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As the winners of the EIT Digital Challenge 2017 are about to be announced shortly, we thought it would be nice to focus on one of the Belgian participants that’s in the race. Meet Rombit, an IoT solutions provider and product engineering firm. The Belgian startup helps to optimize administrative workflows in companies and governments alike. The startup is also responsible for creating rapid insights into company processes. While Rombit is a finalist in the EIT Digital Challenge 2017 now, the company recently won the Fujitsu Startup Awards 2017.
The key to digital transformation
Rombit is dedicated to make every company future-proof. To achieve this determined goal, the company strives to improve efficiency, safety, and user-friendliness. However, this doesn’t mean developing new, faster IT systems. Rombit believes that the key to digital transformation lies in an efficient use of already existing systems. The startup starts by analyzing what is already there in a company’s IT environment. Often there is already a lot t of data present, and that’s why Rombit can connect these bits of data to one cloud platform. Secure cloud software solutions are added to improve workflow processes. After completing these steps, the available data will be analyzed, visualized, and enriched.
The startup has changed quite a bit over the course of time though. When looking at Rombit’s product ranges, you can find the categories Smart Cities, Smart Industries and Smart Enterprises. When we talked to Evert Bulcke, Chief Commercial Officer at Rombit, he elaborated on how the company has changed and why these categories aren’t very accurate descriptions anymore. Bulcke: “At the moment, we focus on cities and harbors. We are past enterprises. When we applied for the EIT Digital Challenge, we filed Rombit in both the categories of Digital Cities and Digital industries. However, EIT Digital saw more potential in the application for the Digital Cities category, and we agreed. The main reason for this is our very straightforward product and approach to cities.”
Like any startup, Rombit has had some problems and challenges in the early beginnings of the company. Bulcke: “The market of cities is tough to get into. The market is very traditional, and it comes with a lot of different procedures. We can deal with it now, but it is still far from easy. Getting these solutions to our customers, therefore, is very administrative, and that’s why it takes a long to grow as a scaleup. The markets of foreign cities are especially hard to tap into.”
Combining quality and quantity
While bringing in talent was initially a problem for Rombit, they now represent one of the company’s biggest strengths. “We had some more problems though. We invested heavily in hiring the biggest talents we could find. It turned out to be hugely unprofitable early on. Almost every month, we lost €200.000. We just wanted the best employees we could find to be able to convince our customers of our potential. Eventually, this paid off, and we are now roughly reaching breakeven every month. As a result, a lot of our employees have Ph.D.’s and they can do the work that could be done by five regular employees individually.”
Learning to start walking
According to Bulcke, Rombit is just getting started. Bulcke: “We still have a very far way to go. We found that, while every city we work with is struggling to innovate, the cities aren’t putting enough effort into it as well. Rombit wants to act by providing interesting case solutions instead of selling a platform. We also acknowledge the fact that we have a far way to go, and we have to start walking instead of immediately trying to run.”
EIT Digital Challenge 2017
Currently, EIT Digital has selected aspiring European scale-ups for their annual EIT Digital Challenge. It’s a great way to get access to markets, bank fundraising support, as five winners in different categories are awarded a prize package worth €100,000. Here are the 25 finalists.