Ghent-based dScribe offers a road paved with more accessible business data
This company helps entrepreneurs manage their data and find reports in Ghent, European Capital of Technology.
You’re probably familiar with the next scenario: as an entrepreneur, you have one or more data platforms to store a large amount of data, in which you’ve often invested a lot. But when you or one of your employees is looking for a specific report or piece of data, you can’t always find what you're looking for. It can be somewhat discouraging to try and find that one piece of information among that mass of data and different lines. The Gent-based data company dScribe can help with this. They have the ambition to be the 'Google' for your data.
At Invest in Gent, we also have a 'BHAG' (Big Hairy Audacious Goal): to further develop Gent as the Capital of Technology in Europe. It is within this vibrant digital tech community in Gent that artificial intelligence is no longer a futuristic concept. Moreover, their knowledge goes beyond standard understanding like ChatGPT and OpenAI. The close collaboration between knowledge institutions and companies has resulted in the largest cluster of AI-oriented companies in the broader Gent region. Thanks to the influence of Ghent University, imec, imec.istart, and AI4growth, many spinoffs and startups have emerged here.
dScribe is one of those many startups. On the occasion of their two-year anniversary, we spoke with Pieter Delaere (CEO) and Simon Temmerman (CTO) at their office, in Home of AI."
When we enter ‘Home of AI’, we’re immediately greeted by several other startups that have found their place here. Think of Tiro.health and Spinewise, for example. It’s a sign for us that we’re on the right path to building strong bridges between the government and the local tech players. When we ask how dScribe ended up here, Pieter tells us that he was there on the opening night of Home of AI, which was more than a year ago. "We’d started our company a year earlier and we were looking for an attractive physical location," says Pieter. "Immediately, I was convinced of the concept: uniting startups working on the theme of AI in a central location in Ghent, near the train station. And indeed, we’ve been able to fully benefit from it. It’s extremely enjoyable to sit together and learn from each other. Moreover, the people from ML2Grow, the organizing company behind Home of AI, are very approachable and eager to give advice."
A leap of faith
dScribe officially came to life on July 2, 2021, but the five founders (four of whom were actively working at the consultancy company delaware at that time, by the way) had been toying with the idea of starting their own company for some time. "It was still unclear what form that would take," says Simon.
"At a certain point in time, two things came together for us," says Pieter. "Firstly, we noticed that the software we had written for a project with two major clients was really successful. Secondly, delaware had just established a fund that year, a corporate venture capital fund, where they were willing to invest in software, even from within their own organization. We received support from one of the innovation partners, and our story was well received by the jury. We were at the right moment, in the right place." "Indeed," agrees Simon, "everything fell into place organically."
With the support of 'Ventures by delaware', the founders started their project. "We’re all good friends," Simon says. "Sometimes that makes it easier to run a company together, but at other times, it doesn't. I’ll be honest about that (laughs). It's not like we always agree. We still have discussions. But because we know each other, we can talk more easily. And we have a clear distinction between work-related conversations, which are confined to the workplace, while personal subjects are considered private."
Immediately, I was convinced of the concept (of Home of AI): uniting startups working on the theme of AI in a central location in Ghent, near the train station. And indeed, we’ve been able to fully benefit from it.
Shoot for the stars
dScribe aims to be an internal Google for businesses. "Actually, my wife came up with that comparison," Simon admits. "But actually, I also like using it now. It gives people a concrete idea of what we do. Namely, capturing all data and automatically categorising it based on labels assigned by the users. Afterward, we ensure that this can be retrieved in the most intuitive way possible. That’s a high standard that we impose on ourselves, but it’s necessary if we want to remain successful amidst the existing competition."
"We often find that our clients have a wealth of data," Pieter explains. "They’ve invested heavily in reporting and data platforms - think of Power BI - but when they search for specific information, they often get stuck. The end-users, who aren’t technically savvy, lose sight of the overall bigger picture. And that is understandable! For example, we have a client whose employees used to create hundreds of individual reports, where they could only find the data shared within their own team. But this led to the creation of numerous separate categories, 'workspaces', which resulted in a proliferation of files."
About the ROI of AI
"The great advantage of our platform is that the user only needs to ask one question: what data am I looking for?" Simon says. "AI supports us in that."
Unsurprisingly, in order to bring order to chaos, this platform relies on AI tools. Since the beginning of this year, with the increased interest in AI and its implications, the founders have received many questions about the usage of AI. "Indeed, people have become extra enthusiastic about it," Simon says. "People are becoming more aware of the power of AI. And everything that has happened in the past months has made AI tools much more accessible. They also feed on additional data. But it is important, as a company, to consider how you deploy these tools."
"We need AI for our daily operations, focusing mainly on the automation of documentation and categorisation of that data and the reports," Pieter says. "We try to approach it in a very pragmatic way."
People are becoming more aware of the power of AI. And everything that has happened in the past months has made AI tools much more accessible. They also feed on additional data. But it is important, as a company, to consider how you deploy these tools.
Not every company is eager to share their data with an external partner. Sometimes, these entrepreneurs need to bring out their persuasive skills. "Making data accessible is central to everything we do," Pieter says. "Integrations between dScribe and the client's systems are therefore necessary. It does help that we only create an inventory of the data assets across different systems. Only the metadata is read. That’s an important distinction to make."
"Moreover, when we mention all the benefits, we can easily win over (potential) customers," Simon says. "In the past, people often showed their concerns, but trust in cloud solutions is increasing. Now, if we say that we can activate the platform within 2 to 3 working days and give them the opportunity to gain insights into existing data and reports in a transparent and fast way, they quickly buy into our story."
These entrepreneurs are fully on board with the story of Digital Tech in Ghent. "This city is really thriving in terms of tech," says Simon. "Even for students, with initiatives like Gentrepreneur and Student Startup. And on a European level, Ghent is on a strong rise, every day more and more. We really have a Silicon Valley of Europe here, thanks to the strong network. That’s so important because it makes you feel more supported as a startup. And most importantly, there is no hesitancy to share insights with other startups. On the contrary, people here are eager to learn from each other."
"We just miss those big, overarching conferences a bit," says Pieter. "The City can definitely play a facilitating role in this. We also need networking sessions. Everyone is so focused on developing their product and providing a proper service that there is very little time left to organise such an event."
Ghent is really thriving in terms of tech. We really have a Silicon Valley of Europe here, thanks to a strong network. That’s so important because it makes you feel more supported as a startup. And most importantly, there is no hesitancy to share insights with other startups.
In the near foreseeable future
Things are moving fast for the startup: in May, they raised 1.5 million euros thanks to PMV and Angelwise. "We’re growing quickly," Pieter confirms. "Our next step will be towards the European market, or even beyond, who knows. For that, we’ll work through partnerships. A larger market naturally means a bigger team, so in the coming months, we’ll mainly be looking for new people."
Tips for other entrepreneurs
These five entrepreneurs have not yet found the holy grail. For now, they stick to a number of suggestions for the right direction to take. "Just take the plunge," Simon says. "You can read a lot of books about entrepreneurship, but ultimately, you have to learn it through your own experiences. And be open to other tech entrepreneurs as well. More often than not we’re in a hurry to leave an event instead of entering into dialogue, missing out on meaningful conversations with other entrepreneurs. However, there is so much to be gained from the valuable insights of fellow business owners.”
"And please, don't take customer feedback as a personal accusation," Pieter adds. "I understand, that product is like your baby, you're so close to it. But we try to see feedback, both positive and negative, as a good thing. If people take the time to give feedback, it means that your solution strikes a chord, and you can take that along, on your journey.”