Four times a year, imec.istart hosts a Founders Circle - Connect & Learn for our start-ups in the acceleration program. We bring together alumni and companies in an open discussion, where they can all learn from established entrepreneurs.
As the highlight of the 3rd Founders Circle of 2021, we invited Jonathan Berte, the founder and CEO of Robovision, a Ghent-based company in Belgium. Robovision developed a deep learning platform that makes computer vision projects collaborative. Companies can harness all expertise and leverage legacy knowledge in the process of creating artificial intelligence (AI). This is the core of Robovision's technology, which democratises AI in the market by making it easy to collaborate and implement.
Jonathan Berte is an inexhaustible fount of knowledge when it comes to entrepreneurship. He started Robovision as a single founder, with 100% ownership to date. The company has transitioned from a consultancy model to a product-based company, now active in multiple verticals: agriculture, manufacturing, smart city, and healthcare. Moreover, Robovision has quickly expanded its international footprint. Developed by a team of over 100 experts, its AI solutions are installed by customers in more than 40 countries worldwide.
Here are five entrepreneurship lessons from Jonathan Berte that one can take home with:
Jonathan recommends not to give your IP away easily as well as negotiate contracts and licencing agreements thoroughly.
“Your contracts determine the value of the company,” he said.
The basic IP should always be owned by the product owner. The clients can have exclusivity based on how they use their data and models, specific to their business. He compared it with Windows. Its tools enable the clients to derive value from their data.
As European companies seek to build relationships in Asian markets, Jonathan warns that doing business in Asia is completely different from how business is done in Europe. Robovision works with intermediate partners who understand the local markets, to avoid cultural misunderstandings and violation of unwritten rules.
Cloud computing is often a primary choice for many technology companies. Instead of spending time and effort in running a server infrastructure, the on-demand availability of computer system resources allows them to focus on their core activities. However, choosing between different cloud providers, such as AWS, Google Cloud and Azure, is not an easy decision, as it has implications on your company. As advised by Jonathan, startups should beware of free credits usually offered by these vendors.
“It may seem like a lot of money, but one day you will run out of credit and need to pay a hefty price,” said Jonathan.
Next to pricing, it is also important to consider what the vendor can do for your company, in terms of lead generation and revenues. As an option, companies can consider combining multiple vendors to reduce your dependency on a specific platform.
The enterprise sales cycle is often extremely long. It is all about understanding the business and building the right relationships with key ambassadors, with the ability and competency to drive change within the organisation. In addition, having a large-enough team to ensure continuity is also a key success factor.
“Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. There are going to be ups and downs. It can be incredibly stressful to have the responsibility of hiring people and the commitment of keeping promises towards clients,” Jonathan stated.
To pull through it, what works for Jonathan is to keep your passion alive and always identify the key drivers for starting up your business in the first place. “For me, it was a combination of my strong interest in technology, as well as making a positive change and impact on the world,” Jonathan added.
If he started Robovision all over, he would do it together with a co-founder, who has a complementary skillset to balance the load of the company.
As a final note, for Jonathan, networking or having the right network is crucial to success, especially in the post-Covid-19 era. He recommends LinkedIn as a professional networking platform and encourages founders to connect with each other.