Drones are often seen as a fun toy to take stunning photos or shoot amazing video’s, but their professional potential reaches much higher than that. Argus Vision, a former Start it @KBC startup founded by Jonas Van de Winkel and Seppe Koop, spotted this potential years ago and is now one of Belgium’s blooming drone companies.
“Argus Vision is one of the two brands of Hemel, the drone video company that we founded in February of 2017”, says Jonas. “Argus specializes in a technical type of drone filming, whereas Kopterman, our second brand, focuses on more creative and commercial projects like tv-series and movies. Some well-known examples are tv-series Als De Dijken Breken and Beau Séjour, the Belgian movie Patser and Hollywood films I Kill Giants and Kursk."
“One of Argus’ biggest clients, is KBC insurance”, Jonas tell us. “We visualize real estate and big, complex structures like monuments and historical buildings. Our drones make a scan and create a 3D model, that can be used to calculate the insurance cost. When a building is damaged, after a storm for example, we can compare images to see what happened. We also use our drones for bird scaring during breeding season or to map flood areas, in order to help emergency workers reach the flooded area as soon as possible.”
Something completely different
When Seppe and Jonas founded Hemel, they had both been into drone filming for years. “We each had our own business, that’s actually how we met”, says Jonas. “Argus Vision was my company, with which I had joined Start it @KBC, and Seppe had his own drone business. The company we have now, is the sum of all our separate projects.”
Jonas joined Start it @KBC with Argus Vision about two years earlier. “I had worked in all kinds of sectors before, but I kept longing for something completely different. When I came in contact with drone filming, I knew that was it. I still kept my regular job at first, so I was able to run Argus Vision as a side project initially. After about 10 months, it became my main profession.”
At a startup contest in Limburg – which he won - Jonas got in touch with Start it @KBC. “Someone from Start it was there and asked me to apply, so I did”, he tells. “I remember that taking the step to being an entrepreneur came pretty naturally to me. I still lived with my parents and because I still had an income from my other job, I was in a good position to take some risks.”
Working 24/7, with no results
“I immediately felt that the Start it community was of great value”, Jonas continues. “Our office in Hasselt was a very inspiring place and I really enjoyed being a part of an extraordinary group of people. The other startups and the Start it network that I was introduced to, had a very big impact.”
Those early days were not exactly a fairytale. “In the first startup phase, I was working 24/7 and hardly got any result. I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time, so I had a lot of free time to spend. But I began wondering: what am I doing? How do I get my startup to succeed? Now that I have two partners, things have become a lot easier”, says Jonas.
The biggest challenge: cash flow
“When we were just starting Argus Vision, a drone would crash onto the ground once in a while and our capital would literally be destroyed. Luckily, that’s not the case anymore. But like any starting entrepreneur, we struggled with the cash flow in that early stage of our startup. We invested a lot of time and energy back then, without being rewarded financially. The uncertainty of not having a stable income also has a big impact on our personal life, I guess every entrepreneur has been through that.”
Today, Argus Vision is a blooming company with tons of ambition. “We are doing well and already have a lot to be proud of”, Jonas says. “In five years from now, we want to reach a turnover of one million euros. We’re currently at one third of that amount. Studies have shown that the potential of a company like Argus Vision is huge, so why not?”
If there is one thing Jonas and Seppe would advise young startups, it’s not to let doubt get in the way of your goals. “Just do it. Making a decision is more important than thinking things over and over and over. It’s better to go for it and realise afterwards that you were wrong, than to keep on having second thoughts.