From the sacrifices of entrepreneurship, to A.I. based learning, to catching poachers in South Africa with state of the art camera tech. Antje Meindersma (Alledaags) and René Bolhuis (Horus View & Explore) shared their stories during the 6th edition of Founder Talks at the Groninger Forum.
Alledaags landed a sizeable investment this summer, to develop an Artificial Intelligence based learning system and Horus is conquering the world from the nearby village of Bedum, with their camera technology used in the Manchester City Stadium and the Kruger wildlife park in South Africa.
Einstein versus Churchill
It’s a little difficult to categorize a company like Alledaags. In a nutshell, they develop custom apps, for example to help UMCG radiologists diagnose lung cancer much faster, or an educational app for Squla. And pretty soon, they’ll have their own product too: “We’re working on an intelligent learning system to help people learn in a more efficient way and at their own pace”, Antje says.
To illustrate, she uses the fictional math skills of Einstein and Churchill. “One is good at subtractions, the other not so much. Our algorithm keeps track of how well they perform, the time they spend solving it and then tailoring the educational content to their level. That way, both Winston and Albert get content that’s not to easy, and challenging, but not too difficult and they’ll learn much faster.”
Antje actually never wanted to become an entrepreneur: “My father was, and he was always busy working and that wasn’t something I wanted to do to my own children. I ended up being an entrepreneur anyway, but I decided to set strict boundaries and spend plenty of time with my kids.”
Antje admits to being really honest to clients, sometimes too honest. “We lost a lot of potential customers by saying no. One company wanted employee photobook app for example… Easy to make, but we said no. We want to develop relevant apps.”
Alledaags landed a 0.5 million euro investment this summer, to develop their learning platform. “It sounds like a lot, but it’s gone before you know it! And it’s not just about the money, it also matters who you bring on board with you. Someone who knows their business, has the right network and, most important, believes in your vision.”
Spying on the Russians
Horus founder René Bolhuis started his career in the army: “I didn’t feel like sitting in a classroom all day. I wanted to learn things, but I wanted to learn it by doing. The army felt like a good place to do that and I ended up being stationed as a mechanic at this secret military listening post for intercepting Russian communications. It was a lot of fun, being around the latest spy technology and I kind of meddled with everything, even though I was basically responsible for fixing cars.”
After the army, René worked as a firefighter where his idea for Horus was born. “The job was about more than pouring water on fire”, he laughs. “I was working on creating accurate and up to date maps, which is a lot of work and I decided to make it a little easier by driving around with a 360 camera, kind of like Google Maps, but long before Google Maps was a thing.”
He bought a very expensive 360 camera, which didn’t turn out to be a solid first investment for your company. “These things become outdated pretty fast, so it was a pretty expensive lesson in entrepreneurship. The Mrs wasn’t too happy about it either…”
Tech as Lego, competition as partners
Expensive as the lesson was, it did give René a very valuable piece of insight, which is now at the very core of his business. “Technology changes rapidly and things become outdated quickly, so we decided to develop camera hardware and software that is compatible with almost everything and easy to expand when something new hits the market. So, it’s a lot like Lego pieces; easy to add new ones, easy to replace old ones.”
Bolhuis doesn’t believe in competition either. “Why compete when you can work together? Instead of trying to be cheaper or better, we offer big manufacturers a way to enter markets they normally couldn’t. In that sense, we’re like a R&D department for hire, and in turn, their massive sales departments help us get a foot in the door, which is how we’re able to operate globally.”
Conquering the world from the small village of Bedum
Horus is based in Bedum, a small village near Groningen, but their camera tech is used in Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the Manchester City soccer stadium and even used to protect the Nuclear Summit, to name just a few. But hitching a ride on the sales departments of big manufacturers isn’t the only reason why Horus is a global success.
“It’s all about making things highly customizable of course, but also making it really easy to use and making people’s jobs easier. Our cameras are used for riot control for example. Police officers aren’t IT guys. And we give them easy to use tools so they can collect evidence and show footage to suspects: “See that guy throwing a brick through a window? That was you, look.” That kind of stuff.”