Do you really need years of experience in tech to start a technology startup? “Not necessarily”, says Start it @KBC alumnus Steven Schroeyens of Pro Alliance. Steven found the technical expertise he needed to launch his company, with the help of the Start it @KBC network.
Pro Alliance, a startup from the class of 2015, brings different stakeholders within a supply chain together. It’s a social technology platform that enables all parties to see, share and act on real-time information. “When me and my co-founders first came up with the idea, I had some experience as an entrepreneur”, Steven says. “But the world of technology was pretty new to me. Thanks to Start it @KBC, we were introduced to professionals who had the technical knowledge and expertise that we were missing. The network opened a lot of doors.”
First things first
Someone who had a big impact on Pro Alliance’s evolution, is Start it @KBC mentor Jan De Meester. “We were introduced to him by my father - they are good friends - before we joined the programme. When we explained our business idea to Jan, he pushed us to go through with it and he advised us to join the Start it @KBC programme. Together with Jan, we worked on our business plan and prepared a pitch. He helped us to get started and remained a big support throughout the entire process. Jan was the one who kept us sharp and focused, and made sure we never lost track of where we were going.”
When Steven and his co-founders Biren Van Herck and Erik Verdeyen were selected to join the programme, they settled in the Boerentoren office in Antwerp. “We didn’t really know what to expect at the time”, Steven tells. “But we knew we still had a long way ahead of us. The first step was getting ready to found our own company. Backed up by the mentors, we worked on a more elaborate product design and a detailed financial plan, that required funding and leads.”
“Start it @KBC is a quality label”
At Start it @KBC Steven, Biren and Erik were introduced to a broad network of technology experts. “For us, the network that Start it @KBC had to offer was the biggest advantage. We still had a lot questions at the time. What should our company structure look like? Which profiles should we hire? How can we attract investors? Which pitfalls should we look out for? We had absolutely no idea what it entailed to start a technology company. But talking to the Start it @KBC mentors and holding individual sessions with specialists, gave us the answers. Today we still have a close relationship with those people.”
“Being part of the Start it @KBC community gave our company extra credibility, which made a huge difference in that early stage. It gave us more power to hire the best people, to persuade investors and to close partner deals. When you’re putting your product out there, Start it @KBC is a valuable quality label.”
“The power of the community”
Steven and his team spent hours on end talking to other startups in the programme. “Sharing experiences and giving each other advice makes you stronger. That’s the power of the community. You’re all working in the same office, so you have to take the opportunity to get to know each other. Never underestimate what other startups can teach you. They might have skills that you need or they could tell you about possible pitfalls and opportunities that lay ahead. And they might introduce you to other people with even more valuable knowledge. Those first twelve months at Start it @KBC were very hectic for us, being an early-stage startup, but extremely fun as well. Without a doubt, it’s been the most exciting year of our lives.”
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