Tijmen Vos— SBE alumnus and successful entrepreneur—will be the keynote speaker at the Local Hero Award event in Maastricht on 19 November. The award, part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week, is open to entrepreneurial students at Maastricht University, and the winner will receive €10,000 seed capital to set up their business. (Click here to read more about GEW Maastricht.) Here, Vos shares his secrets for success for all inspiring entrepreneurs.
Tijmen Vos (34) says it all started when he and his best friend, Rishi Lodhia (also 34), were sitting in a hip-and-happening student bar in Maastricht back in 2000. It was late at night or, more likely, early in the morning. Despite the hour, the international business students at UM were discussing how to make a bit of money because, as with all students, they were always running out of it. While that night their spare cash flow mainly ended up in quite a few glasses of beer, the owner of the place asked them to develop an online forum to compete with another night bar in Maastricht with a bigger clientele. “We boasted we could arrange that for him,” Tijmen recalls, “although we had no clue how to build a website. The next day we started figuring it out.
No guts, no glory
Vos and Lodhia were soon running their own little Internet company, building and hosting websites. Things became serious the moment a client requested a remote controlled camera to survey his company. The young and aspiring entrepreneurs developed the client’s idea further into an online camera security platform. Detron was willing to support a part of the start-up phase, and Cameramanager— Europe’s leading provider for cloud-based video surveillance—was born.
Immediately after the launch, the cloud surveillance system was a huge success. The recorded images are directly stored in the cloud and can be tracked on PC, smart phone and tablet. With these ordinary devices you can easily survey your office or home. No matter what you do, no matter where you are.
What is the secret of success? “You have to do something that is unique and innovative,” Tijmen says. “But you also have to grab the opportunities that come by. There’s always a risk to fail, but that is part of being an entrepreneur.”
And, they did fail at the beginning. “After graduating, we moved our company to Amsterdam. We had a start up in India, at that time a beginning IT Walhalla, like Silicon Valley in California. It was a big adventure but we did not succeed for all kind of reasons. Two years later we ended up with an empty bank account.”
A business partner encouraged them not to give up and to look out for an investor. That’s the moment Detron enters into the story. The CEO was utterly thrilled by their idea, according to Vos: “After five minutes he threw the presentation in the paper bin: he was convinced,” he says. The rest is history. Last year Cameramanager, signed a contract with Panasonic, the Japanese multinational electronics corporation. “Sold for a flat screen TV and a waffle iron,” Tijmen jokes.
Learn from your peers
Vos says his studies in International Business at UM and the vibrant student life in the city were an excellent starting point for his career. “The education in English and the international approach at the university is extremely useful,” he says. “Thanks to my fellow students from all over the world, I learned to think globally. The freedom and responsibility you have to take at UM forces you to work and think at a certain level.”
About the student life: socialising is not only about fun and party. The people he met, including the owner of the nightclub, helped him to dare to take the step. And working together with his friend Rishi is probably the biggest secret of his success, he says, because they are not only business partners; they share a same way of life, the same mentality. “The fact that there is always someone who will give you feedback is crucial for me in being an entrepreneur,” he says. “Besides the fact that you have to have faith in each other and respect each other. We are still best friends.”
Do it now
Winning the Local Heroes Award will certainly give a boost to people working on a project, Vos thinks. Although he says it will be hard nowadays to set up a business with € 10,000 seed capital, it can help you to present your idea on a very professional level to a bank or private investor.
“Forget the old-school PowerPoint presentations and invest in a proof of concept of your idea or product,” he says. “With the 3D printing possibilities you can easily create a very professional sample that will have much more impact.”
His final advice to the local heros? Start now. “Starting as an entrepreneur immediately after graduating is the best choice I have ever made,” he says. “If you work for a big company instead, you get used to a certain standard of living and you won’t take too much risks anymore. So, if you feel you are an entrepreneur: do it right now. If you don’t succeed you can always apply for a job at Unilever.”
Tijmen Vos studied International Business at Maastricht University and graduated in 2003. He is COO at Panasonic Cameramanager and COO at Panasonic Cloud Management Service Europe B.V.
Want to read more? An interview with Tijmen Vos (in Dutch) in the Observant