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On entrepreneurship, hospitals and more efficiency by sending SMS

On entrepreneurship, hospitals and more efficiency by sending SMS

CEO and co-founder of Spryng, Marc Rottinghuis answers four questions

By Nathan Gatto

SMS provider Spryng has an awesome international and Dutch team. One of these guys is Nathan Gatto. He is from France and before he moved to Amsterdam he studied at the Sciences Po Aix doing a master in International Business. During our daily lunch at the office in Amsterdam, Nathan often asked founder and CEO Marc Rottinghuis many questions about entrepreneurship and the foundation of Spryng. In the interview below, Nathan asks Marc four questions.

What triggered you to set up an SMS platform and how did you come up with the idea?

“When I was studying at university with Alexander and Jan-Paul [ed. Co-founders of Spryng] we had to make a report about the healthcare sector in the Netherlands. The idea was to analyse a problem scientifically and find a solution for it. We interviewed Alexander’s father, who worked in radiology at a hospital in Amsterdam and very soon realised that there was a large problem of people regularly not showing up for their appointment. This of course is very inefficient, it costs the hospital unnecessary money and time is wasted.

We researched further into this topic and discovered many surprising facts and issues. To give you an idea: in 2006 an average of 10% of all patients did not show up for their appointment in a hospital. Simply because they had forgotten they had an appointment or because something had come in between. At that time, hospitals sent a letter by post to remind patients of their appointment. At the time this led the Dutch state to costs of around five hundred million euros a year! To compensate for those costs, the government wanted to introduce a fine of 45 euros for every missed appointment. The hospitals proposed to schedule multiple patients for the same time slot (knowing that some would not show up). However both solutions were not very effective. The fines were not high enough to cover the extra costs and on some days the waiting rooms were packed with of patients waiting, whilst on other days hardly anyone showed up. To sum things up: the communication was rather medieval.

A way had to be found to reach a large number of people quickly and efficiently. Our research showed that Scandinavian countries were already using SMS in 2006 to simplify communication with companies and public institutions. We investigated this further and incorporated it into the report.After completing our research and having written the report, we wanted to put our idea into practice. We took a loan of few thousand euros, created an SMS platform with which we went to hospitals in Amsterdam. Hospitals were interested and Spryng was founded! These hospitals were part of the journey from the very beginning and are still our customers today. Not only hospitals joined but also many more healthcare institutions have now discovered the benefits of sending SMS. ”  

Spryng was founded in 2006, just before a global credit crisis. How did you manage setting up a company in such a critical period?

“The first four years of Spryng were not the easiest, we really had to use all our time and motivation to get the company into gear. The first couple of years we were unable to not live off the income, so I combined entrepreneurship with other jobs.

Gradually, day after day, customer after customer, we started to grow. By 2010 we had paid back the full amount of our loan. We decided to relocate the company to the heart of Amsterdam. A decision that we are still very happy with today!

With our services we give companies and institutions the opportunity to save time and money. That was our mission thirteen years ago and is still what we continue to do today. With our SMS services we deliver that added value. Not only to the healthcare sector but also government institutions and companies in the financial and commercial sectors use our SMS service. ”

Where will Spryng be in five years?

“A couple of years ago the future of SMS was very uncertain. With the launch of WhatsApp (2009) and Messenger (2011), there doubts about the effectiveness of sending SMS. Nevertheless we have not seen any decrease in demand. Rather the contrary.

The next step for Spryng is to start sending WhatsApp, Messenger and RCS messages in collaboration with the companies we work for. All incorporated into one platform. We are currently developing this further, as it remains Spryng’s mission allow our partners to save time and money by communicating as effectively as possible. ”

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

“To me entrepreneurship is the means with which we can develop our company. Spryng’s story is quite exceptional because we have continuously invested all our revenue into the company. You will find that most companies don’t do this nowadays as companies are more likely to take on debts to invest and grow.

I am very proud of how Spryng has developed and evolved over the years. If I were to do it all again, I would of course take different paths. Although I don’t regret anything and I still work with the daily enthusiasm and eagerness as I did thirteen years ago.” 

For Nathan, the interview was a clarifying conversation: “When Spryng started, I was very young and now I work here myself. I now realise how far Spryng has come: from a couple of students in 2006 to an entire company with committed employees, as I know it today. Before Spryng came into existence, these entrepreneurs were just working students with a dream. A little like me today. I find it really inspiring to know that it is possible to get this far in such a short time. ”

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