seller published in 1993.

Paul left the Journal in 1996 to become a partner with Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, where he founded and edited Context magazine, a pioneering publication about how information technology could drive business strategy. The magazine was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, the industry's highest honor. 

After leaving Diamond, Paul worked with 20 researchers on a two-year investigation into 2,500 business failures. Paul and his coauthor, Chunka Mui, used the research as the basis for their 2008 book, Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years. The book drew rave reviews from the Wall Street Journal and many other publications.  Based on the research, Paul and Chunka founded the Devil’s Advocate Group to stress test strategies. They have done consulting work at numerous organizations. 

Building on the research for Billion Dollar Lessons, Paul and Chunka recently published The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-ups. The reviews have been exceptional: Jack Greenberg, the chairman of Western Union and former CEO of McDonald's, said: "I'm giving this book to every director I work with." 

Paul has written two other books and has two more in the works. He has also spent the past two years as the CEO of Insurance Thought Leadership, a start-up publishing platform that curates articles from leading thinkers about innovation in insurance and that is pushing the industry in important new directions in the face of unprecedented disruption.

- Karen Boers (Managing Director of

Co-founder and Managing Director of with the goal of uniting hundreds of startups with all the incubators, accelerators, investors and public actors in the local ecosystem, operates as a one-stop-shop and matchmaker. The impact of the Belgian Startup Manifesto ( underlines the importance and potential of providing entrepreneurs with a single and strong voice towards policy makers and key decision makers. 

Bringing that experience to the European level through the European Startup Network is her next challenge. Aiming to help build and harmonise the European startup ecosystem, provide data-driven insights and research on startups and startup ecosystems across Europe and support the international got-to-market of European startups.
As education, blended learning and talent development is another passion of hers - with 5 young kids growing up in the house it's obvious why - new projects in that area will develop soon too.
With a mixed background in marketing and HR strategy, she is and has been heavily involved in multi-stakeholder projects and programs, including the Net Futures conferences, the Digital Single Market and the development of the Flemish innovation center iMinds in its first 8 years.

- Arthur Tolsma 

In 2007 Arthur Tolsma co-founded Greetinq BV, where he experienced the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. He went almost bankrupt and felt like a failure, but managed to sell his company in 2012, and is now successful in sharing his insights and inspiration. Arthur Tolsma is specialized in Innovation & Entrepreneurship with his roles as: 

•    Speaker at local and international conferences (including a TED talk at TEDxEde)
•    Expert Evaluator at the European Commission 
•    Writer of 'Startups & Downs’ (published January 2014, ISBN 9789081854740) 
•    Lecturer on Innovative Entrepreneurship at several universities 
•    Coach of hightech startups, related to several incubator programs

- Cedric Giorgi (Head of Startup & Developer Relations for SIGFOX)

Cédric Giorgi is the Head of Startup & Developer Relations for SIGFOX, who’s building a global LPWAN wireless network for the Internet of Things. The company’s network complements existing high-bandwidth systems by providing economical, energy efficient two-way transmission of small quantities of data.  Before that, Cédric was the co-founder of Cookening, founded in 2012 and sold in 2015, a global marketplace that brings locals with foreigners during home cooked meals. Cédric worked at several startups during his early years of his carreer: he was Europe Director for Seesmic and Marketing Director for Goojet/ 

He has been highly involved in the startup ecosystem since 2009, as Co-Editor and Conference Organizer for Techcrunch France in 2010/2011, curator and host of LeWeb Brands Track between 2011 and 2014. He's since 2014 co-founder of NYC-based event La French Touch Conference. Cédric is a regular speaker at tech or business events, meetups and universities. He's the founder and animator of private community of 1500+ French startupers. 

Cédric has an engineer degree in computer science from INSA Toulouse and a post graduate in marketing and communication from Toulouse Business School, speaks fluently in French, English and German. He’s married and a dad of the wonderful Lina.

- Marc Herremans (Belgian triathlete, motivational speaker founder of the “To Walk Again” Foundation)

Participated of Ironman Australia and Hawaii finishing in 4th and 6th place respectively in 2001. On January 2002 he suffered a tragical accident that forced him to live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Remarkably, only 3 months after the accident, Marc refused to be discouraged and began training for the Ironman Championship as a wheelchair athlete. In 2002, he was elected by the Belgian press as sports personality of the year. He earned the nickname "Mad Max" due to his determination and unwillingness to give up. Marc participated in the Ironman of Hawaii in 2002, only 10 months after his accident. He participated again every following year. In 2006, he finally succeeded in his goal: he was the first wheelchair athlete to arrive at the finish of the Ironman of Hawaii. 

- Cheryl D Miller (founder of Digital Leadership Institute)

Cheryl Miller is Executive Director of the Digital Leadership Institute (2014), a Brussels-based, international NGO whose mission is to bridge the gender gap and digital divide worldwide. Cheryl is also CEO of Zen Digital Europe (2003), a recognized leader in digital transformation strategy and bespoke organizational change campaigns that engage stakeholders at the highest level and deliver measurable results. She has a twenty-year track record leading international teams in the tech and ICT sector, mainly in business functions and most recently in the public policy arena. Her pioneering work in ESTEAM (entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts & mathematics) is recognized by the United Nations, European Parliament and European Commission, and Cheryl regularly speaks and writes on topics related to education and eskills, innovation, entrepreneurship and the workplace of the future. She also coaches, promotes and invests in early-stage enterprises, particularly in STEM sectors.

- Toon Coppens 

Co-founder and CTO of Massive Media, the social media company behind the successful digital brands and

- Cédric van Branteghem

Belgian top athlete, sprinter, specializes in 400 meters.


Speakers from 2014

- Kim Clijsters (former no 1 tennis player in the world, Cofounder Kim Clijsters Sports & Health Club)

Kim Clijsters is a former professional tennis player who has won multiple Grand Slam titles, including some at the U.S. Open. In 2002, she won the Masters and reached the world No. 1 ranking in 2003, making her the first player to reach the rank without winning a Grand Slam singles title—an honor she would later earn in 2005. She retired in 2007, but made a comeback in August of 2009, when she played Serena Williams. By 2012, Clijsters had become a four-time Grand Slam winner. AS cofounder of the Kim Clijsters Sports & Health Center in Bree, she remains to be a successful tennis mom even after her professional tennis career.


- Steven Martens (CEO of The Royal Belgian Football Association)

Holding a degree in Classical and Ancient studies can lead you anywhere, including leading a profound change management process of the Royal Belgian Football Association, aiming at turning the largest sports organisation in Belgium into a company that leads the way, focuses on its customers and invests in the future both at base (growth) and top level (winning). Before leading the RBFA Steven was active at the Belgian Tennis Federation as the captain of the Fed Cup team and then as the Technical Director. The British Lawn Tennis Association then spotted his talent and made him their Sport Director for 4 years. Steven wants to “improve people’ life and dreams through great sporting experiences”. He holds the final slot of our program, so that we all leave with some more dreams.


- Yves Hanoulle

Yves Hanoulle calls himself a creative collaboration agent. After taken on almost every role in the software development field, Yves is now focussing on coaching teams. He is convinced that communication is the biggest challenge in making teams deliver what their customer are looking for. Yves grows community builders. His personal vendetta is make people celebrate their failures. Every year Yves is celebrating that he burned down his parents’ house in 1991.


- Will Erens (Creative Coach -Managing Director at Puresang)

Will Erens is a key person within the Flemish design world. He helps brands live in a shop by telling fascinating stories. In the last 25 years, has worked on projects from all corners of the world: New York, Barcelona, London and Hasselt. He founded from scratch and managed Creneau International during 13 years, while opening offices in NewYork/Barcelona and London. His latest business venture is Pure-Sang where he creates beautiful, inspirational retail projects and help brands evolve their personalities. He has faced successes and failures that he wants to share with other creative and entrepreneurs.


- Tom Domen (Innovation Manager at Ecover)

Ecover is all about cleaning in a greener way. Design is part of the strategy for Ecover to position the brand and connect with customers. In 2013, Ecover won the prestigious international Reddot design award. Also with there fantastic new project Ocean bottle they won many design prices. The ocean bottle is made with ten percent recycled Ocean Plastic (the remaining plastic is recycled from other sources). Ecover itself washes up liquid out of the ocean to clean up oceans, to raise awareness of Ocean Plastic and to prevent.


- Greet de Keyser (Former America Correspondent VRT)

Greet De Keyser became the face for VRT News in the US. She left a steady job as foreign reporter in Belgium in 2000 to start up VRT’s first permanent office in the US. What was meant to be a one year stint overseas became 15 years and counting. She reported on world news events as the 2000 US election recount, 9/11, the American side of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, terrorism, managed to get an exclusive interview with President George W Bush twice, etc. At age 50 she decided to take a step back from her TV career to explore a new career path in the US. She recently created DK Communications to streamline the PR for her partner’s two restaurants in DC and is working on a book about the lingering story of slavery in and around Washington DC.


- Geert Rottier (Managing Director at Hewlett-Packard)

Geert Rottier currently manages the accounts in the commercial and public sector for Hewlett-Packard and before joining the company he built a 10 year track record in start-up like environments. This experience let him to discover that the passion to help clients, institutions and partners to apply innovation is a key source for business success.


- Benjamin Damien

After a Master in molecular biology, and a PhD done in Germany, Benjamin got more and more frustrated by “fundamental research” and was looking at ways to make scientific discoveries more practical and directly useful to people and the industry. This came to fruition in 2003, when he created (at 29) his first company, BioXpr, offering “bioinformatics“ expertise to the life science industry. After a few years of success and growth, the little spin-off closed in 2010. From there (and after a Master in Management and a MBA), Benjamin became an “interim entrepreneur”, helping to create Spin-offs or manage companies during critical phases, close financial rounds, or perform international business development, mainly in life sciences. Benjamin is also giving lectures about entrepreneurship to science and engineering students at the Universities of Namur and Louvain-La-Neuve. Benjamin is spending his free time travelling, racing cars, arguing on the internet, or continuously (and hopelessly) trying to learn to play the guitar.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 644847