Last week, we welcomed Tom Vandendooren who joins the executive team as Chief Business Development Officer. Most recently, Tom was with Microsoft Europe, leading the commercial strategy for various consumer business groups. We grabbed him for a quick chat to pick his brain.
Tom, you’ve got quite an impressive resume and worked multiple years for Microsoft. What motivated you to start working in a startup environment?
It is actually not the first startup I’ve joined. I have worked in social messaging and infomediary startups before & after Microsoft, and always enjoyed the vibe & energy. I’ve always been keen on creating and building new things, whether that’s propositions, products, business models or go-to-market strategies.
In startups it’s really all about the promise and journey of ‘zero-to-great’, rather than the corporate ‘good-to-great’ focus. The opportunity is the main hook and ultimately what attracted me to Sentiance. On the one side the opportunity of digital and contextual intelligence as a force multiplier to fundamentally change and improve the way we work, live & play. On the other side the opportunity to join a smart team of market-driven strategists and data scientists, with solid and proven foundations and a clear time-to-market advantage.
What’s your plan of action for the first couple of weeks?
The first couple of days I’ll be busy getting to know the ins & outs of the business and the team. Mapping proprietary technology and competencies to the vast market opportunity and starting to prioritize where we focus efforts and investments for product and business development.
Contextual technology and intelligence is hot and the core Sentiance pitch of turning mobile life into smart life resonates across many different industries and with a broad range of stakeholders. We have a very promising pipeline of projects and prospects across multiple verticals and contextual applications, with a rapidly expanding base of international clients that have signed up to the Sentiance platform and solutions.
My initial focus will be to zoom in on those customer use cases that provide the greatest strategic value to the company and the best fit with our unique sensor fusion and data science capabilities. And from there see how we can best scale our growth and expansion internationally.
How do you go about developing a strategy to achieve product/market-fit?
Common sense; starting with the customer use case, rather than the technology. What problem are we trying to solve and how does mobile sensor based contextual intelligence add unique new value in addressing the customer problem. Developing the product-market fit proposition by mapping the relevant technology solutions (sensor tracking, contextual data science, front-end & back-end applications, …) to create a compelling product offering. Understanding market dynamics, key customer and partner stakeholders and mapping our go-to-market strategies to effectively engage the right audience with the right compelling value proposition.
How do you think the customer can benefit from contextual intelligence?
In the broadest sense, it’s all about smart, personalized and contextual assistance. Everyone would agree that they prefer personalized offerings and services over and above one-size-fits-all. However you can’t get truly personal without understanding context: where you are, what you’re doing, how you’re feeling etc. Both in the now, but also understanding the before (behavioral and situational patterns) and predicting the future (what you are about to do next).
Contextual intelligence is all about enabling services to proactively offer enriched, situation-aware and actionable user experiences, and as such assisting and empowering the customer/user to get more out of life.
What do you think Sentiance needs in the short term to position itself as the go-to company for contextual intelligence?
We need to create and establish thought leadership with all key stakeholders, both within the technology ecosystem (data science and management, geo-location & proximity service providers, IoT etc) and directly with customers in the core verticals of mobility, health and commerce. Target our engagement efforts and communication activities to reach the right audience with the right content through the most effective channels.
We have an incredibly smart and experienced team with a unique and differentiated vision on ambient intelligence technology and solutions. We just need to find ways to boost our reach and expose our vision and solutions at the right global scale.
What do you do when you’re not busy getting your hands dirty at fast-growing startups?
I just love enjoying life, spending quality time with family and friends . I love all good things in life, great food, nice wine, fine beers, great company and fun entertainment. I balance the love for food & cooking with regular exercising (mainly running) to keep the mind & body fit.
With such an extensive background, we can’t help but ask you to share some of your wisdom. If you could give someone one single piece of advise, what would it be?
Enjoy the journey! Everything in life and life itself is a journey. Don’t look back all the time or be overly preoccupied with the future, as you may miss out on the magic of the ‘now’.