I Am No Longer a Mere Painter. I Help a Team to Paint a Bigger Picture
Almost sixteen years have passed since the demise of one of Belgians most promising tech ventures, Lernhaut & Hauspie. Born and raised not more than a dozen kilometers from that once so promising Flanders Language Valley, Vincent Theeten still reminisces the time he himself spent at the speech technology scaleup that flew too close to the sun.
Vincent Theeten, CEO of CHEQROOM
Today, Vincent is a founder, a father and also metal guitarist-at-rest. He is the CEO of CHEQROOM, the Co.Station Resident in Ghent that has built the best hassle-free equipment management software there is to be found. Mashable, The Washington Post and Panasonic love it.
“It’s where paid advertising payed off. We didn’t spend that much time on getting our foot in the door. They just found us! We did cover the basics of course. Our website was in English, pricing in USD and we analyzed the traffic that was generated rather thoroughly.”
Vincent graduated in 2000 and found himself working in thé tech hub of Flanders, the very next day. L&H had just closed an important deal with Microsoft, signed and personally approved by Bill Gates himself. The latter was even treated with some cake.
“It was an exciting technology. Within a few weeks you just knew that it could have an enormous added value, that it could change the world. I learned a lot about the speed of business and got the opportunity to travel to the US. The end of L&H was part of the dotcom bubble that bursted. It left us all with mixed feelings.”
Vincent took the opportunity to add a business management course to his curriculum. It enabled him to reposition himself. As a speaker on innovation methodologies and the structuring of innovation processes in large companies, he taught managers to be open to innovation even if it is not invented here.
“A lot of us think that in order to innovate you need to start from scratch. However, it is much simpler. You need to combine existing knowledge to sparkle fresh ideas. It is great to see that large corporate organization are widely beginning to support intrapreneurship, autonomous decision making and enabling people to find knowledge outside of company walls.”
In 2013, CHEQROOM was founded. The strategy was simple. The idea was to find enough customers to have 2-3 people work on the project. Focusing on growth supported by investors came at a later stage.
“Each summer, I took some weeks to work on a pet project. Once finished, I pushed these online and watched what happen. After three months it was clear that people wanted to pay for the CHEQROOM solution. We weren’t focused on getting paid ourselves. We just wanted to have a good enough product and learn down the road.”
The solution was picked up by Mashable, Wall Street Journal, Panasonic and some universities. All of them had a variety of expensive gear (mostly AV) and a lot of freelancers working with it. CHEQROOM learned a lot from these meetings with large-scale American clients.
“Actually it is quite simple. In the US -especially in media- everything needs to go fast. People communicate much more open and direct with you. They tell you what needs to be altered in unveiled terms. That is quite different from what I was used to, back in to the more closed West of Flanders.”
Today, CHEQROOM employs five people. Feeding on the knowledge he grasps from reading biographies of Larry Ellison and other classic IT guru’s, he tries to grow as a people manager.
“Interviewing your first potential employees is an arduous task. You need to give them confidence and space to do their thing. Today, one mostly acts on gut feeling. Once the team grows significantly in size, I am sure that having plunged through all these books will bare its fruits.
Speaking of which, Vincent is a true fan of the UX-bestseller “Don’t Make Me Think” and the writings of Kurzweil on Singularity. He gets into the zone with a combination of progressive metal of Periphery and nineties classic hiphop. The CHEQROOM venture limits the time he is still able to spend on creative outburst. The former guitarist/painter however no longer requires it as much, in order to wind down.
“You get the feeling that you are not creating on your own anymore. With CHEQROOM we are working on something bigger, we are painting a bigger picture together.”
CHEQROOM is gaining traction. If asked what the most difficult item will be that needs to be overcome in 2017, Vincent is quite clear. CHEQROOM needs to grow its team, significantly.
Vincent Theeten’s spirit
“Even if I would win the lotto today, I would still like to sit this ride out. We just loving doing it and we haven’t peaked yet. I would say that we are at only 20 percent of our true potential. First this and then we will see. Looking at how AI is evolving, it might be interesting to set up a future venture in that direction!”