The name Tom Pennings probably doesn’t ring a bell, although that doesn’t take away the fact this entrepreneur has already accomplished some amazing things. Tom went to Silicon Valley for the first time in 1999, worked for Apple, and later founded his own start-up… from Belgium. Today, Pennings combines the advantages of Belgium with those of the USA and thus knows like no other how to build a scalable product at a global level. He tells all about it in this 22nd episode of Techmag!
This was originally an article in Dutch, written by Magali De Reu for Bloovi.
From vision to validation
With Onsophic Tom Pennings built an intelligent digital coaching platform. Although he lived in San Francisco at the time, he went to Belgium anyway when he had a hunch his idea was going to make a big impact. “There are several kinds of start-ups, but we really started with a vision”, Pennings begins starts his story. “My co-founder Ian Hart and I asked ourselves an important question which we would later turn into a global vision. ’What amazing things could happen if the personalization of Google and Facebook were applied to employees – specifically focused on training and knowledge?’ But do not forget: you only achieve real validation once you close a deal with your first big customer.”
“Product-market-fit is constantly changing, so we have to be flexible”
The start-up deliberately chose to target large enterprises. Not necessarily an advantage, because the sales cycles are much longer. “However, such organizations often have the time and flexibility to discover, together with the more creative start-ups, which features they need”, Pennings adds. “We also have to be highly flexible since the product-market-fit is constantly changing.
Pivoting with passion
During our frank conversation, Pennings mentioned that Onsophic has pivoted more than once. “As a tech start-up we are constantly looking for the balance between pivoting and pivoting too quickly”, he says. “But one thing is certain: we always do it with passion. That might sound like a cliché, but you must have an extreme passion for your company because it’s not easy to pivot so often or keep adjusting your product.”
“Your vision doesn’t necessarily need to be linked to your product”
But how do Pennings and his team ensure the necessary focus? How do they reconcile their own vision with the need to adapt their product according to the needs of the customer? “Our vision isn’t necessarily connected to the product”, Pennings explains. “ Onsophic’s vision is ‘accelerating human potential’, and that’s a global fact. Which features are developed is purely educated guesswork. Don’t think we never say no though, as we say it often enough. If you want to make your product big, you can’t just listen to and build for your customers’.
The hidden co-founder
Pennings often commutes between Silicon Valley and Belgium. That he’s got a busy life is a huge understatement. It’s not easy for someone who became a father just over a year ago and also wants to be there for his family. “I’ve discovered that your family is also one of your co-founders: they are the hidden co-founder”, smiles Pennings.
Want to know more about Tom Pennings’ journey? Watch the video below (Dutch), in which he gives hands-on tips and shares his entrepreneurial experiences. Do not miss a single episode by subscribing to Techmag!