Spotlight on Founders_001/Steinar_BirdControlGroup

Founders’ Spotlight is a new Keadyn initiative to showcase our wonderful portfolio companies and their founders, share their personal stories and provide insight on their relationship with Keadyn. In the first of the series, we have Steinar Henskes, founder of Bird Control Group.

At 20 years old, Steinar Henskes had already sold two companies. Steinar is a Kairos K50 Fellow, Student Entrepreneur of the World and Deloitte Technology Fast50 Rising Star. His company, Bird Control Group, is one of Keadyn’s portfolio companies. Keadyn speaks to the man behind the Netherlands’s second most innovative SME:

Keadyn (K): I’m sure you’ve done this countless of times, but give us the two sentence pitch for Bird Control Group.

Steinar (S): At Bird Control Group we keep birds at a distance from commercial activities with laser technology. The birds perceive the lasers as a physical danger, and we have automated technology to keep them at bay. Founded in 2012, Bird Control Group now has customers in more than 70 countries, ranging from small farmers to large multi-national oil companies.

K: That’s really impressive. Tell us, what is your Keadyn story? How did you find Keadyn?

S: I met Martijn at the product launch of one of Keadyn’s other ventures, so we met through mutual contacts. When we met Keadyn, we were not looking for money, we were looking for expertise and knowledge. I founded the company all by myself, and I was in need of partners who could act in the role of co-founder and provide experience. That was something I found with Keadyn. Their biggest contributions have not been the money, but their experience, unique way of thinking, and expertise in scaling the business.

K: What do you think is one specific instance where Martijn helped provide value to you and your company?

S: Back in early 2013, we had a problem where we had to create a big project together with one of our clients in the oil and gas business to technically develop one of our systems and tailor it specifically to the client. I personally wasn’t sure how I would present it to them, or what our strategy would be to have a successful cooperation with them. Together with Martijn, we structured a proposal to the client, and they agreed. Throughout the whole process from informal negotiations to the actual signing of a contract, Martijn provided great expertise.

K: How do you think Keadyn differs from your other advisors?

S: The guys from Keadyn were the first advisors of the company, and they had a wide range of knowledge on different topics. Structuring the company, developing Bird Control Group’s business model and the pricing model was something that they really helped with. Now that the company is a little older we have industry leaders advising the company, and those industry leaders are more beneficial in terms of client contacts in specific deals, but we definitely built a good foundation with Keadyn.

K: Turning to you personally — do you think your age has been a barrier in conducting business with Bird Control Group?

Sometimes it is a barrier because more conservative clients and industries (the “old” boys) would consider me on par with one of their interns, not one of their major suppliers. Sometimes that’s a drawback. However it can be beneficial because it makes people more enthusiastic about what you do, and it sheds new light on old domains. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that being a young guy in a conventional industry is a good thing, but bringing an older colleague is always useful. I can set the tone and make others enthusiastic about what I do, but having a senior colleague at the side always assures clients, and helps them take me more seriously.

K: If you could start Bird Control Group all over again, what is one thing you would do differently?

S: I would be more selective about my partners, know my value better, and only work with the best people, instead of being penny-wise, pound-foolish.

K: To close, what advice would you give newer startup founders?

S: Take advice from people who have financial incentives with your company, so they have an upside when the company is doing well, but also talk to people who have no stake in the company at all. Being totally independent, they can shed new light on issues, and are people who are completely neutral and can give objective and fresh advice. Create a balance of advisors and mentors for the company for a more holistic view and fair opinions on the direction of the company.

Listen to all your advisors, but remember that you have control, and the power to make your own choices.

K: Thanks Steinar for the insights on your experience with Keadyn, and all of us at Keadyn wish you continued success with Bird Control Group!

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