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Jaswig Interview - Startup Summer

Jaswig is a Ghent-based startup that produces standing desks locally. It’s a team of eight members, all passionate about entrepreneurship. They’ve known each other since their university days. After months of long discussions and pitching serval ideas to one another Jaswig was born. Eventually it were neck and back pains after a long day working behind a computer that made them think about flexible office furniture with a new startup as a result.

“As a child we learn to sit still for long periods of time”, says founder Samuel Rieder, “especially in a school environment. An active lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle.” The friends decided to look for alternatives for our sedentary lifestyle. Standing desks already existed but were ugly or way too expensive, so they created a new one. A standing desk with a beautiful design and a ecological component. They found this combination by producing hyper local with one machine for the entire production process.
A Jaswig is the first height-adjustable wooden standing desk made for both kids and adults.

It’s not just the standing desk that is special, the team also is. Half of them are living in the USA. When they launched their Kickstarter, they could conquer the Belgian and American market simultaneously. The campaign was intended to test the market readiness for the Jaswig, the price setting and if their design would appeal to a lot of people. With $74 000, the Kickstarter was a great succes.

They quickly learned that launching a product in the USA was a lot different from doing so in little Belgium. “In Belgium we drive to our customer to convince them on the spot, in the USA our focus was the online sales”, tells Reider. "Storytelling was crucial." This and, many other learnings, they use now to scale up the company.

So, where does Jaswig stand today? Samuel admits that the launch still is not complete. One of the reasons for that is their initial focus on schools. “The schools were a priority, besides enterprises, because that’s where we learn to sit for long periods of time. Unfortunately it is a difficult and almost impossible market to capture. At the end of 2015 they decided to pivot and focus on the consumer market. The Jaswig approach for B2B and B2C is not that different. Jaswig wants to make flexible furniture that fits a healthy lifestyle. Their ultimate goal is a wide range of local produced products for a flexible working environment.

Working as an entrepreneur or in a large company? There sure have been a large amount of articles about that. The biggest difference in the opinion of Samuel is the difference in tasks. In a regular company you are hired to do one specific job, in a startup you have to combine multiple matters. He thinks he learned more skills since he founded Jaswig than while working at enterprises. Corporate companies are well organized where a change process is sometimes slow and difficult. Samuel not only likes flexibility in office furniture but also in his job.

We all know that starting a startup is not a piece of cake. Samuel stumbled across the chaotic part of creating a startup. Many pivots, finding your place in the team, the not so clear way of working, discovering your own talents and being honest about your limits,… not obvious for a group of inexperienced young starters. You have to learn to think ahead without losing track of the daily problems. Also, getting funded took a bit longer than expected.

If he could get the chance to start all over, he would take things slower. He now knows himself better but also understands the different steps in the startup process. Taking off would go much faster. As a tip he shares: ”Read ’The Startup Owner's Manual’ by Steve Blank. It gives you a strategic approach without the risk of losing yourself in the process."

A point of advice for every starter: talk to as much people as you can about your idea. No NDAs for Samuel, but a continuous talking about business ideas, going to lectures and breaking out of the narrowness of your own startup. Feedback is the way to a better growth,  less mistakes and building a successful startup!

-Text: Kim Cnudde