Initiatives.co: how to better collaborate with your clients
Among the entrepreneurs of the IÉSEG ecosystem, we find students and graduates, but also members of the administrative teams and professors. Bert PAESBRUGGHE is a professor in International Negotiation and Sales Management, and he recently launched his company “Initiatives.co”. He tells us about his professional and academic experience.
What is Initiatives.co?
Initiatives.co is a SaaS web application to help B2B companies build better relationships with their most important customers. The start-up was born in 2021. The platform enables smoother collaboration between companies and their customers or suppliers. The core idea of the web application is based on eight years of academic research on strategic buyer-seller relationships – from the buyer’s perspective.
How does Initiatives.co differ from other similar applications?
Our competitors focus mainly on project management with tasks assigned to a particular person internally. What we offer with Initiatives.co is a solution that links the company and its customer or supplier so that they can really collaborate together, not just share tasks. It’s a platform that brings together informative documents, and allows you to hold meetings, follow up on meetings, fill in questionnaires… So we offer an all-in-one solution for external relationships.
Initiatives.co is part of the IÉSEG Incubator, what does this mean for you?
It’s been almost a year since we joined the Incubator. Thanks to the IÉSEG Incubator, we were able to obtain the status of young university enterprise (J.E.U.). This status is intended to encourage the creation of companies by any person involved in research work in higher education institutions. We were also able to access the French Tech grant from the government. Beyond these advantages, it provides us with a setting within IÉSEG, which allows us to work together on different subjects. We have meetings with the Incubator’s experts that allow us to move forward on certain issues. Moreover, it is the Incubator of IÉSEG, which is a School with an international reputation, which opens doors for us.
What do you envision for the future of Initiatives.co?
I would like to offer free academic research content, particularly concerning sustainable development and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, to help managers find their way around. This will make projects that seem complex accessible to the greatest number of people. This is also one of the objectives of a management school like IÉSEG: to teach how to manage a team.
How do you manage to balance your professional life, both as a professor and an entrepreneur?
First of all, some days are very long and some weekends short. However, the solution we have brought to the market is not very far from my area of expertise since my research is about the relationship between sellers and buyers. Working on this business gives me energy since it complements what I have developed from an academic point of view. I also have a team that helps me a lot on a daily basis.
How do you integrate your experience as an entrepreneur into your courses at the School? “
Since I am immersed in the relationship between selling and buying companies with Initiatives.co, it allows me to give my students concrete examples to illustrate what we study. On my board of directors, I have experts in the field who have come to speak in my classes and have been able to demonstrate, through their own experience, that the knowledge gained in class can be used in real-life situations. Last year we had Ton Geurts, who was the CPO of Akzo Nobel and DSM. Next year, we will have the Global Key Account Director of BASF who will come to speak in class. These presentations by big names in the industry enrich the courses and captivate the students.
How is Initiatives.co doing today?
The company is doing very well. Among our clients, we have major accounts. We no longer only offer solutions for companies as a whole, but also for individuals or specific departments within companies.
What is your assessment after one year of entrepreneurship?
I think it is important to always be aware of the market. At Initiatives.co, we are looking for efficiency between internal teams and external collaboration. Today, everyone wants to do more but lacks time. If the problems seem too complex, usually nothing gets done. By keeping an eye on the market, we were able to identify this problem and find a solution to it.
Any advice for a future entrepreneur?
I would advise to talk to a lot of people, ask for a lot of opinions. Don’t be impressed by the big success stories. The goal is not always to become a unicorn. You have to keep going and be perseverant because it is not from the first day that you will succeed. It is important to understand that success in entrepreneurship takes time, it requires a lot of work.