The article is originally published in Dutch by Newsmonkey : http://newsmonkey.be/article/39662
Emmanuelle, how did you roll into technology?
I studied Civil Engineering at the “Université Libre de Bruxelles”. During my master we have built a startup with the “École Centrale de Paris” named Taxiscope which didn’t last long due to the crash of the Internet bubble in 2001. The startup aimed at providing information about a city on a tablet to the taxi passengers (the first iPad was released in 2010).
After my master, a project with the CRIF (former SIRRIS) aimed at optimizing the production of a factory plant. I was working alone with the support of the CRIF, the work was mainly analyzing the challenge, writing the mathematical formulas as well as the code in C++ to perform the optimizations, tasks that I did like to the point where I accepted to perform researches during 7 long years on the topic.
Wat your biggest challenge? Success? Setback?
The challenges are numerous; the biggest might be to reduce the lead-time between a first meeting with a prospect and the signature of a contract. i.e. We are in discussion with a prospect since March 2013!
The biggest success lies in the signature of a contract with the NMBS/SNCB in a maintenance site in Salzinnes, close to Namur/Namen.
Every day is an aggregation of minor or major setbacks such as receiving the resignation of your Sales manager after only 3 months, not being able to communicate in Dutch, find the right message to motivate the team… but those are skills that we will learn and learn to manage the hard way.
Any advice for young tech starters?
Jump! Any experience you will gain from the venture will make you stronger. Do not limit yourself and build a gadget, the world is full of them. Find a niche and become the expert in your domain. Setup a board including more experienced people who will “kick your but” and push you to your limits. And do not forget that the businesses and the public administrations might be your first customers instead of the ‘C’ from consumers.
Are you optimistic about the tech start-up scene in Belgium?
There is room for everyone, often, on the radio, I hear investors stating that “I have never seen a good project not finding investments but I have seen a lot bad ideas being funded”. If your solution is complex and need a longer maturation, you shouldn’t hesitate to search for a public funding from your regional organization. We were funded by Innoviris during 3,5 years to transform the result of the PhD thesis into a solution that the market is willing to buy! AMIA Systems has raised money from the investment fund of the “Université Libre de Bruxelles” called Theodorus; the money will help us survive in the “death valley”.
Theodurus is quite successful with two major operations those last 12 months: the IPO of “Bone Therapeutics” listed in Euronext as well as the appearance of “MaSTherCell” in the NASDAQ through Orgenesis, an Israel-based biotech! A proof that Belgian teams made of investors and PhDs can address today’s business and people challenges!
Is crowd funding the right way to get money?
Crowd funding is one way amongst dozens others: Friends, Fools and Family (FFF), seed funding, bank loan, public funding, and private funding. Crowd funding might be the easier way to test your idea against your market; the investors might be your first customers after all.
But, (1) the preparation of a crowd funding session seems to require the same amount of resources than raising money from a private or public fund and (2) some tax friction in Belgium make the crowd funding less interesting for the investor than a direct investment signed before a notary (the regulations may change hopefully).
We have ideas to start a Kick-starter or an Indigogo campaign but they are put in the fridge to do not lose the focus on the business.