- Villa Vespa
- The DataTank
It's a journey
In many ways, I view entrepreneurship as a journey.
Like on a journey, you must enjoy the ride itself, not only the desination. In my opinion, it's enjoyed most with a clear goal in mind, but no strict planning on the way. It can only succeed if you are able to cope with many unforeseen situations and keep on going through the unknown.
My own journey as an entrepreneurship started in 2005 when, after being employed for 50 weeks after graduating, I decided to quit. I had not planned my next move and had no connection whatsoever with start-ups or other entrepreneurs. I remember having about € 3000 on my bank account, rent to pay and no source of income.
If anything, I should have explored entrepreneurship much more at school or university. I find it a shame that in my school time it was never presented as a career path. My whole education prepared me for a lifetime of being an employee.
- 2005: Graduated
- 2006: Quit job
- 2006: Co-founded Villa Vespa
- 2007: Co-founded Zeropoint
- 2009: Co-founded The DataTank
- 2010: Sold stake in Villa Vespa
- 2011: Donated The DataTank
- 2012: Acquisition with Zeropoint
- 2015: Joint venture with Face44
- 2016: Joined Leancubator
Don't waste your time, or time will waste you.
Zeropoint HR, the offshore talent partner
Zeropoint HR helps start-ups and SMEs reliably expand their digital work capacity through hiring in South-Asia. Zeropoint takes care of the hiring, office space and payroll of this remote workforce. Both local and offshore team members are trained to work effectively in virtual teams.
In the early eighties I was raised in Saudi Arabia where my father was working. My younger brother was born there.
Later, our father lived in Malaysia and China (北京), while I completed my university studies in Norway.
When my younger brother turned 18, my parents moved to China (上海) again. Meanwhile, my younger sister lived in South Africa and is currently raising her children in Switzerland.
This has sparked in me an insatiable interest in foreign people, languages and cultures.
In 2005 the northern areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India suffered from a major earthquake. My friend happened to be in Islamabad when it happened and decided to volunteer for the rescue mission of the United Nations. Later, I joined him from home.
This experience lead to us to realising the following:
- Higher education in Pakistan is at a good level;
- but, economically, Pakistan is doing badly;
- which leads to a lot of untapped potential in the Pakstani labour market
Market trends in favour of offshoring
Early 2007, Zeropoint opened office in Pakistan and Belgium, bridging the gap between the labour markets in those two countries.
Ever growing investments in technology increases the pressure on companies to hire technically proficient talent. However, a strong decline of IT graduates can be noticed in the EU and US.
On the other hand, an English speaking generation, well versed with digitally maintaining relations across the globe has entered the global economy. At the same time, more and more companies are seeing the benefit of remote working, be it from home, satellite offices or international branches.
These trends lead to Zeropoint finding its place in the market in Belgium and the neighbouring countries for helping companies set up their own offshore teams in South Asia.
Investment and acquisition
In 2012, Zeropoint was approached by a Belgian/Sri Lankan company for supporting their offshore operations. Long story short, in 2013 Zeropoint secured private capital investment and proceeded to acquire the Sri Lankan side of their business.
This means that Zeropoint's recruitment area from now on covers a population of about 200 million people.
In 2014, a management buy-out of the investor completed the merger of Zeropoint Pakistan and Zeropoint Sri Lanka.
The future of Zeropoint
The long term goal is to help solve the global work force puzzle.
Zeropoint envisions a future where any company can source the global talent pool to expand its workforce. We are riding the wave of the ongoing globalisation and digitisation of our society.
This means we are open to discover any recruitment opportunity on our planet en help establishing and maintaining long term professional relationships between organisations and international employees.
Villa Vespa, quality refurbished vintage vespa's
2006 — 2008 (B2C)
Villa Vespa was founded in 2006. Through our local contacts in Pakistan, we procured old Vespa scooters from people who were looking for a new ride, preferably one with lower consumption, to save money. Due to the optimal weather conditions in Islamabad, we were able to guarantee the highest quality chassis of the 1960-1965 motorcycles for our workshop. Soon we were employing six full-time workers in our workshop in Islamabad, refurbishing on average one full container worth of Vespa VBBs ready to be shipped to Belgium.
In Belgium we had set up shop in Paal selling the vintage machines to individuals, both old and young.
2009 — 2010 (Wholesale)
To keep up with the capacity of the production in Pakistan, we decided to pivot the business to wholesale. We started looking for buyers of complete containers, which saved us a lot of last-mile hassle.
Thanks to our international network based on expats in Islamabad, Villa Vespa soon found itself shipping containers with refurbished VBB scooters to Belgium, Spain, the US and Germany. Highlight was a large article in Der Spiegel which generated a lot of buzz around our product!
2011 — ... (Vintage Vespa)
Near the end of 2010, I left Villa Vespa to concentrate on other ventures. I'm very happy with the knowledge that the company is in safe hands and still existing under the new name Vintage Vespa.
In 2016, the US embassy in Islamabad released a video featuring Vintage Vespa!
The DataTank, the worlds largets source for open data
The story of The DataTank starts with a now abandoned online tool called MyOwnDB. MyOwnDB was a pet project by Raphael Baudoin, founder of FOSDEM, the largest free European event for software developers to meet, share ideas and collaborate. It was a Ruby on Rails implementation of an easy to use, yet powerful and flexible, online database tool.
I represented MyOwnDB as a finalist of the European start-up pitching event Plugg in 2008.
Later, most of the codebase from MyOwnDB was separated into an AGPLv3 FLOSS project called Dedomenon. MyOwnDB then became the company monetizing the Dedomenon source base as the premier online platform based on it.
Later, it became clear that our start-up needed another pivot. We rebranded to The DataTank and focussed on collecting and hosting open data sets for public usage. Especially government agencies were identified as our target market and a lot of time was spent talking to the various governments in Belgium.
Together with iRail we organised many events like hackathons to promote the platform and gained some traction when we published the schedules of the national railway in Belgium, NMBS. My efforts at The DataTank later led me to co-found the Belgian chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation.
Later still, I decided to leave the start-up into the capable hands of the OKFN-BE team, who are still successfully managing it as a free, online platform for organisations to publish their open data sets.