“High tech with customer happiness, that’s the core of Antagonist,” says entrepreneur Wouter de Vries, 25, founder of the company Antagonist and alumnus of the University of Twente. With 60,000 customers, eight employees (and more to be hired soon) and a turnover of more than 1.5 million euros, things are going well. Ernst & Young share that opinion. They nominated the young entrepreneur for their prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Emerging category. A striking detail: they approached him to see if he wanted to be nominated. The results will be announced on 6 October.
Not a penny for marketing
Antagonist is a company that offers web hosting services. ‘Antagonist’ figuratively means opposite, and that's exactly what the company stands for. De Vries: “We want to be different from the others. Our philosophy is to keep things simple. In line with this philosophy, all of our business processes have been automated and we offer only one product. For 30 euros a year, our customers get their own domain name, data storage and traffic. Also, we place a lot of emphasis on customer service. If customers say they are ‘satisfied’ with our service, that leaves me wanting more. We want our customers to be ‘very satisfied’. When customers are very satisfied, they recommend us to others and they write positive reviews about us and our services. This helps us grow our customer base, and we don’t have to spend a penny on marketing.”
The strong customer focus and excellent service are what set Antagonist apart, according to the entrepreneur. De Vries: “We have a forum to get our customers involved in our operations. They can use the forum to let us know how they are using our services, and to tell us about any improvements they’d like to see. We then use this input to enhance our customers’ experience. And we’re never secretive about down time. On the contrary, if our systems go down we get in touch with our customers right away to let them know what's going on and how quickly the problem will be fixed.”
Antagonist was founded in 2004. The company was located on the University of Twente campus until six months ago. The campus location was getting too constrained for the growing company, which is now located in a new facility just off the campus. An ideal location, close to the university and Kennispark Twente. As an alumnus of the Computer Science programme, De Vries maintains strong ties to the university. A number of university students are currently employed at Antagonist, and the company maintains solid contacts with Kennispark Twente. They are able to provide De Vries with inspiring contacts and a valuable network. De Vries is enthusiastic: “I recently met Jan Kees de Jager, our outgoing Minister of Finance, when he was here on a working visit. He also has a background in IT and was very interested in our activities. Really enjoyable.”
Get off the brake
Wouter de Vries is very optimistic about his company’s future: “We have international ambitions. First Germany, then other European countries. That's a big challenge. In addition, in the long term I would really enjoy mentoring young entrepreneurs. I meet a lot of students who have serious doubts about whether they should take the plunge and start a business. They often lack confidence and are prone to foot-dragging. My advice is: dare to move ahead and get your foot off the brake!”