The programmes at Vlerick Business School are highly regarded far beyond national borders. However, the institute also helps our top entrepreneurs to be successful in other ways. For example, students and alumni can receive financial support for their plans through the Student Entrepreneurship Fund. The story of Jorg Hendrikx, co-founder of start-up Qviro, is a good illustration of this dual approach.
“I'm an industrial engineer by training. As fascinating as my studies were, I always felt like I was wearing blinkers. The focus was exclusively on technology, without paying any attention to how the economy works, what a company is, what marketing and sales do.
Because I think that technology should support a higher goal, I wanted to get a broader view. I'm entrepreneurial by nature, so I really needed to know all those different facets of a company. After speaking with various alumni at the Vlerick information days, I realised that the programme is not only theoretical but also focuses on ‘learning by doing’. During my Vlerick Masters in General Management, as someone who was technically trained I learned a whole range of new skills. And these came in handy in my jobs with multinationals and when starting up my own company.”
This company of his own is Qviro, an online platform for engineers looking for robots, software, conveyor belts and machines for assembling production lines. The website saves users a great deal of time and effort, and ultimately presents them with the best solution. This smart design is based on his own personal experience, says Jorg.
“Before I set up Qviro, I worked as an integrator for putting production lines together. You need to find a lot of different components for this. So how do you tackle it? You search on Google, open the first five websites and write to the three companies that seem the most professional. And this process is not just required for one part, but for every single component of your production line.
Before providing a quotation, these dozens of suppliers naturally want to come over for a coffee. And that means you can soon find yourself facing a process that drags on for months. Then you have to compare all these different quotations. And you have to do this without objective information about the quality of the machines or the reliability of the companies, even though a purchase of hundreds of thousands to even several million euros is involved.
So we wondered: couldn’t things be simpler and more transparent? Like choosing a restaurant or buying a smartphone. You first read the reviews, compare the products and then make a very well-founded decision in just a few minutes. That’s how Qviro started: by listing all the brands and comparing them in a transparent way.”
The start-up was partly funded by Vlerick Business School’s Student Entrepreneurship Fund. This fund was established to help as many students and alumni as possible to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. The fund is financially supported by enterprising alumni and friends of the school and has now raised €850,000. The jury consists of donors, entrepreneurs and professors. Every year, they select promising start-ups that receive a grant. The entrepreneurs who receive these grants commit to returning part of the money to the Vlerick Student Entrepreneurship Fund during their career, and to becoming ambassadors of the Fund and Vlerick Business School.
“The interesting thing about the selection process is that you have to defend your case before a jury. This kind of experienced and constructively critical sounding board is particularly valuable. Although the financial contribution of the Student Entrepreneurship Fund is naturally important, the subsequent guidance and frameworks are truly valuable. I still contact some of the jury members to ask for their opinion on certain decisions, both for Qviro and for other projects. We were also able to pitch our idea to the V-entrepreneurs, a community of Vlerick entrepreneurs. Their advice was also worth its weight in gold for us.”
The smart thing about Qviro is not only the design of the website, but also the underlying revenue model. Whereas other comparison websites are paid for by advertisers, Qviro derives its income from data.
“For other comparison sites, the ranking is simple: the supplier who pays the most ends up highest on the list. But that’s not how it should be, because as a customer you want to choose on the basis of quality. This is how things work in the B2B software world, for example, where the ranking is based on reviews from end users. These models are more in line with our vision.”
Reliability is therefore key at Qviro, which allowed Hendrikx to apply a unique revenue model.
“Robotics manufacturers can order targeted surveys from us. In these surveys, we find out exactly what users need. Our customers can then use this information to improve their products. We also have a great deal of data about our customers, obtained purely from their surfing behaviour. We also make this available to the producers, of course in a completely GDPR-proof way that respects the privacy of the users,” says Jorg.
If so, the Vlerick Entrepreneurship Academy is the perfect place for you. Here, you will receive the guidance and tools you need to make your project a success and grow sustainably. And like Jorg Hendrikx, you will also find a community of experienced and new entrepreneurs who can inspire and support you.