I regularly give speeches on entrepreneurship, based on The IRIS Book, which I wrote. When I start talking about the history of IRIS, the company I created in 1987, I take time to comment on the slide illustrating how the turnover developed. I enjoy watching the reactions of the people in the audience.

What does the slide show?

Well, that during its first year of official existence, IRIS achieved a turnover of 50,000 Euros! And, in the subsequent years, the IRIS turnover didn’t account for much when considered against the initial investment of 1.5 million Euros.

What is the audience reaction at that point?

Mostly, it’s the shock of realising that a company which today employs 600 people, with a turnover of 100 million Euros and solid profits, was once “a really very risky little thing”.

I then add that the objective IRIS had set was to develop document scanning solutions and we joined in the hype of the “paperless office”. Some specialists were predicting that, soon, there would be no more paper documents. Nothing more to digitise, no more need to do OCR (Optical Character Recognition) :

« Mr De Muelenaere, you’re really great, but you’re a bit young. You don’t realise it, but you’re much too late with your idea. »

However, the team believed in it. Through thick and thin! And it worked!

The lesson is that you have to believe in it, and as it’s never easy, it is important to have an entrepreneurial ecosystem to help young entrepreneurs.


To those who often say to me “today, let’s face it, there aren’t many projects around like IRIS”, I just want to reply: “If you had seen my project 30 years ago.


Dr. Pierre De Muelenaere

Past-President & CEO, IRIS Group, CEO ad-interim, EVS.


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