Rising start-up stars Toon Vanagt & Eric Rodriguez

As part an Innovation special in the February-March edition of the magazine, we had veteran entrepreneurs nominate local, emerging entrepreneurs.  As part of the series we’ve asked Ramon Suarez (1971) for his nominatin. Ramon – founder of Betacowork Coworking Brussels, President of the European Coworking Assembly, founder of Coworking Belgium, secretary of Startups.be and author of The Coworking Handbook – nominates Brussels based Eric Rodriguez.

Eric Rodriguez (1981) is founder and Chief Technology Officer, together with Toon Vanagt, of data.be, a business information platform.

How would you best describe what you do?

Being a web startup entrepreneur widens your event horizons. Given the current ecosystem, there is very little you cannot do. It’s mainly a question of will and focus on what you want to achieve. More specifically, my role as CTO is to balance the technical means with our business goals, and of course the time-to-market constraint. Depending on the phase of your startup, it can be about shipping out your first MVP with some glued code, or later on refactoring towards a long-term architecture. Another key aspect is moving together as a team, making sure every one feels involved into building value into the product.

As an entrepreneur working in Belgium today, what do you think is your main purpose?

The main purpose of any entrepreneur is twofold: First it’s about creating added value for customers and help them solve real issues by leveraging innovation and thinking out of the box. Second, you need to build a strong team around you to successfully serve that goal. In a nutshell, entrepreneurship is about creating employment to build innovative solutions (and vice-versa)

What key moment/person would you attribute to you becoming an entrepreneur?

I’ve been surrounded by entrepreneurial mindset for years, with strong supporters like my parents, friends and now other startup entrepreneurs. I started building a custom invoicing solution for family business at 16. At university, I met good friends and we built our first web startup in the golden age of 2000’s. Going on I had the chance to work on various projects with great people and always a strong entrepreneurial approach. Given such environment, becoming an entrepreneur was maybe a natural choice. However it’s definitely not about luck or predisposition, it’s simply a matter of seeing and embracing the opportunities around you.

To date, what concept are you the proudest of?

Over the last 3 years, we have been building data.be a single place to find all company information on Belgian enterprises. Today data.be is trusted by more than 10 000 visitors per day. And we offer our customer an easy and intuitive application to access business information: authentic publications, company financial info and charts, prospection data, analytics, full-text search, … I’m proud of the platform we have built so far and keep improving with innovative features. We also pioneered open business data in Belgium and helped to evangelise the concept towards Public authorities.