We talked to Bram Van Nieuwerburgh of CactusSoft about its engineering software solutions for businesses and the following is what he said about it :-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Bram Van Nieuwerburgh: We are doing well. It was especially tough to keep all things running during the first wave of COVID-19 with three kids. But now, I must say, the routine is there, and we make the best out of it.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded CactusSoft.
Bram Van Nieuwerburgh: I am a Belgian engineer. After my engineering studies, I received an MBA in Madrid, and later on, I went to the Vlerick Business School to learn more about corporate finance. Transforming companies, being part of radically transforming markets is what drives me, especially related to the whole digital revolution we are part of nowadays. I started my career in 2001 in Citibank Spain as an analyst. Since 2003, I had worked for 12 years for airlines and tourism companies, including Virgin, Brussels Airlines, and Thomas Cook. In 2014, I decided to become an entrepreneur. I founded two digital B2C start-ups, sold them later, and since the end of 2016, I am fully dedicated to CactusSoft. Having started our nearshore operations under a different brand name, we acquired CactusSoft in 2017. Three years later, everything is integrated, and we are looking forward to growing the company further.
How does CactusSoft innovate?
Bram Van Nieuwerburgh: First of all, we are close to the innovation at the customer’s side: they come to us for innovative projects. So it makes us think about what is going on in the market. We are also in the expert panels of several institutions/innovation hubs/accelerators like iMEC in Belgium, where we act as a sounding board. In addition, we foster proprietary product development inside the company, both to test new technologies, as well as to have a commercial impact. All our employees know we are always interested in hearing their ideas and fostering innovation/entrepreneurship.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Bram Van Nieuwerburgh: In March 2020, some projects were suddenly put in the freezer before the announced start date, so we had to cope with a certain decline in business. This lasted until the end of summer, but since then, we see a lot of initiatives popping up again. It looks like a lot of companies have regained trust in the situation. So, all in all, 2020 is a very atypical year with a small decline in business, but we definitely expect growth for the coming year.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Bram Van Nieuwerburgh: Yes, we had some employees whose working time was reduced to 80% or even exceptionally to 50% for 1-3 months. Also, some customers had difficulties paying the bills, so we faced larger delays in incoming cash. It shows that you need a lot of financial discipline to survive such an unexpected event. Next to that, working remotely showed us that we can apply a different working model as well, whereby our employees will come to the office 2-3 times per week instead of being there every day.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Bram Van Nieuwerburgh: Anxiety keeps you awake at night, running multiple what-if scenarios throughout your head. Sports help a lot to detox and achieve equilibrium.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Bram Van Nieuwerburgh: We have a lot of competitors in the market of nearshore development. Virtually all providers from Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and Belarus are competitors as they also have good software developers that can solve the customers’ challenges. However, we have local market presence in Belgium and remain close to our customers, which makes us different and more trusted. We almost exclusively work for Western European companies. We know how they think, decide, and act. This results in an adapted offering and the way of cooperation, tailor-made for each customer. Nevertheless, our prices need to remain competitive, so we adapt our company’s structure swiftly. We also focus on long-term cooperation through, for example, win-win partnerships based on the customers’ success.
Your final thoughts?
Bram Van Nieuwerburgh: These are great times with a lot of potentials. Our society is changing quickly, and being part of that transformation is an unparalleled rollercoaster that brings a lot of insights and satisfaction. I would urge people to take a look outside the so-called golden cages of large companies and try to leverage their insights in adding value to the world of tomorrow.
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