What would be your two-minute elevator pitch?
Digitalisation is now a must for all companies who want to continue growing, in all industries. Many initiatives are taking across different industries, whereby strategies and tools are implemented to reach digital transformation. Many of these however are complex to use, and thus cannot be accessed by people of all backgrounds and profiles. To ensure the digital transformation of these companies and empowerment of all human resources through machine-generated data and information, we created HakoBio, a web platform allowing biopharmaceutical companies to create a digital copy or “digital twin” of their factories. Once this digital twin is ready, our clients can then use virtual and augmented reality to digitally simulate a real industrial environment. Using these technologies, we transform their everyday life by making the access to and generation of information easier, and their work experience more intuitive.
OUAT! simplifies the everyday lives of those working in the biopharmaceutical industry by bringing simple digital tools for every industrial phase, whether it be production planning, operations, staff training or equipment maintenance. By doing so we want to bring life to what was once invisible and empower the most precious resource – people – to grab a hold of information and data in order to optimise their factories’ production.
List three factors that make Brussels’ entrepreneurship landscape unique.
- The Brussels-Capital Region offers a strong and complete ecosystem to accompany innovative and ambitious projects. With different organisations like hub.brussels, Innoviris, Microsoft Innovation Center and Réseau Entreprendre Bruxelles, Brussels’ entrepreneurs are constantly supported across different business aspects, in launching their projects and in creating sustainable businesses. This accompaniment consists in a vast network of large companies and start-ups that make access to information, resources and expertise easier than ever and make way for continuous innovation. It also consists of different training programmes that have been put in place to assure the continuous growth of knowledge and skills, keeping entrepreneurs up to date with the latest practices and tools.
- Concerning human resources, the Region also provides access to top-of-the-line talents and resources which contribute to developing advanced technological solutions and offers a valuable competitive solution for its market. In the case of HakoBio, we built a development team headed by a Microsoft MVP who’s leading the way to becoming more agile and performant.
- Brussels’ entrepreneurial landscape is especially interesting given its multi-industry presence and central location. Notably, it allows entrepreneurs to draw on the experience of others in different industries and get inspired by technologies and ideas, all to solve a specific challenge. It also allows start-ups to take advantage of unmet needs and develop catered innovative solutions by getting in touch with their microenvironment. Early on in our business this presence has allowed us to explore the needs and challenges of the industry, and our collaborations with other companies are now maturing into long-term partnerships heading towards Industry 4.0.
We count ourselves as a successful example of what a collaboration with hub.brussels actually means.
What are the three biggest challenges you faced when starting up your business?
Every company faces different challenges along its path, all dependent on its industry, market and model.
- The first business challenge we faced was in building a sustainable and long-term business which is based on and inspired by market demands. Today, there are many start-ups that are founded upon ideas that generate funding and interest from investors yet don’t actually last long due to unvalidated needs from the market – a concept known as marketing myopia. As a company, we have always functioned in a way whereby we put our clients’ needs first, and refrain from developing solutions unless said need is confirmed. This has been the model upon which our development is based and financed, and the challenge we overcame during HakoBio’s early phases.
- When running a start-up company, entrepreneurs have to acquire a lot of new skills and responsibilities in a short amount of time – no one becomes a CEO of a company overnight. With time and experience, we acquired management skills, learned how to manage our resources and project, and grasped a new outlook on how to deal with certain situations efficiently.
- Another challenge that we managed to overcome was in creating a team of different yet complimentary profiles that could transform our vision into a reality while respecting our company values. Today, we have a multicultural team of bioengineers, developers, marketers, designers and administrators who can answer our clients’ needs while keeping things simple, different and empowering.
How did you benefit from hub.brussels’ expertise in the conception of your business?
hub.brussels has been a major catalyst in developing OUAT! and its activities ever since the beginning of our journey. They’ve allowed us to gain access to a certain expertise that was lacking initially during the conception of our business, especially in regards to finances, accounts and legal admin. hub.brussels also played a key role during the launch of the company by leveraging their expertise and accompanying us through the developing of our business plan and model.
To this day, our relationship with hub.brussels is still solid and strong. We’re regularly in contact with the advisers, who are always enthusiastic about working with innovative companies, offering qualitative advice and coming up with new and fresh ideas for new companies to adopt.
Along the years we’ve also benefited from hub.brussels’ network by reaching different companies and experts, or granting us access to tradeshows. This allowed us to receive guidance from specific departments that we previously never had access to, as well as to export our solution outside of Belgium and position ourselves internationally as a Brussels-based company. We count ourselves as a successful example of what a collaboration with hub.brussels actually means.
List three pieces of advice you would give to the budding entrepreneur.
- Surround yourself with experienced individuals and partners with diverse responsibilities. Starting a business requires knowledge across different fields, such as finance, accounting, administration, marketing, HR and so on – and no one’s an expert in all these fields at once. This is why taking advice and listening to different expert opinions is the key to making the right decisions, growing your business and performing well in every department.
- At OUAT!, we like to be inspired by external work and to expand our knowledge with models and ideas that are being used both in- and outside of our industry. Our advice for other entrepreneurs is to do the same, as it’ll allows you to break out of your bubble and be open to alternative methods that could optimise pre-existing processes or ideas.
- Finally, being an entrepreneur shouldn’t mean dedicating your whole life to your business. Entrepreneurs should find the balance between their personal, social and professional lives in order to succeed, and bring new and fresh ideas that will help drive their business forward. Importance must also be placed on other life experiences to be able to carry on with your entrepreneurial journey in the long run.