On 25 September the five winners of the Brabant Startup Awards will be announced. In the run-up to that event in Tilburg’s Wagenmakerij, we look ahead with the members of the jury. Today Alex Kind, CEO and co-founder of One of A Kind Technologies.
One of A Kind Technologies, based in Eindhoven, has grown in four years from a turnover of 1 million to 8 million euros. From 10 people in 2012 to 80 employees now. And it’s expected to be 100 by the end of this year. “A growth like that doesn’t come naturally,” says Alex Kind.
“The decisive factors are energy, perseverance and resilience. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly ‘alert’. Alert to market developments, technologies, customers, employees, but also – or rather! – on clean waste bins, location, branding, design. Everything matters! Alertness is a continuous process, 24/7, you never let go of that. Opportunities also pass by. The trick is to recognize them and then take a step forward. Get in motion. Grab the opportunity”. Striking at the right moment is no easy game. “Movement and execution are decisive in this. More so than the way in which this all happens.”
Actual figures provide insight
In addition, Kind ensures that he is always up to date with the current figures. “Order Intake, Net Sales, your profit and loss account and the corresponding balance sheet. This provides insight.” According to Kind, this also applies to operational management. “Keep a close eye on your projects, in time, money and quality. That is not always easy. Certainly not if you grow fast. All kinds of things go wrong. But persevere. It is the only way up”.
Reaching profitable growth is one of the guidelines for One of A Kind. “There is nothing wrong with that. We have consciously chosen to focus on this. This is how we create business value, and then raise growth capital.”
One of the hard benchmarks for One of A Kind is the order intake. “Growing further is only possible with real customers. And I mean customers who pay. As a startup, you have to make sure you build up a customer base. This is possible with good financial and operational management. You can only learn from real customers.”
Of course, One of A Kind has not gone up as a straight line either. “It doesn’t matter at all when things don’t go well. Then at least you know what you have to work on! It is worse if you don’t have real orders. Then the organisation will not come under pressure and you will not know where to improve, who or what to attract in order to get the business back on track.”
Entrepreneurship also has to do with knowing your people. Including yourself, Kind says. “Make sure you know what you are good at and, therefore, also be aware of what you are not good at. And get the people who can do that. Make sure they work for you!”
Alex Kind is happy to be able to operate in the innovation ecosystem of Brabant. “Brabant is the smartest region in Europe. We are in between the US and Asia. Really perfect. We have a fine balance of creativity and manufacturing industry. So if you’re there as a startup or SME, use that position! Be proud of your roots and your surroundings, that’s what it’s all about. Make use of all the opportunities and all the organisations that are part of your supply chain. And decide what to do by yourself and what not. Many things can be done better by others. Again: make use of it!”
When assessing the startups for the awards, Alex Kind has paid particular attention to the way in which they have control over their customer base. “It’s all about three things: real customers, real customers and real customers. Customers who actually transfer money to you.”
To end with, any advice for a starting entrepreneur in Brabant?
“Always get up once more than you fell.”