Birgit Everaert invites founders of startups and scale-ups for a comfy chat in the Startup Sofa. Because this edition was planned during the COVID-19 lockdown measures, we had a virtual Startup Sofa chat with Jorik Rombouts, Founder of Rombit.
Rombit’s main ambition is to digitize complex industrial sites with IoT and AI technologies, to make it a safe, secure, and efficient work environment. The Belgian scale-up recently got international fame for the integration of a social distancing feature in a smart bracelet, respecting the distance recommended since strict COVID-19 measures are put in place in the work environment.
“Actually, Evert from our team had the idea. A couple of clients had questions about respecting social distancing on site. I remember I responded to that mail saying Coivd-19 seemed something temporarily, and we should keep focusing on our roadmap. But customers kept on asking about it so we ended up doing research. Finally, our team developed the COVID functionality in only a couple of weeks. Looking back to it, I’m very glad my team didn’t listen to my advice (laughs)!”, Jorik explains in Startup Sofa.
The extra attention around the social distancing feature hasn’t changed their long term ambition. “When we receive requests for the smart bracelets, we always check if companies order them only for the social distancing feature, or because of all the features it offers. Our ambition to make the heavy industry safer on a global scale remains the same. Our device is unique in the world, combining 5 key functionalities to ensure a safe work environment.”, Jorik continues.
“Your company deserves better than you!”
Just before the COVID-19 crisis, Rombit announced John Baekelmans was hired as the new CEO of the scale-up. He got extra challenged because of the health crisis, having to manage the company without getting to know the team and the ins & outs of the company in a normal setting. Jorik explains that, as an entrepreneur, it’s key to understand that you are not the right person to scale your company: “My recommendation to every entrepreneur is that your company deserves better than you! An entrepreneur is a dreamer and can realize great things, but isn’t the best person in place to scale a company from 50 to 250 employees.“
When, at the end of the interview, we talk about Rombit’s future plans, Jorik tells that they now need to deliver upon the expectations created with the wearables. They are focused on creating an international footprint and further develop new applications by creating an innovation engine within the company. As for Jorik’s plans, he’s excited about taking some much-needed time off soon, and work on a new business idea to build exoskeletons: “I’ve always had a dream about building an Iron Man!”
Table of content:
- Moving beyond the IOT hype (1:20)
- Smart Bracelet (2:46)
- Staying true to the vision (5:10)
- A new CEO before a crisis (8:54)
- CEO Wishlist (10:30)
- “Your company deserves better” (12:08)
- Impact of COVID on innovation (12:32)
- Future plans (14:14)
- Jorik’s dream of the Iron Man (16:13)
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