The story behind founder Mike Seghers: “Cocreation is key, our people are the driving force“
Today, in 2021, Sweet Mustard consists of a full contingent of young digital talent and experienced coaches, but that’s not how things started out. The company has its roots on the banks of the river Leie and is the brainchild of the tandem Lander Bouten (Managing Partner) and Mike Seghers (Technology Coach & Coordinator). We had a chat with Mike about the company’s origins, the collaboration with Cronos aan de Leie, and his outlook on the future.
WEST-FLEMISH COMMUNITY OF DIGITAL TALENT
First things first. Mike obtained his IT degree in 2001 and has always been deeply passionate about all things tech and development. After some early professional forays into the IT industry, in 2008 he took the double plunge of going to work for the Cronos Group and starting to focus on the development of mobile applications. In the years after that, he contributed significantly to several successful applications for VRT and immersed himself in new technologies, but he also began to feel like leading his own teams.
Mike did not just have a growing urge to be an entrepreneur, but he also wanted to work closer to home, in West-Flanders. As luck would have it, a joint venture with TVH was just under discussion at OECO. Lander was already on board, but they were also looking for a tech-oriented profile. Enter Mike—and a complementary tandem was born. All set to write the first chapter of Sweet Mustard.
And it’s no exaggeration to say that this synergy was a blessing for the start of Sweet Mustard. While Lander was able to focus on strategy (what are our customers looking for, what makes a consulting company work well, etc.), Mike devoted himself to the technology (what profiles do we need, what facilities do the techies need, etc.). The first guidelines were laid out, and the mission of Sweet Mustard took shape: cultivating talent, innovative business ideas, and a genuine West-Flemish community. That last element was probably the chief leitmotiv for building the team. Offering digital talent in West-Flanders a platform and the opportunity to work close to home. That West-Flemish approach, putting honesty and transparency first, is still a mainstay today.
PUTTING PAST EXPERIENCE TO FUTURE USE
Success requires growth, and growth requires that objectives be continuously finetuned and improved. Three years ago, those requirements led to Sweet Mustard’s embedding in Cronos aan de Leie. No matter how complementary you are as a duo, a fresh perspective is always welcome. And that’s exactly where Neal Van Maele, Managing Partner of Cronos aan de Leie, came in. Learning to think—even more—from the customer’sperspective and using experiences from the past to have a positive impact on the future.
Soon after onboarding Sweet Mustard, Cronos aan de Leie began expanding quickly, acquiring several other important West-Flemish tech companies. A conscious choice to make the group even more dynamic and to be able to capitalize on even more opportunities. Noest, Debreuck Neirynck, Digital Pulse… they all make their mark, see what the others need, and complement each other where necessary. For Mike, this was a highly interesting and enriching period, a crucial stage in his own growth trajectory. That’s because it involved working on several levels: for his own company, for the cluster, and for the group.
That’s the main strength of Cronos aan de Leie, and of OECO, by extension. Bringing the right people together, capitalizing on potential talent, pushing each other to do better, and developing strong leadership.
These past few years, Sweet Mustard has grown tremendously. That rapid expansion isn’t just borne out by the collaboration with Cronos aan de Leie and its business entities, but also by spectacular multidisciplinarity within the Sweet Mustard team. And that’s something Mike says he wants to bank on even more. Continuously tapping into new technologies and techniques and perpetuating the team’s learning curve and knowhow. “Cocreation is key, but our people are and remain the driving force.”