introducing janneke van den heuvel.

Whoever visited the toilets on the ground floor of B.1 probably saw the colorful voting buttons. Whether it smells, the toilet paper is gone or the soap is empty – with one click the relevant parties are informed and come to the rescue. The IoT feedback buttons are one example in which TryLikes gathers real-time perception data. Which is subsequently used to improve the business-customer relationship. We spoke with TryLikes’ co-founder Janneke van den Heuvel about their business model and mission and what it takes to be a female leader.

Before founding TryLikes, Janneke and her companion ran an online healthcare platform. In the e-health sector, it is easy to gather data and make decisions accordingly to improve your product and business. In the physical world, however, businesses often still make decisions on a hunch. Whether it concerns retail, real estate or even hospitals. It isn’t the case that no data about the offline world exists. It just sleeps somewhere in forgotten excel files or e-mails. With the advent of IoT, however, it is possible to measure a lot more in a much smarter way. TryLikes specializes in the convergence of customer experience and behavior. In other words, the behavior is measured by IT-tools such as sensors and beacons, whilst experience or perception is gauged via smart-feedback buttons. Both data points are conjoined offering insights to businesses, with as the ultimate aim improving customer satisfaction in their physical environment.

The conjunction of the real and the digital is an exciting field. It seems so logical today to use data for a smarter offline world. How did you come to this idea?

During my career as a brand developer and (tech) entrepreneur, I learned a lot from the gaming industry. Early on already, game producers used smart data to determine when to build phases, challenges or levels into a game to optimize the user experience. When you do your groceries, however, it is a lot more difficult to give your experience a voice. There may be a lot of frustrations during your journey through the supermarket. The cue is too long, the bread-baskets are empty or the bananas look miserable. To give feedback on these items is a hassle, especially if you all you want is get home quickly to cook your dinner. We try to lower the threshold to get real-time insight into the problems that occur during a customer journey.

This is where we distinguish ourselves from our competitors. We do not only recognize the problem but also offer a solution to act on feedback.

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Could you give examples of tools you offered to businesses?

We offered our IoT-driven feedback tools to Jumbo, for example, or Albert Heijn, Ikea, McDonald's, etc. Those are big names in the retail industry, but also service companies such as Sodexo use our tools. The feedback buttons in B.’s toilets are a well-known example, with immediate push-notification to the manager responsible. But for Ikea, we predict how many checkouts need to be open based on real-time customer flows. Supermarkets use our tools to optimize the fruit and vegetable department, which we combine with real-time insights into customer perception. This data gives answers to questions such as: how does the department look like? what baskets are empty earliest? and what is the product quality? We’re able to charter all these touchpoints which have far-reaching consequences.

So you are active in IoT, AI… and what else?

That’s very true, the combination of the two I like to call the ‘internet of experience’.

Those two things are also very much buzzwords today. What do you think will keep you busy five years from now?

For a large part, we have to admit that we simply do not know. That is why we built our tools in a flexible, modular design. This allows us to react quickly to changes. We have the expertise already to built both the hard- and software, which allows us to not only react and integrate innovations but also to maintain a market-leading position.

Do you experience specific challenge as female entrepreneur?

Yes, I do, which has both its positive and negative sides. But it is not something that keeps me awake at night. I am focused on building my business. Of course its rather silly to hear a comment such as: “do you understand all this tech stuff yourself as well?”, but I laugh about it and don’t care. Being a female entrepreneur has advantages as well. You’re invited when they wish to hear the female perspective of leadership etc. When I hear stories from friends active in the corporate world, I sometimes cannot believe what I hear. Those are practices unheard of for me. But well, I am a free entrepreneur who just tells her story. When someone does not take me seriously, I don’t take them seriously either.

When I follow the gender debate, I often recognize the wishful thought to change things overnight. But the world isn’t that black-and-white. Many things depend on evolutionary factors and develop in an organic, incremental manner. I just hope the female perspective will gain more and more influence over the direction of those developments. And as always, parents and teachers and in general adults have the responsibility to do away with silly clichés about what girls should do and boys shouldn’t.

One last question, what motivates you and your business?

I now think about two things. First my employees. I actually always thought I wanted to have as few employees as possible, as they mean a lot of hassle. I didn’t expect to enjoy their company, ideas, and enthusiasm so much. It is so rewarding to see how they think about ways to improve your baby business. Secondly, I think about my clients. How thankful they are when we introduce a concrete solution to a problem which has bothered them ever since they started their careers in their respective industries. Making the offline world smarter than it is today drives us to keep pushing and brings a huge smile when we succeed.


Next read: woman in funding, meet angel investor Elisabeth Stevens.