ISAAC, ranger in the internet forest
Behind the buttons of a webshop or internet portal, you enter the world of the rapidly growing software company ISAAC in Eindhoven.
What started out as just a job for Mark Hoogendoorn and Max Hufkens has sort of spiralled out of control. They developed websites during their time as students at TU/e. Seventeen years later, Internet Strategy and Automation Company (ISAAC) has grown into a business with 60 employees.
The signature of the TU/e is still visible. “With just a few exceptions, all of our people have a college- or university-level education. Several of them have a scientific background,” Hoogendoorn explains.
At ISAAC, people love a challenge and complexity. There are many who can develop a portal, website or webshop. ISAAC looks for more complex challenges. It brings together many – up to twenty-five – systems in the background. The company promotes itself as a knowledge organisation using available and proprietary technologies. “We are like a park ranger, seeing the little things in a forest other visitors might miss out on,” Hoogendoorn clarifies.
Here is an example; Hoogendoorn and sales director Camiel Baltussen bring up Winkelstraat.nl. Around 130 clothing boutiques selling high-end brands are affiliated with this internet shop. After three years, its revenue is “increasing rapidly.”
Such an internet shop was only feasible for the collective. “Merchants who spend all day every day in their stores do not have time for this. They also lack the necessary knowledge and budget,” Baltussen says.
Online buyers can see everything that is available in all shops, from Eindhoven and Helmond to Antwerp and Alkmaar. They check out everything at once. That is when the work for the underlying systems is just beginning. The clothing has to be delivered. The boutique in Helmond has to get paid. If it sells a jacket in the physical store, it has to be taken out of the online stock. Returned items must be processed properly. “That complicates things. We continue to work on this system every day,” Hoogendoorn reveals.
ISAAC focuses on consultancy, the actual development of systems and their management and optimisation. Its motto is to “Calmly work on to the final solution.”
The Eindhoven-based organisation is active in a wide range of sectors and works with many different products. For example, the company worked on Basispoort, an internet portal that is used by 1.6 million elementary school students every day to access their digital learning materials.
For soccer clubs in the German Bundesliga, ISAAC developed the Fanmiles internet platform. With a card, people can pay for drinks in the stadium or save for gifts by sharing video clips on Facebook.
Another complex project was the development of a mobility card for XXImo, with which organisations can assign individual budgets to employees. It can be used to pay for e.g. parking, public transport, carpooling and hotels.
ISAAC is also behind the development of the internet registers of Ingenico, formerly known as Global Collect. The trick there was to design a user-friendly system to which internet shops could be connected. “The goal was to entice stores looking to open a webshop with an internet register to choose Ingenico’s system,” Baltussen says.
The market smiles on ISAAC, that much is clear. “During the financial crisis, business was a bit slow for a few years. Once the economy recovered, it was clear that clients had been saving up their projects,” Hoogendoorn explains. In the past year and a half, ISAAC has grown exponentially and gone from 40 to 60 employees. “We are growing more rapidly than the market itself. Our biggest limitation at the moment is finding good people.”
The company has taken the right measures to draw and hold on to talented people’s attention.
The ISAAC Academy was founded to train future employees. Scholarships are also available – as is a co-ownership of the business itself. The owners Hoogendoorn and Hufkens have made room for a foundation in which talented employees can participate.
Is ISAAC looking for younger models of the two co-founders and owners? “Yes,” Hoogendoorn jokes. “We are looking for ourselves, only younger and more handsome.”
"We are like a park ranger, seeing the little things in a forest other visitors might miss out on."