From serious gaming to serious fashions

What does a company at the forefront of advanced medical gaming technology have in common with a leather footwear brand? The answer? Both companies were set-up by former RSM students with a strong desire to apply their education to building successful entrepreneurships.



Story by Tim Skelton

abcdeSIM

Airline pilots have long been trained on simulators. And now, thanks to abcdeSIM, doctors and nurses can receive similar benefits. Based on the international “abcde” standard used to diagnose and treat critically ill patients in emergency rooms abcdeSIM is a serious game. In a virtual emergency room, a doctor and nurse are presented with a critically ill patient. The mathematical model of the human physiology integrated in the game platform enables abcdeSIM to create different games and levels for different types of patients and learning objectives.

‘The idea came from my colleague Dr. Stephanie Klein Nagelvoort-Schuit, head of emergency medicine at Erasmus MC,’ abcdeSIM co-founder and RSM alumnus Ronald Nanninga (MSc BA 1992) explains. ‘She said, “If pilots use simulators, why can’t doctors?”’

They set up the company together, and over 2,000 medical professionals in more than 20 hospitals – including Erasmus MC – in three countries, now use their serious game.

Ronald says studying at RSM gave him invaluable assistance. ‘Working in small teams was a great learning experience from a group dynamics perspective. Gaining knowledge in different functions helps me as an entrepreneur, and in forming an overview of new markets and business areas.’

And RSM still supports his work. ‘Being a coach in the Bachelor programme and the Master in Entrepreneurship, I meet lots of students developing smart business ideas,’ he says. ‘This is also a learning experience for me, as it’s easier to see flaws in someone else’s plan than your own.’

One challenge was that the customers – hospitals, academic centres and GPs – wouldn’t usually factor “gaming” into their budgets. Thus abcdeSIM had to become the first accredited serious game in the Netherlands. ‘Doctors receive Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits when they successfully finish accredited programmes,’ Ronald says. ‘By getting accreditation we opened new markets.’

And abcdeSIM is going international. ‘We’ve sold licences in Oman and the UK, and have leads in five other countries,’ he says. “The Royal College of Physicians in the UK will use abcdeSIM at 60 locations to support classroom training. We also plan to enter the German market in 2015.’

The company is now working on VirtualMedSchool: a range of medical games with wider applications, some based on abcdeSIM and developed in co-creation with other medical centres. ‘One example is a game for treating severe burns, co-created with the Maasstad Ziekenhuis,’ Ronald says. A paediatrics game is also planned, and they are exploring potential applications for an international trauma game. ‘To grow VirtualMedSchool we’re in the process of acquiring our first round of VC funding. Our recent nomination as finalist at the Accenture Innovation Awards will help build our exposure.’

As VirtualMedSchool’s strapline says, it’s the “next level of medical education”.

VICO

VICO is a leather footwear brand founded in 2012 by RSM alumni Kevin van Wijk (MSc Entrepreneurship, 2008) and Dave Hendriks (MSc Marketing Management, 2010). The two young entrepreneurs take inspiration from their travels around the world – the company name derives from vicus, the Latin word meaning “in the street” or “in the neighbourhood”. The concept is that every neighbourhood has its own story. ‘When travelling we meet people with different insights and views,’ they say.

Studying at RSM also helped. ‘We were stimulated to work hard and do what we love. Not only in classes, but also in all the other activities, which were very professional, with people coming together from all over the world and creating nice things. And we were inspired by the entrepreneurs who came to share their experiences with us.’

So why shoes? ‘At the time we started VICO, we saw a lot of retro fashions in the market. A lot of brands were just re-releasing old styles. We wanted to create something from scratch, with an anti-retro approach and our own identity.’

That doesn’t mean everything was plain sailing. ‘If it was easy more people would have tried it. You need people around you who you can trust, who have the same vision, and are willing to build something together.’

One challenge was finding the right production partner. They first travelled to Asia and were about to work with a company there, but then decided it didn’t match their philosophy. ‘We solved the problem by heading to Portugal. After a long week and visiting many potential partners, we finally found the right one. This is the factory we still work with, and one of the reasons VICO is stable and successful.’

VICO also likes to use young talent in its marketing campaigns. ‘We recently worked with a very talented musician from London, and next we are working with a surfboard maker from Biarritz,’ says Dave.

‘Our mission is not only to create new things, but also to innovate and inspire people to move forward. Every day we work hard and push ourselves. We want VICO to become a globally known brand, but we are taking our time to build it in the right way, keeping the long-term vision in mind.’

And what advice would they give someone thinking of following the same path? ‘Do your research properly, imagine all the problems you could face, and multiply these by 100. If it’s still worth it, go for it!’ 

This article first appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of RSM Outlook.

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RSM Outlook, 2014 Winter RSM Outlook