BelCham Gala: 2018 Entrepreneurship Award Winners & 2019 Leadership Team

Lotus Bakeries named “Company of the Year”; Odoo awarded “Most Promising Company” and Viscount Dirk Frimout given a “Lifetime Achievement Award”.

Marianne Amssoms to become President of the Board, succeeding Chris Burggraeve.

Valerie Van den Keybus and Laurence Van den Keybus appointed co-Managing Directors, replacing Managing Director, Bieke Claes.

NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 21, 2018 – An annual tradition, the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce (BelCham) celebrates Belgian-American success stories at its Entrepreneurship Awards Gala. The gala highlights achievements and strengthens the economic and cultural ties between Belgium and the United States.

BelCham Managing Director, Bieke Claes said, “Scalability is a mindset. At BelCham, we are determined to help impart this to the Belgians and Belgian companies so as to better ensure their success in the US. It is thrilling to see ambitious founders and successful businesses come together, to celebrate milestones and pay it forward. This is a true testament to the power of a community.”


Most Promising Company of the Year

BelCham awards scale-ups that have demonstrated strong performance and the potential to become a major flagbearer of Belgian-American entrepreneurship. This year’s finalists were Ontoforce (semantic technologies improving information management), Odoo (a suite of integrated business applications) and Unifly (UTM system for authorities and drone operators). After careful deliberation, the jury designated Odoo as the winner of this prestigious award.

Odoo is the most installed business software in the world, with 4 million users globally, ranging from startups to large enterprises. Odoo offers a suite of open source business apps covering all company needs: from CRM, eCommerce and accounting to project management. With headquarters in Grand- Rosi re, more than 400 employees worldwide and an ecosystem of thousands of developers, Odoo has achieved rapid growth and success due to the speed of evolution in their product.

“We believe business software should cover complex needs without being complicated. Our mission is to provide software that is intuitive, full-featured, tightly integrated, effortless to upgrade, all while running smoothly for every business, every user. It all comes down to making businesses work better and expand faster,” said the developer behind the original software, Odoo’s founder and CEO Fabien Pinckaers.

Company of the Year

The BelCham Board of Directors selected Lotus Bakeries as the 2018 Company of the Year. This award is bestowed upon a Belgian company that stands out as an international beacon of innovation and business success. Lotus Bakeries has turned its original caramelized biscuit “speculoos” (internationally marketed as “Biscoff”) into a major success in the US. In addition, Biscoff cookies are a symbol of international mobility as America’s favorite airline cookie.

CEO of Lotus Bakeries, Jan Boone is honored to receive this recognition for the company his grandfather founded in 1932: “We have been selling Lotus Biscoff in the United States for about 30 years. It has been the largest market for Lotus Biscoff since 2016. We are investing in our own factory in Mebane, North Carolina, and are introducing some of our natural foods products in the US as well. Very proud of these achievements, I am confident in the growth potential of our company and thankful to all who have contributed to our success on the American market.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

Viscount Dirk Frimout, the first Belgian to explore outer space, received the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1992, the daring astronaut circled 143 times around the Earth aboard the American Space Shuttle Atlantis – logging 214 hours in space. Frimout ran American and European scientific experiments on board the Atlantis and returned as a national hero.

“I carried out my dream to fly, and float, in space. It was the result of twenty-five years of preparation and hard work. I hope this award can inspire more young individuals to dream big and leave their mark on the world,” said Frimout.

Frimout holds a PhD in Applied Physics (Ghent University), conducted a postdoctoral research project at the University of Colorado and is the author of more than thirty scientific publications. His work still impacts us today and is particularly relevant given the recent growing intensity of competition in outer space. Frimout is currently chairman of Eurospace Society, a non-profit association which aims to motivate and inspire young people for studies in the STEM disciplines along with promoting space research.

BelCham Leadership Transition

BelCham’s Board of Directors has appointed Marianne Amssoms as its new President. Amssoms is a global Corporate Affairs leader with over twenty years of experience in international organizations, most recently at AB InBev, where until last July, she shaped the global reputation and communications agenda. She has been a BelCham Board member since 2012.

Valerie Van den Keybus and Laurence Van den Keybus will become co-Managing Directors – a dynamic duo with complementary skillsets, a long history with the BelCham organization, and a passion to help define its ambitious next chapter. Laurence is currently Executive Director in San Francisco. Valerie joined the BelCham team in March 2018 as Executive Director in New York and brings a wealth of experience from working for GE in Europe, the UAE and the US. These changes will become effective in January 2019.

Chris Burggraeve, (outgoing) President of the Board, comments, “BelCham was founded in 1919 and celebrated its ninety-ninth operating year in 2018. From a classic government-funded chamber of commerce, BelCham developed into a professional social enterprise, which acts as a bridge for young talent and scale-ups in search of their ‘American Dream.’ Our successors are ready to build on this strong foundation and will define our next phase with ambition, excitement and new-generation thinking.”

Read more: official pictures & press releases (NL, FR, GE) 

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