7 October 2016
An obstacle is there to be overcome
The Ghent-based IT start-up Intuo has already benefited from an interesting mix of financing channels. After the initial business angels, it was the bankers' turn to be actively involved in its deliberations on the next financing projects.
"We are not made to work in a company other than ours," jokes Tim Clauwaert. However, that is certainly not the case of the software developed by this company he founded in 2013 with two partners. Intuo is all the rage with its cloud applications that allow companies to coach and motivate their employees. Today, these applications are already used by more than 100,000 people.
Intuo, a lightning development
"The starter must have complete confidence in himself, in his products and his team," explains the CEO. "We also want a bank that comes along on the journey and that is not only interested in a figure on a piece of paper at a certain point in time. During our fundraising pitch in front of the bank representatives, we took note of those who were asking the right questions. The coaching is never far away. We wanted someone who understands us and becomes involved in our deliberations. ING was the bank that impressed us most with that attitude."
Multiple sources of financing
In the beginning, the founders financed Intuo with their own savings. They went on to receive a 25,000 euro capital injection from the accelerator Telenet Idealabs, while the Institute of Digital Research iMinds also put money on the table. This was followed by a bigger financing operation with a win-win loan from the Société flamande de participation, an ING loan and an investment by three business angels. "Alex Segers Marc Boone and Anthony Brenninkmeijer approached us in different ways," says Tim Clauwaert. "The common denominator was that they had been keeping tabs on us for a while and were convinced that we were not the type to give up. We don’t see a problem as an obstacle but as something that we just have to overcome."
"These business angels were a real godsend," he points out. "Their help was an asset when we discussed financing with a bank. Our pitch had already been validated by experts. Marc Boone, for example, screened our business model from the outset. We came out of the interview confident in our performance and, a year later, he acquired a stake in the company. We also received many tips from these business angels. They know what will be important for the company in three months’ time, while it may not have crossed our minds yet."
"ING is keeping a close eye on the evolution of Intuo," continues Tim Clauwaert. "They help us manage our working capital. When necessary, we can, for example, easily obtain a loan of 50,000 euros."
The company is thriving, with fourteen employees and a turnover estimated at 450,000 euros. This also changes the financing challenges. "Five years ago, for example, the rule was that technology companies financed their growth as much as possible through debt," said Tim Clauwaert. "We no longer do that. Our growth must be profitable and therefore generate profits as quickly as possible. In this way, we can show investors what we are worth and not what we think we will be worth in ten years’ time."
Discover the history of Intuo (FR)
The bank, much more than a lender
"It’s not because starters do not yet come into consideration for bank financing that banks cannot do anything for them," explains Lodewijk De Meester, Head of Lending & Professional Banking ING. "Banks have their own network, that start-ups can leverage. We put them in touch with business angels and venture capitalists. We also have wealthy clients who are or were entrepreneurs and who are willing to provide capital. Finally, ING can take active stakes in start-ups via special funds." In fact, it's not just about money. "Often we can also provide expertise, connections and coaching to starters," points out Lodewijk De Meester. "When we hand over the contact details of a business angel to a starter, saying: 'Send him our regards', it facilitates contacts."
"Today, a bank shouldn’t be approached only when you need your first financing," says Lodewijk De Meester. "We do not only grant loans, but also offer financing options. These include 'external' solutions, such as win-win loans or the intervention of a guarantee fund. What, finally, is his best advice for budding entrepreneurs? "Go to the bank with a solid business plan, that you have preferably already discussed with an accountant or another contractor. If you know what you want to do, where and for what customers it is much easier to move up a gear in terms of funding."