At the Beacon in Antwerp, we met Bert Cattoor, co-founder with Joren Van Severen, and CEO of the technology start-up, Geckomatics. Geckomatics is an information technology and services company focused on developing user-friendly mobile mapping systems. By providing the necessary tools and professional follow-up to their customers, they significantly lower the barriers of use to a much larger audience, which makes them valuable in a wide array of industries. Bert’s high-tech entrepreneurship experience lead startups.be, one of our project partners, to initiate contact between Geckomatics and SPEED.
The SPEED project is aimed at bridging the gap between the Data Science & IoT-market and the Western-European Port market. The project’s research team is currently working on a diagnostic toolkit for supporting high-tech smart port focused entrepreneurs in their professionalization track. During the research phase of the toolkit, we approached successful tech-based entrepreneurs to talk about their professionalization and growth-track. Questions we were interested in specifically concerned subjects such as the hurdles and needs of startups during and prior to the professionalization-and-growth phase. Bert was so kind to give us some practical insights based on his own entrepreneurship experience.
Build a diverse and innovative team
The people make the company. This fact is generally accepted across industries. Bert, however, adds a significant element of diversity to the equation. What professionalizing tech-based firms need, is good communication and innovativeness. Innovativeness can be increased and fueled by creativity when you have diverse, yet complementary assets within your team. There are some obstacles though. When looking for a diverse team, one might want to look outside national borders. This possibly comes with administrative challenges. A good knowledge of national policy is necessary in order to find opportunities for external additions to your team.
Leadership and management
Communication then flows from adequate complementarity of the team and good leadership. Co-founder of Geckomatics, Bert also maintains a leadership position. Particularly at the start of the entrepreneurial adventure, drive and motivation are required in order to overcome the initial start-up phase. The professionalization phase, although possibly different for each company, might require less leadership and more management, depending on a few other aspects.
Understand your customer
Beside the team, the customer is your number one target. Understanding your customer is of fundamental importance. This key building block should be thought through and researched prior to and at the start of building and launching the business. And it doesn’t stop there. Subsequent stages also require constant in-depth customer knowledge. If growth means internationalization, for instance, then your international customers should be thoroughly researched and understood. A comparison between current and future client bases might display some significant differences in approaches needed, which can greatly affect your international growth-strategy. Although internationalization might not be part of every start- up’s goal, Bert believes that as an entrepreneur, it is essential to constantly be on the look-out for new opportunities. Specifically when it comes to the tech-based field, which is constantly and rapidly changing.
Understand how business and technology work
Being an entrepreneur and growing as an entrepreneur contains multiple challenges that will differ for everyone. Significant self-awareness is necessary to understand that each human is flawed in some way. Finding out what your strengths and weaknesses are as an entrepreneur and / or a leader within your company, is a first and crucial step. Just as important, is understanding the way business and technology work, separately and simultaneously. Entrepreneurs within the high-tech field who want to professionalize their company, should take a step back and take a strategic and inside look at the company, ask for advice where they might lack any, and take action on it.
We would like to thank Bert Cattoor at Geckomatics for taking the time to talk to us for the benefit of future tech-based companies and research purposes.
For further information on the Interreg SPEED diagnostic and improvement toolkit, please contact Morane Atzmon (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Johanna Vanderstraeten (email@example.com).
To find out more on Geckomatics, their product and their team, please visit their website.
To find out more about Startups.be, please visit our partner page.
This research project was carried out by Johanna Vanderstraeten, Sascha Albers, Rudy Martens and Morane Atzmon.
Johanna Vanderstraeten is assistant professor of (international) entrepreneurship, Sascha Albers is professor of international management, Rudy Martens is full professor of general and strategic management, and Morane Atzmon is Ph.D. candidate at the Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Antwerp.
This research was supported by Startups.be and benefited from the funding of Interreg 2 Seas.