How do we support start-ups in their journey?Today, some 100 EYnovation (ey.nl/eynovation) members of staff are providing support and advice to promising start-ups and scale-ups. So how do the entrepreneurs feel about working with EY? And what have their EY supporters learned? Four experienced EY people talked with four start-up entrepreneurs.
Around the table are four entrepreneurs whose offerings have one thing in common: creating order from disorder. Geert Berkvens, founder of MyHomeServices, notes “Innovations prove that the chaos caused by rapidlygrowing devices and the internet of things can be simplified, both in the home and at supplier industries.” Berkven’s product helps to create order in the shape of a virtual device delivered alongside the actual one, supported by the Saas user platform.
The virtual device is a hologram/ app
that provides information throughout the
user period – from purchase to removal –
and gives access to the relevant account,
warranty or support information with a few
simple clicks, resulting in a better overview
and insight for both consumers and companies.
“Consumers get a handle on their usage and can save
costs,” says Berkvens “while retailers and manufacturers
also benefit: if a device fails, they have instant access
to all relevant information – saving on service desk
employee time, among other gains.”
Bas Janssen’s start-up business also involves an app:
Declaree, which helps organizations digitize their expense claims processes.
“No need to hold on to receipts – employees can simply use their smartphones to take pictures and save these on the app. Then they’ll submit an expense form made up of these pictures, which their managers sign off online and send them on to the back office.” In the process, all data is correctly coded and digitized to go into a company’s financial records.
CTcue’s founder Roel Lakmaker helps medical practitioners search electronic patient records.
Smart software and focused searches should help hospitals find patients quickly, Lakmaker tells us: “This enables them to quickly identify subjects for clinical trials, or establish that hospitals meet specific quality criteria.”
Lars Wetemans is the fourth entrepreneur to join the roundtable meeting. He is CEO of
a fully automated marketing platform that helps companies and recruitment agencies run perfectly targeted online recruitment campaigns,
It pulls together program advertising, artificial intelligence and online media channels to help optimize job ads. “We don’t use traditional job boards,” Wetemans says. “We rely on social media, Google Adwords and Google display, a much better way to reach talented people and reduce cost per hire.”
Reputation and trust
Janssen recalls with a smile, “After pitching Declaree to EY, I asked ‘Who’d be interested in this app’ and all hands shot up.” Since then, Janssen has landed Radboud MC, a Dutch hospital employing over 10,000 people. Meanwhile Germany’s Media-Saturn has taken a shine to Berkvens’ app and invited him to join an accelerator program. CTcue has also garnered a great deal of interest, Lakmaker reports: “Hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are very keen, with Utrecht’s academic hospital the first to collaborate.”
But it hasn’t been all plain sailing. When Lakmaker and his CTcue made the finals of the Herman Wijffels innovation awards he got talking to Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch artist and innovator. “Daan said something really spot on:
“In this phase you’ll keep hearing 'it’s not possible'. Once you’ve sorted that it’ll turn into 'it’s not allowed' and by the time you’ve addressed the issues, people will say 'why didn’t we do this sooner?'”
This rang really true to me. Hospital systems are hugely complex, you can’t just tap into them … Yet I believed it would be possible. But then everyone warned: ‘You’re not allowed to, you’re meddling with patient privacy.”
For Lakmaker, this was the main reason to go with EY and HVG. “I’ve learned an awful lot. For one thing, EY and HVG demanded that data should not be immediately identifiable and told us to anonymize pseudonymize. Once we’d done that, hospitals were no longer reluctant to share their patient data with CTcue; in fact, it’s precisely because of CTcue that they’re now handling their data more prudently.
“And EY helped us get on their good side. Health care is about reputation and trust, and that’s not something built in a day. At such times it’s good to have a backer like EY, and now we’re collaborating in other areas as well. This would have been impossible without EYnovation.”
The other three entrepreneurs couldn’t agree more. Janssen reports: “We’re having EY test our certification, which is an incredibly expensive process, but we’re getting competitive rates at EYnovation. And having a certificate to show to our clients is priceless for a start-up like us. EY saying we’ve got our act together gets me right in at big corporates.”
“Plus, there’s no wrangling with banks and investors,” Lakmaker adds. “No discussion after I hand over our annual report – that’s really nice. And important too, of course. “The trickiest issue,” Lakmaker continues “is the time major companies need to arrive at a decision – that really is our biggest challenge. Plus, how do we handle stakeholders? Who do we involve, who do we need to persuade, where exactly do we need to be and which buttons do we need to press?”
On all these issues EY is a great facilitator, the four entrepreneurs agree. In addition, they like having EY on board to bounce ideas off. Wetemans observes: ”We’re growing rapidly and are limbering up to the international launch of our innovative technology in January 2017. That’s a good time to have someone around to point out the risks.”
Janssen regards his start-up’s collaboration with EY as a golden opportunity. “It’s truly amazing what it has done for us. Not only has it put us into contact with EY clients, we’re also talking to EY in Germany, Switzerland and Austria – a company can take off big-time when EY has their back.”
And that’s certainly true today, as many start-ups are software businesses and their products endlessly scalable.
What EY learns from start-ups
EY staff members Jurian Pans, Senior Tax Consultant at EY and Broos Bakens, co-founder of EYnovation/Senior Manager Assurance, were both in on EYnovation from the start and like working with start-ups. Bakens says,
“As you can tell by the can-do vibe around the table, it’s great fun working with young entrepreneurs. It’s incredibly inspiring and we are very keen to grow along with them.”
Pans adds: “Successful start-ups often face complex issues as they typically go international rapidly, hire people abroad and test the limits of the law with their innovations. And that’s where our expertise proves very useful.”
Gerben Hellinga, Senior Manager Tax/Innovation Group at EY, investigates the fiscal advantages that innovations might command, such as subsidies, reduced corporate tax, payroll tax deals or tax breaks on capital spending.
“We also make sure the start-up or scale-up has a single point of contact and does not have to scour the organization for the right person to talk to. Their account manager will do that for them.”
The EY people at the table agree that they also learn a lot in the process. “We come to understand the real-life issues entrepreneurs face, whatever phase they’re in,” Bakens notes. “At EY, we’re all super specialists, of course, and the great thing about this format is that it lets us get stuck in on all other issues that come into play. Also, our impact is much greater on these fresh start-ups than when we’re doing the exact same thing at large corporates, where we’re only tiny cogs in a very big wheel.”
“And we acquire a much broader perspective because we’re dealing with all sorts of issues that entrepreneurs face,” adds Erik de Heer, Senior Manager Tax at EY.
“At the same time, we’re talking development opportunities: we’re training our people to become the advisors of the future. Advisors who know all there is to know about the available expertise at EY, people who slot easily into different teams, have entrepreneurial mind-sets and dare to step into their clients’ shoes and think like them.”
All the participants have noticed a great deal of interest in start-ups. “Start-ups are so hip right now,” Janssen notes. “Larger players are keen to get in on the act, but tend to pull out when it comes to the crunch. EY doesn’t.” Bakens explains,
“We outshine our rivals – always have – by standing by ‘our’ entrepreneurs regardless of where they’re at. And when the time comes for a start-up to be put in touch with a corporate, we’ll introduce them.”
Lakmaker identifies another advantage for EY: “Understanding the philosophy underpinning start-ups means EY can actually help major corporates innovate. Let’s not forget that even big organizations must change to survive.”
Ambitions and aspirations: the EY legacy
Asked what the two parties – EY people and entrepreneurs – would like to see as their legacy, similarities also emerge. EY’s Hellinga says, “This initiative tries to apply the risktaking, entrepreneurial mind-set and instill it into our own people step by step.
If we get them on this path the day they join EY, we can teach our new colleagues the difference between corporates and startups, and how to handle these differences like chameleons.
It’s this aspect of developing our young people, who will become EY’s directors in 10-15-20 years’ time, that I personally feel very strongly about.”
wants to take the world by storm. “That’s what I’m aiming for anyway.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur, I think, is to have come up with your own idea, developed it and then attracted clients who really benefit. I’d love to take my idea global.”
Whether or not an entrepreneur succeeds is not up to EY, of course. “The entrepreneur pulls it off,” Bakens emphasizes. “But I do believe that we make a key contribution.
I hope that we’ll be able to say that EYnovation helped make companies bigger, more successful and have more of an impact.
They made us a better world and could that a little more only because we gave them a helping hand.”
Making the world a better place is a vision Wetemans and Berkvens share.
“Many of us see more of our colleagues than our own kids,” Wetemans says. We really believe we would improve the world if people ended up in a better place to work.
81% of job-seekers aren’t actually looking but are open to the right job coming along. We create new opportunities for recruiters to focus on passive job-seekers.”
Berkvens adds, “Households double their number of devices and pieces of equipment every five years. We’re throwing more stuff out and depleting our resources. One of our big aims for our app is to capture this whole chain and close the loop.”
hopes to make an important contribution to healthcare.
“Suppose a new treatment for young people with serious skin issues hits the market. People who hadn’t benefited from the old skin therapies will have fallen off their doctors’ radar. We’ll help put them back on.”
De Heer wraps it up:
“In ten years’ time, I’d like to be able to look back with pride at what we at EY have been able to do for these new companies by bringing to bear our own passion and entrepreneurship,
even if the focus on young and relatively small companies actually flies in the face of EY’s profile. By that time, I’d like everyone to think it was only logical that we collaborated, probably because some of our EYnovation clients will have grown into the biggest players in their markets!”