20 years of entrepreneurship
I had worked for 10 years at Cap Gemini (previously Volmac) in 1996. I’d seen many different positions; software programmer, consultant, project manager. A job with a lot of customer contact, commuting, studying and a good salary. When a coworker asked me to join him in entrepreneurship, I wrote down my options – stay in service of Cap Gemini, change to a different employer or become an entrepreneur. Over de past 20 years I dusted off this document more than once, to remember why I started the adventure and if my arguments were still solid enough. A challenging future, with responsibility and self-discipline, was in all the three options. The freedom of entrepreneurship, which allowed me to choose my own direction, made the ultimate difference. I still enjoy this daily.
With four of us, we started a new company in 1996, Derks Huisman & Partners. The company died years ago, but as a partner, I would be focussing on new technologies. After doing a brief research, we decided that my focus need to be on the businesslike usage of the Internet: enabling web applications. In this time, the World Wide Web was in its baby shoes and companies would pay thousands of guldens for a simple website.
While my three colleagues focussed on IT-education project and secondments, I was looking for the right tools and contacts. At the beginning of 1997, Enable Internet Technologies BV was started, at the time a joint-venture with a software house specialised in the RAD-development tool Magic, Hands Worldwide. The web applications we developed with this tool, resulted in a ‘Magic Application Excellence Award’.
A year later I continued with Enable separate from the parent companies. Ever since, we/I have been focussing on opportunities in the market and creating software solutions for it.
After my HTM period, in 2003, I made a list of my top 10 innovation opportunities in Public Transport. With this list, I visited all IT-managers of PT-companies to see if they recognized the problems. Eventually, I took the first two items (Transmodel, a standardized data model and MIPOV, a model for management information) and started VANL with it.
With or without employees
If you want to grow as a company, you need good people. Just like now, it was hard finding good ITers in 1998. These were the years when many people chose a secondment. As did Enable. The profit we made for companies such as HTM, GVU and GVB was invested in an office in Almere and in the secondment of six new, reintegrated employees. My brother Henk educated these non-ITers to software programmers/system administrators/account managers. I still don’t understand how he did it.
We had to downsize two times. Once quickly after the millennium, when the market was disrupted as all millennium projects ended at the same time, and in 2010, when the government had reduced the PT subsidies due to the economic crisis. The second downsize made for an intense and personal period. I am happy that all employees understood the measures that had to be taken in order to let the company survive. From then on, I did not have any employees, but project-based hires. Which still happens as we speak.
In 2010 I realised that the Dutch PT-market was too one-sided to make an IT-company survive on it solely. The PT-market is mainly government funded. If they blow, it storms in our company. It was not until 2017, with the arrival of TMWalker4, that is also usable outside of Public Transport, that there is a solid base again for a small core of employees.
Always with machines
From day one, Enable and later also VANL, had its own IT structure. This is essential if you develop your own applications and offers application hosting to your clients. Starting with the first web server I made in 1996 to the complete data centre that we have now in Uden. The tendency of companies outsourcing their infrastructure or moving it to the cloud is something we have already surpassed. For years we hosted in Amsterdam, but now we moved the core of it to our own place.
– In 1997 my co-entrepeneur Perry Moorman told me my clients should be able to reach me at any given time and I should by a mobile phone. I bought a Nokia 1611. This was the beginning of my 24/7 entrepeneurship. Perry, you were right, thanks!
– During the millennium night I stood on the roof of the old HTM building with Ruud van Rijswijk, to see if the lights in Den Haag would turn off. What would happen? An exciting moment, but nothing really happend. We did a great milennium project with the effect of nothing happening, a special project to me.
– In 2006, the implementation of Prodatas new vehicle tracking system was stuck at Arriva and Veolia. Because of the implementation of our Transmodel database, the project was rebooted and we rolled into the magical OV-chip project. Our database is still reliable and holds traffic information of the whole of The Netherlands.
– The brainstrom session I did at the end of 2014, with 8 young designers from the Technical University of Delft. Based on the 150 new applications of TMWalker we thought of that day, we based the new direction. TMWalker gained a completely unique position next to standard BI-tools.
– This year we reached another peak with the implementation of TMWalker4 at Berco Car Carpets. It proves that our direction is good and that TMWalker is also usable outside of Public Transport.