Ivo and Peter from Egeniq: life-saving pioneers who were into hybrid working before it was cool

“From the very first moment, we have focused on developing apps for customers whose businesses strongly rely on apps”

Years before Covid showed companies that it is possible to be productive somewhere else than the office, Ivo Jansch and Peter Verhage embraced working from home. Back when apps were mostly just used for fun, these entrepreneurs started developing apps that added real value. That they would work on the most heavily debated app in the history of the Netherlands, they could not have possibly foreseen…

At first glance, Ivo and Peter seem to complement each other perfectly. Although both entrepreneurs are practised when it comes to software, Ivo is the one who takes care of sales and customer relationships. Peter is the quiet force of the two; preferring to work on content-related matters. They are front-end and back-end, respectively, if you had to describe them in software terms. These forty-year-olds met halfway through the zeroes at a technical internet firm located on the Dutch coast. Quickly, a friendship blossomed. At some point, these ambitious developers felt they had no more real opportunities for career development working for a company. The result? The pair started their own business in 2010: application developer Egeniq was born.

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Pioneers in working from home

These days, there are millions of smartphone apps. In 2010, however, this huge success was hard to predict. Yet, Ivo and Peter did it. Ivo: “We noticed a repetition of what had happened before with the internet. In the early years, it was only used by pioneers in their attics. It was only later that it was deployed professionally. This is why we saw an opportunity. We expected a need for apps would arise, but there was very little app development. That was the gap in the market we wanted to fill.” Egeniq had a flying start. Ivo: “It didn’t take long before we could hire people; a developer from Apeldoorn and one from Belgium. We really had employees from all over. We wanted to open an office, but where? Peter and I thought: we have worked from home for a few months now, why don’t we just continue doing so?”

Working hybrid before it was cool

What Ivo and Peter did, was hybrid working before it was cool. Meetings were held with the predecessor of Slack/Teams. Ivo looks back: “That went pretty well. It was important to us that our team members regularly saw each other face-to-face. This is why we organised co-working days, one day every two weeks, for which we would book a conference room at the Van der Valk hotel. When Covid came and people were forced to work from home, it was not such a big difference for us. Egeniq continued to grow. The number of employees grew, but also the number of customers. The assignments also became more complex and we attracted larger companies. Amusement park ‘de Efteling’, cinema chain ‘Pathé’, news channel ‘RTL Nieuws’, lottery provider ‘de Nederlandse Loterij’ and many more. “From the very first moment, we have focused on developing apps for customers whose businesses strongly rely on apps. It was a very serious approach. Through LinkedIn and our own network, it was relatively easy to bring in new assignments. We never had to engage in cold sales.”

Saving one hundred and fifty lives

Perhaps the most high-profile project was commissioned by the government. During Covid, Egeniq was closely involved with developing several Covid-related apps. Like the heavily debated CoronaMelder and CoronaCheck apps. Ivo: “That was very intense to go through. Everything we did before developing these apps was scrutinised, not only by politicians but also by the press and the public. One little mistake, and we could count on a whole news article about it. It was a project with immense social impact.” Only later it became clear that the apps could make the difference between life and death. “Then we found out that the Covid apps saved the lives of a hundred and fifty people. That’s not something you do every day”, Ivo concludes.

A new step in entrepreneurship

Ivo and Peter are not yet done with entrepreneurship, far from it. But they still sold their shares in Egeniq. Ivo: “The thought of stepping down didn’t even occur to us. Marktlink approached us a few years back for an introductory meeting about a possible sale, but it wasn’t the right time for us yet. And then came Covid. Our focus shifted from strategic to operational; we were knee-deep in co-developing these Covid apps. Things got out of balance. At that point, we decided to meet with Marktlink after all, to look for a partner.” Last February, this turned out to be the MyBit Group, a group that grows rapidly through a buy-and-build strategy. Ivo: “We were not interested in large investment firms or candidates that were too small. MyBit Group was the perfect size. The group was not established that long ago. The train is in motion but still lacks speed. This means that we can still influence the process. That is very important to us. Through a significant stake in the MyBit Group, our role in this setting has become broader than Egeniq alone.”

Two top dogs

Ivo and Peter are still the top dogs. Peter: “Actually, not that much has changed, but we have more options now. We can do certain projects for MyBit and vice versa if that works better.” Peter concludes: “We have the freedom to run Egeniq the way we want to. We remain in control and get the space we need to carry out our ideas. The culture doesn’t change. We keep working from home and developing good products. And the co-working days? We no longer need to book a conference room at a hotel because now we can use MyBit’s office. Convenient, right?”

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