Hans Romaen of Crowdbeamer tells us about digital information sharing in real-time.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Hans Romaen: We’re doing well, and in our family and the company, the COVID-19 hasn’t entered. But as my wife, and children, and many of our friends are working in hospitals, as doctors, nurse management, pharmacists, I’m directly connected with the crisis as a macro problem and also to the daily life in hospitals.
Combined with the fact that one of our companies (acerio) had indicated, just before the crisis, to organize a large symposium with several parallel sessions, we could change our business from realizing in-person conferences (national and international) to hybrid formats.
In the other company (Crowdbeamer – roryco) we were obliged to change drastically our marketing and product focus. So this was a lot of work to be done during the COVID crisis.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Crowdbeamer.
Hans Romaen: I have several degrees in engineering. In the middle of the 80’s, I started my career at the Vlerick Management School as a program coordinator focusing on Business and Management for engineers. Related to this period, I initiated new formats to collaborate with the industry.
5 years later, I started at the Flemish Engineering Society as head of the department for continuous education. Again, I was the initiator of total new programs highlighting the role of engineers in several sectors building, engineering, energy, sustainability, innovation, climate change.; Since 2017, I developed, together with my management assistant, our experience in the organization of events, international conferences, collaborations, sponsorships.
In 2009 I founded acerio, a small company, realizing events and conferences for societies and companies.
In 2015 I was a co-founder of RORYCO NV, which realize a total new system for digital information sharing in real-time (Crowdbeamer).
How does Crowdbeamer innovate?
Hans Romaen: Well, by organizing activities in acerio. We saw that participants didn’t receive notes of pdf before or during the sessions. They obtained the information after the sessions, while you reach more productivity when a participant has the chance to take notes (digitally) during the session itself.
This was the start of the realization of Crowdbeamer.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Hans Romaen: Yes, the Crowdbeamer was and is a system to share digitally and in real-time the speaker’s PowerPoint, what he presents. During the coronavirus, all sessions in person were stopped.
We changed the perception of the usage of Crowdbeamer to a solution which you need in corona-time. Crowdbeamer lets you present outside; you don’t need a projector, the information comes on your own tablet (no disinfection needed). Crowdbeamer spreads the digital stream over a circle of 20 m diameter, so social distance is no problem.
Nowadays, Crowdbeamer is also used in studios to carry information and instructions from backstage to the moderator on stage.
Also, the conference organization business needed to change from in-person to virtual and hybrid.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Hans Romaen: Yes and no. Two collaborators working in the Crowdbeamer business changed their minds and went for a job and career change to other companies.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Hans Romaen: Yes, it evolves to more digital work, but also more contacts, and more meetings, discussing the problems and the opportunities. As we already used zoom & teams for worldwide contacts and marketing, this way of working wasn’t new for us.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Hans Romaen: There was a very small input via government grants, but not relevant to the companies financials.
Your final thoughts?
Hans Romaen: This time is very special, but the crisis obliged us to stay alive, be innovative and creative. You can not be afraid of change.
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