Ghent-based Trensition offers companies a view of the future
Ghent-based company Trensition uses large amounts of public data to estimate the development of current and new future trends.
Ghent-based Trensition has been predicting the trends of the future for 2 years now. No crystal ball required. Instead, Trensition uses large amounts of public data to estimate the development of current and new future trends. This information is extremely valuable to business leaders who are aware of the need to anticipate future evolutions. The City of Ghent had a fascinating conversation with co-founder Vincent Defour.
What was the driving force behind Trensition?
Trensition is the successful result of an idea that got out of hand. In his spare time, one of my friends and co-founder Mike Vanderroost had developed a model to analyse and monitor trends based on text data. Over dinner one drizzly evening, he showed me what he was doing. At that stage of my career I was working as a consultant, identifying the trends companies encounter during a transformation and how they can best prepare for them. Up until that point, my interpretation as a consultant was not covering the full story and the added value I provided was mainly in detecting the effect of current developments on a company. That evening I saw that it is indeed feasible to map and predict trends using large amounts of data. A whole new world opened up for me. We conducted further research, drew up a business plan and eventually started to pitch it. We soon felt the interest of corporate companies and took on CTO Mathias Colpaert as 3rd co-founder to form a complementary team able to cope with growth. That got the ball rolling.
You can see us as an AI assistant for companies.
What does Trensition do exactly?
Nowadays, every company experiences some kind of disruption, making strategic, long-term thinking an absolute must. This is the only way companies can create the opportunity to anticipate the rapidly changing world. A strategic 3-year plan is no longer sufficient today. Companies need to get a picture of what will come their way within 5 to 10 years and which actions will be required. This is what we’re all about. Using an AI-driven method, Trensition supports decision-makers to optimise and automate their strategy and innovation plan. You can see us as an AI assistant for companies.
We collect as much public open data as possible to provide us with insights into how trends arise and grow, but also how society adopts them once they have matured. By researching this in academia and governments and then seeing whether investors are following a certain trend, we quickly discover innovation opportunities when new products, services and business models emerge in certain sectors or regions of the world. Our AI model maps trends from A to Z. We then link this to a machine learning model that makes a prediction – albeit probabilistic – about the evolution of a certain trend based on all the interacting developments. This holds up an objective mirror to what decision makers are thinking about subjectively. It also gives them the opportunity to focus on the essential short-term trends.
Which sectors is Trensition targeting?
Currently, the biggest added value we have to offer is for corporate companies. This is because their in-house teams benefit from knowing what is happening in Europe, Asia and the United States, for example, and what that means for their company. Our custom-configured platform helps them to visualise data relevant to their product or service and to make informed choices based on this. We also work together with a network of consultants to advise companies in the best possible way.
Based on our customer experience, we currently focus on finance, retail, media and health. But our tool and services are industry agnostic and offer added value for any sector.
Trensition is a member of AI4growth. What is your role here?
AI4growth is a Flemish community of AI representatives from industry, government and academia, and counts a number of leading Ghent-based AI companies and authorities among its members. AI4growth informs companies about what can and cannot be done in the field of AI today. We share knowledge at events such as AI4 Your Business 2021 in St Peter’s Abbey in Ghent where guest speakers explain new developments in the world of AI. As an expert partner, Trensition plays its part in this.
Ghent and its surroundings are teeming with highly educated people. The AI knowledge available in Ghent is top class.
Trensition undoubtedly works with some exceptionally talented individuals. Is it easy to find the right profiles for the company? And does the proximity of Ghent University and other educational institutions play a big role in this?
Because Trensition is aiming for short-term growth, today we are constantly working hard to attract new talent. Ghent and its surroundings are teeming with highly educated people. The AI knowledge available in Ghent is top class. However, as a start-up it is a major challenge to attract these people. This is partly due to Ghent’s success as an incubator for start-ups. With Ghent’s ambition to become the technology capital of Europe, numerous start-ups are popping up that all prey on talent. We’re tackling this challenge by giving guest lectures at universities and by building connections with institutions such as Vlerick Business School in order to meet master’s and PhD students.
In addition, as a start-up we want to give something back to society. Our position on sustainability means that we take certain decisions that make it more difficult for ourselves. Given that we search for our employees locally, we do not provide company cars. In an ideal scenario, we would also inspire other companies and limit expectations regarding company cars. On the one hand, this conscious approach makes hiring more difficult. On the other hand, it gives us the opportunity to work with employees who fully support our sustainability vision and who want to create something positive together with us. In combination with the collective skills, this allows you to achieve much more as an organisation.
The City of Ghent supports many local incentives that increase our publicity and visibility. Such initiatives naturally also attract attention abroad.
How do you go about offering an internationally scalable product from Ghent?
During the coronavirus crisis, it became clear that Trensition can scale quickly, independent of industry and region. And of course, this can be done from Ghent. It is perfectly possible to run sales and projects remotely.
The City of Ghent supports many local incentives that increase our publicity and visibility. The Big Score, organised by Startups.be | Scale-Ups.eu, is a good example of such an event. As host city and partner of the international venture capital and corporate venture event, the City of Ghent helps bring together technology start-ups and scale-ups, companies and investors in the MeetDistrict in Ghent. Such initiatives naturally also attract attention abroad. They are the only way to promote Ghent internationally as a true hotbed of technology.
As a capital of technology, Ghent is generating new economies. This is how a city continues to thrive.
What is the advantage of investing in Ghent’s economy?
As a capital of technology, Ghent is generating new economies. Start-ups recruit people who then need housing – preferably close to their workplace. This in turn has a positive effect on other economies. This is how a city continues to thrive. The human capital in Ghent is enormous. As a company, you also notice the low-threshold contact with universities and other institutions as a result of short communication lines. All these factors create the right breeding ground for a successful ecosystem in Ghent.
Does Trensition itself need additional capital from local or foreign investors?
Since we generate sufficient turnover to finance our organic growth ourselves, we are not talking about a real need for financing. But to maintain the momentum we have today, we need to accelerate that growth. The answer to that is indeed external financing.
What does Trensition have planned for the future?
In the short term, we aim to grow in various industries – in Europe and beyond – to fund the necessary research for the coming years and to improve our products. In the long term, we aim to estimate trends at a higher level. Nobody can predict the future. But we can automate scenarios to visualise the impact events, such as a new pandemic, have on sectors and regions.
Doing business in Ghent is challenging, sexy, fun and comfortable.
The City of Ghent focuses its policy on specific spearheads such as digitech, healthtech, biotech, cleantech and innovation. How can the City of Ghent support digitech and AI companies even better?
Doing business in Ghent is challenging, sexy, fun and comfortable. The City of Ghent has a policy that makes local entrepreneurs feel stimulated and supported. As far as I’m concerned, the City of Ghent could be even more dynamic in how it shares its technological ambitions. They could go beyond the vision and make it more concrete with incentives, subsidies, support in all kinds of areas, platforms for internationalisation, and so on. I see the City of Ghent as a mediator for companies that are having a hard time competing internationally against the United States and China. They could think even bigger and certainly also include the needs of the younger entrepreneurial generation.