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“The biggest obstacle was the very first step: stop thinking about founding a startup and just doing it”

Jan Coppens was one of the founding fathers of imec.istart. Later he joined the accelerator with his own industrial IoT startup Aloxy. “My passion for entrepreneurship started at imec.istart. Watching all those hungry startups inspired me to found my own startup.”

Jan is one of the founders of Aloxy, a promising IoT start-up. “We develop technology to monitor manual valves. Our sensors remotely monitor the actual position of the valves, whether they are open or closed. It was very important to develop sensors that are very low in energy use. Chemical plants, our most important customers today, have hundreds or even thousands of those valves. You don’t want to change the batteries every 6 months.”

Jan Coppens

‘Go for it, don’t look back’

Aloxy was founded in 2017. “I was involved in launching imec.istart, so I knew the drill. But advising and helping out other startups is totally different from running a startup of your own. Before I joined imec, I worked as a consultant for one of the big consulting firms. Those corporates take care of everything, you don’t need to worry about IT-infrastructure or HR. In a startup, you need to take care of every little thing yourself. Every day there is a new problem to solve.”

“The biggest obstacle for me as a founder was the very first step. Leaving my fixed, comfortable job and take the risk. Jump. There are always dozens of reasons not to start your own company. Make the decision to go for it and don’t look back, that was my number one challenge. Stop thinking, start doing.”

‘Corporate culture has evolved’

“It took us a little longer than expected to develop our technology. We operate in highly regulated industries, so you can’t just go to market with new technology. You need the right certificates first. But once we managed to overcome that obstacle, our technology quickly gained traction. Our customers are big corporations: BASF, Solvay, Dow, etc. It’s not easy to get on their radar. But we have proven it’s not impossible. Our biggest advantage is that we have a solution for a problem that immediately rings a bell. That’s the hook you need as a startup.”

“Our timing was right. The culture at big corporates has evolved. They are open to collaborations with startups. When you respond to challenges those corporates are already trying to deal with, it’s much easier to get your foot between the door. We did not need to convince them they had a problem, they already knew it and they were already looking for solutions. Industrial IoT is quite new to chemical corporations. They realize it offers them a lot of opportunities, but they don’t have a lot of knowledge or experience yet. So they are open to startups guiding them.”


‘The network is extremely valuable’

In 3 years Aloxy has grown to a team of 14 members. “It’s my job to draw the roadmap and to make sure we stick to it”, Jan explains. “I also take care of fundraising and I explore new opportunities. Today our main target is the chemical industry. But our sensor technology is perfectly suited for other industries too: oil & gas, energy, utilities. We are just at the beginning of what’s possible for Aloxy.”

How did imec.istart help Aloxy grow? Jan doesn’t hesitate for one second. “The network. Definitely the network. We had a problem with licenses recently. I reached out to my network within Imec and I immediately found the answer. There are always people – real experts – I can call for advice. The network is extremely valuable.”

Make the jump