Around Media is a young and rapidly growing software company that helps the real estate market to communicate. How? By visualising houses, premises and constructions in VR and AR and by creating 360° tours.
The software of Around Media is a tool that changes the way real estate agents work, co-founder and CEO Wannes Vanspranghe explains: “VR enables people to walk through spaces that don’t really exist, with the help of VR glasses. AR on the other hand, allows us to place new things into an existing reality. Our software is designed for architects and real estate agents that want to show properties to potential investors or buyers. VR representations are used for new buildings, while 360° tours show existing spaces.”
“I was already working with 3D visualisations before I founded Around Media”, Wannes says. “I noticed that a lot of the software that’s being used, was developed abroad. I realised that in order to fully focus on innovation in AR and VR, I had to develop the software myself. With that mission in mind, I started Around Media.”
Wannes knew that starting his own company, meant taking risks. “I had been struggling a few years to get my own business going, and now I was investing a huge amount of money to start a real company. I guess a lot of people thought I was crazy at first”, he tells us.
The power of the Start it @KBC network
“When me and my co-founders got to know Start it, Around Media was already up and running for quite a while”, Wannes explains. “We had an office in the Kortrijk Business Centre and we first heard about Start it when they came here too. We got introduced and eventually joined the program. The idea of a co-working space, experts, mentors and the access to a professional network were very appealing to us at the time.”
“Looking back, that network was the biggest benefit of joining the Start it community”, Wannes goes on. “We met people with the same struggles and we got to learn from their experiences. We got the chance to attend events and show ourselves to the world, create awareness around our product.”
“During that period, we grew pretty fast. After about 6 months in the program, Around Media was a company of 12 people. We had to find a bigger place and we eventually moved out. Right now, we’re a team of 30 people and we are based in Ghent.”
Growth with high and lows
A strong growth like that, comes with occasional difficulties and setbacks. “There were times when we had little work to do, like the summer months or the Christmas period”, Wannes says. “The cash flow went down in those quiet weeks and we had trouble paying everyone at the end of the month. Us managers were sometimes left without any pay at all.”
At one point, Wannes and the rest of the management team had to make a choice that many startups face at a certain time. “We could continue the way we were doing and expand our market share, or we could decide to focus on what we really wanted to do and become the company that we truly desired to be. In order to follow that dream, we needed a big investment. We took the risk and pulled through”, Wannes says.
“Around Media is currently in a scaling phase, both nationally and internationally”, CFO Pieter Van Hoorne continues. “We’re doing well and our revenues are growing, but there are always new challenges to face. Right now, we’re focussing on supporting that growth and finding the right people to cover the workload.”
Taking time to relax
Does that workload leave any room for relaxing? “It’s true that we work hard and spend a lot of time at the office”, Pieter admits. “But we try to keep things relaxed and fun. We take the time to go for a walk now and then and we have a Playstation in the office. Playing FIFA from time to time is a great way to take your mind of things.”
“Now that the weather is getting better, I go for an occasional bike ride to clear my head”, CDO Arne Derynck adds. “And I try to be home on time so cook a nice meal, but that’s not always easy.”
Wannes remembers working weeks of 110 or 120 hours in the first couple of months. “There were times that I slept in the office and hardly saw my wife. But one of the advantages of our growth is that there are now more people to help you out and work on the bottle necks that occur. I’ve got a little daughter now, so I choose to be flexible by starting early and leaving on time.
“Give your startup your full dedication”
What advice would Wannes, Pieter and Arne give young startups? “If you decide to go for it”, Pieter begins, “then go for it the full 100 %. Quit your normal day job if you still have one, and give the startup your full dedication.”
Wannes goes on: “Make sure you’re financially strong. It’s nearly impossible to become economically healthy if you start off with a negative balance. Keep an eye on your checks and balances at all times.”
“My tip would be to surround yourself with people who know your business and can give valuable advice and feedback”, Arne says. “Don’t make the mistake to think you can do it all on your own.”
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