“You learn a lot on an express train”

Hendrik Keeris from Bizzy on the capricious nature of entrepreneurship

One of the most persistent myths about doing business is that of the Strict Plan. Usually, companies are not set up and expanded in accordance with detailed scenarios; they develop as a result of coincidence, adjustments and seizing opportunities that arise. The story of Hendrik Keeris, co-founder of Bizzy, is a striking illustration of this.


Why company data, for heaven's sake?

Bizzy is an app that combines, analyses and presents company data. The tool stands out from its competitors by offering modules that the company can integrate into its own operations. For example, it means that the sales department will no longer need to spend time on business analyses. That sounds (and indeed is) pretty high-tech, and doesn’t seem an obvious area to choose. So how does someone end up entering that market? Hendrik Keeris explains.

“When my co-founder Steve Declercq and I took the Masters in Financial Management at Vlerick Business School, we looked for a place for our ICP (In-Company Project, ed). Steve had already been in contact with Lorenz Bogaert from StarApps in the past. This Ghent-based venture builder happened to be working on a new idea about company data, which still needed a lot of research. We got our teeth into it and before we knew it, we were completely immersed in that market.

At the time I already had a contract in my pocket, with a job in the strategy department of a major consultancy firm. But Lorenz inspired us. He encouraged us not to become another number in an existing company, but to set up a company ourselves. We followed this advice and I certainly don’t regret it. You learn a lot on an express train, in every respect. From building a team and interacting with people to developing ideas and raising money.

So we didn’t really mean to start a business right away, just to check whether a business model could be built around that idea. We ended up working on it so hard that we started a company together with StarApps. So it's more of a coincidence really that we got started in this area. We saw an opportunity and seized it.”

The known result of unknown causes

So the start was a coincidence. But Voltaire already knew there was no such thing as coincidence. “Coincidence is the known result of unknown causes,” as the French philosopher wrote. And indeed, there were advance signs in Hendrik’s case too.

“If I use a product and it doesn't work well, I always start thinking: how could it be better? I also did this during my Masters in Financial Management at Vlerick Business School. Here, I spent a lot of time looking up data about companies and markets. I noticed that there were no good platforms and thought about how it could be approached differently. Vlerick Business School encourages that kind of out-of-the-box thinking, as well as innovative entrepreneurship.

Although I wanted to start my career immediately after graduating as a Commercial Engineer, I decided to keep studying because of coronavirus. I chose Vlerick Business School because I always planned to go into business and Vlerick has a network of like-minded people. You also hear many inspiring entrepreneurial stories there, for example in Professor Dillen's ‘Entrepreneurship’ course. That was particularly fascinating, and encourages you to think for yourself and take the plunge.”

Don't wait to become an entrepreneur

Even though they are just starting down the winding road of entrepreneurship, Hendrik and Steve knew one thing from the start: with Bizzy, they would be entering the international market.

“It’s in the USP of our product. A company must always take into account what its competitors are doing, and that means worldwide. In addition, the inspiration often comes from abroad. We knew right away that we needed a global platform because that's what is interesting to the user.

Using the data of the National Bank, you can find out everything about a company in Belgium. We are currently exploring in depth how this could be done abroad. The only way to find out is to get started. When Bizzy came out of the starting blocks, our idea wasn't super clearly defined. We felt that it had potential so we just got started, with the idea of changing course along on the way.

People often wait to become an entrepreneur because their idea isn’t ready yet. But there’s no need for that. Just get started and see where you end up. Look at Amazon, in the beginning they just sold books. Netflix started by renting out DVDs. If Bizzy is different to what it is now two years down the line, that won't be a problem. We will analyse what our users need. If they soon become interested in something else, we will evolve in that direction. We still have a long way to go.”

Talk, talk and talk some more. “My tip for new entrepreneurs is to do a lot of testing. Build test products and ask other people what they think of them. Talk to people a lot. Don't worry about them ripping off your idea. Are you in the tech sector, like Bizzy? If so, define your platform. The first person you will need is not a programmer, but a UX/UI designer who can help you develop your product. Use it to approach people and adapt your design based on their feedback. Only start coding when that phase has been finalised.”
Hendrik Keeris
Co-founder Bizzy

Want your own ticket for the express train?

There's still a place for you at the Vlerick Entrepreneurship Academy. Just like Hendrik Keeris, here you will find the tools and guidance you need to turn your idea into an exciting project. And you will also gain a huge amount of inspiration and support, thanks to a comprehensive network of experienced and new entrepreneurs.