The accelerator programme is one of the core activities of the European Digital Educations Hub. The teams that participated during last year’s edition are still onboard as alumni and among the mentors for the teams currently participating.
Meet Lieselot Declercq and ICONS
Lieselot Declercq is the founding director of d-teach online school and ICONS, an international community of online schools. Lieselot has over 17 years of experience in various sectors of education. She is an industrial promotor of a PhD research project on synchronous online teaching and a PhD-student on hybrid learning networks in collaboration with Ghent University. Lieselot is a member of the board of directors of Agoria Flanders and has been selected for Belgium’s 40 under 40 and for the Female Edtech Fellowship.
ICONS is an international community of online schools. Their mission is to unite online schools from every corner of the world, ensuring education is not just a privilege but a right - making it inclusive and accessible for children everywhere.
What are you and your team currently working on?
Lieselot Declercq: After the accelerator, we launched the ICONS initiative, where we currently have 13 member schools from around the globe. We’re actively developing the community and we aim to launch a monthly “Digital ICONS Café” which is a space for member schools to connect and showcase their online programmes. We’re also deeply engaged in pedagogical research and approaches related to artificial intelligence (AI) in education and online learning.
“The [accelerator] programme taught me the value of building a robust professional network. The mentors and peers I have met through the programme have become invaluable contacts that have connected us to significant initiatives and projects.” - Lieselot Declercq, founding director of d-teach online school and ICONS
What has happened since the accelerator programme ended in March 2023?
Lieselot Declercq: Many things! Besides the ICONS initiative, we have, for example, organised Senegal’s first edtech (education technology) event to emphasise the critical role of online education and multi-stakeholder collaboration. We’ve also been actively involved in the European Digital Education Hub by presenting in webinars, contributing to digital skills squads, receiving support from the AI squad in education, and sharing best practices.
What was the most powerful lesson you got from the accelerator programme?
Lieselot Declercq: Firstly, the programme taught me the value of building a robust professional network. The mentors and peers I have met through the programme have become invaluable contacts that have connected us to significant initiatives and projects. Secondly, I learnt how to scale business efficiently without compromising on equality, and this lesson has been crucial for our company’s growth and expansion of our network. Thirdly, the programme instilled in me the importance of putting the customer at the centre of everything we do, which has fundamentally changed how we approach product development and marketing.
Do you have any tips for new start-ups?
- Build a strong team around you with talented individuals who share your vision and can bring diverse skills to the table.
- Stay also adaptable and agile in the ever-changing business landscape. This will help you respond to challenges and seize new opportunities.
- Maintaining a positive mindset and resilience will also help you through tough times in your start-up journey.
- Consider the social responsibility of your business model and you will be well-regarded and able to create deeper connections.
What are the next steps for your team?
Lieselot Declercq: We have several but to mention a few:
- We will roll out new features for our online platform based on user feedback and needs assessment.
- Develop partnerships with other educational institutions and edtech start-ups.
- Secure additional rounds of funding or corporate sponsorships to enable our planned growth and project initiatives.
- Begin scoping the feasibility of expanding our platform to non-European countries.