Title : Rising Star interview: Leo Goovaerts, EcoNation
Date : 18 December 2015
LA Report: Why did you set up your company?
I came to the conclusion that our current global economic and ecological system is unbalanced and that our planet will not last until my grandchildren reach my age. I believe that all businesses should reinvent their business plan in the future and become part of the circular economy. Not only will it help companies to meet their economic needs but also it will have a great positive influence on the global ecological system that cannot cope with the current patterns of consumption.
LA Report: How long did it take you to set up your business?
EcoNation was set up in a very short time because the product ‘LightCatcher’ was studied by the University of Ghent allowing us to start production after just a few months.
LA Report: What education or training did you have?
I studied Law and Economics in Brussels, Leuven and Strasbourg, and Negotiation and Mediation Techniques at the Universities of Harvard, Chicago (Kellogg School of Management) and California (Pepperdine University School of Law).
LA Report: Where did you source funding to set up your business?
I financed the business myself.
LA Report: Were there any EU, national, regional or local business support services, programmes or funding initiatives that helped you set up or grow?
Regional (Flemish) support was available for development of the product as well as for the development of the business model. Also our customers in Belgium and the Netherlands purchasing our product, the ‘LightCatcher’ benefit from a government subsidy designed to promote ecological products.
LA Report: With hindsight, which would have been the most valuable knowledge base of skillset to have before setting up your business?
At least six month’s experience of another start-up.
LA Report: Do you have a mentor?
I consider Bill Gates as a mentor. I met him in Davos at the World Economic Forum and his advice to me was: “In a start-up business, when you need additional capital, don’t look for an IPO or public support but fund the operation yourself and keep your shares as close as possible to your breast. He also advised me to keep myself informed of everything of the business and everything the CEO does.
LA Report: What is the specific benefit that distinguishes your product or service from its competitors?
Without using any energy, Light Catcher provides constant access to daylight for a small price.
LA Report: How does your company change people’s lives for the better?
EcoNation’s product ‘The LightCatcher’ is an intelligent Light Dome. A mirror is constantly directed to the brightest point in the sky, which allows users to lighten their warehouses, sport centres, etc. with natural daylight instead of artificial light. It is proven that daylight has a great impact on the health and well-being of people. It lowers depression, inspires and encourages creativity. Moreover, lighting a building by daylight saves a pretty penny in the purse. A thing most people experience in their life as a change for the better.
LA Reports: How long did it take you to break into new markets?
LA Report: How would you describe your progress so far?
In my opinion EcoNation is on track to become an important player in the field of clean-tech. We are currently adding new features to Light Catcher as well as and developing new products.
LA Report: How are you planning to grow your business?
By working more with investors so we can grow faster and approach more markets.
LA Report: If you were in charge of the government ministry for SMEs and start-ups, what would be the three most important changes you would make to help them grow?
1. Free start-ups from all taxes for the first 3 years and pay a reduced tax rate for the next 3 years, including social security costs.
3. Give each start-up a pack that includes a standard website; free promotional material and access to specialist testing and sectoral expertise.
4. Make our diplomatic representation interested in what Belgian start-ups are doing.
LA Report: Entrepreneurs are important to society because…?
Because an entrepreneur provides jobs for society and allows others to benefit from his or her hard work.
LA Report: The best thing about being an entrepreneur is…?
We can turn our crazy dreams into reality….
LA Report: If you could go back in time to when you were just about to start your company and tell yourself something useful, what would it be?
‘Que sera sera’
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