Winning Scale-up of the Year… a moment for reflection
Winning Scale-up of the Year… a moment for reflection

I’ll admit, compared to the sensational win on October 16th, 2018, the morning after feels a little hazy. We’ve come a long way already, but I still feel like we’re only at the beginning.

In my humble opinion, “Most promising company” probably would fit the bill slightly better as we still need to deliver on the great promise we have.

We started ONTOFORCE in 2011, out of a dream: what if we could unlock the value of data regardless of where it resides. It wasn’t just a dream. Like every good business idea, it also started out of necessity: when one of your children has a learning disability you try, as a parent, to figure out everything you could possibly do to help. But as I quickly discovered: unlocking relevant information out of the masses of data available on the internet is nightmarish. That’s how the idea for DISQOVER began to take hold: let’s try and unlock as much data as possible.

These really were the ‘start-up in the garage’ days. Initially, we worked on how we could help school kids. It wasn’t until 2013 that we moved towards patients. And only in 2016 we moved our focus to B2B and to the industry I knew best and which could definitely do much better with easier and smarter search: the life sciences and pharma industry.

That’s where we still are today: unlocking value within internal (private) and external (public) data sources to move research and development further, faster and squeeze as much time out of the process as possible. That’s what drives everyone at ONTOFORCE. And this, I couldn’t repeat enough: without this team and everyone who has contributed to our success these past few years, this wouldn’t have been possible.

Our trajectory thus far

Make no mistake, though, our trajectory hasn’t been a walk in the park. Like any scale-up (just like any start-up or any company for that matter), we’ve had our fair share of hiccups. But – and here’s an important tip – when you believe in your idea and there are still sufficient significant others that do too, then it most likely pays off to hang in there. Grit is probably the best quality an entrepreneur could have. Important here is to understand the difference between ambition and drive. Ambition is when you have an idea of where you want to be. Drive and motivation, however, is the real internal energy which will get you very far… No need to say the “WHY” is so important.

Having grit

Grit is about perseverance combined with passion for what you’re trying to achieve. It means you keep on going, even in the face of adversity. It entails making the necessary sacrifices as well, including on a personal level . It’s not just about going the extra mile. It’s more like running a marathon every day, looking forward to the idea of doing that again every following day while you constantly try to figure out how you can get better and improve what you’re doing.

For example, I’ve pitched the ONTOFORCE story hundreds of times the past years, and I’ve tried to make it better every single time. Whether you’re jetlagged or already awake for 24 hours, every chance you get to tell your story, is an opportunity to refine and tweak and make it a little better. I’ll pitch our story again today, and it’ll be slightly differently compared to yesterday. Getting better never stops!

Helping you get better

In essence, that is exactly what we wish to achieve: to help our target audiences get better at what they do:

  • As a decision-maker, that means making substantiated decisions much faster based on more and better data.
  • As a researcher, it means being able to unlock more insights from many more resources through an easy-to-use interface so that you know faster – and better supported by the data – what your next action could be.
  • As a physician, it means having quicker, more direct and more complete data on all your patients. By the way: data and AI won’t take away jobs, they will empower you to do the right thing.
  • As a patient, it means finding that piece of information that could save or prolong your life or, at least, improve the quality of life that still lies ahead of you.

Helping people get better isn’t a nine-to-five job. Very regularly, some of us here at ONTOFORCE use our evenings to get onto our search platform DISQOVER to help patients find that piece of information that they urgently need. When desperate people call you and you know there’s something you can do to help, then that is what you do. Simply because it’s the right thing to do. When you can find that specific clinical trial somewhere in the world that could give hope to a desperate patient, you don’t need much extra incentive to run that marathon.

In fact, that’s another one of our dreams: to make our platform DISQOVER so intuitive that everyone, even patients with little to no medical background, can find the kind of information that guides them on their next action.


Momentum is growing now for ONTOFORCE. You can actually feel it when it happens. The customer base is growing (not just in number of customers but also in the willingness to pay much bigger tickets), additional staff is joining, interest from VCs is higher than ever. VCs typically call this traction.

We’re riding the wave and we’re loving it.

If you want to join? You’re most welcome!

It’s been a great ride thus far and it feels like the best is yet to come.

Who knows, in a few years’ time, maybe we’ll aim for the ‘Enterprise of the Year’ award.

I know I can count on my entire team for that and I love them.


A special thanks to the ONTOFORCE staff, our customers, suppliers and partners for helping us achieve this success. We look forward to the next chapter in our story.

Special thanks to EY Belgium and the Flemish Minister of Work, Economy, Innovation and Sport, Mr Philippe Muyters.

The press release on the ‘Award of the Flemish Government for the Scale-up of the Year’ 2018.

EOY_2018_BE_nl_SC Ontoforce Scale Up van het Jaar (1)

Starting second from left: Lies Follens, ONTOFORCE’s Peter Verrykt, Hans Constandt, Sophie Demaesschalck, Sylvie Verbanck, Flemish Minister of Work, Economy, Innovation and Sport Philippe Muyters and ONTOFORCE’s Ali Adiby.