RealPars: conquering the world of industrial automation
26 March 2021
Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship is a recognizedRVO* startup facilitatorfor international innovativestartupentrepreneurs. For one year, we provide these entrepreneurs withsupport and mentorshipto develop their businesses in the Dutch market. Every couple of months we ask one of ourStartupVisa participants to share their story. This month we spoke to Shahpour, founder of RealPars and one of the first participants – current alumnus – to the programme!
With a solid user base of over 620k subscribers on YouTube, RealPars currently offers training programmes and courses in all topics related to industrial information. On the backend however, Shahpour and his team are working hard to scale the startup by developing an online B2B marketplace for all industry-related products and services. “When we started, the courses were a way to pay the bills, but during the ECE programme we actually realized that this is not a sustainable solution to reach the growth we wanted,” he says.
The benefits of pre-entrepreneurial working experience
Originally from Iran, Shahpour founded his startup in 2017 and moved to the Netherlands to join Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship in late 2018. While dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur since his early twenties, Shahpour started working right after his studies. With a background in electrical engineering, he gained experience as a panel builder and PLC (programmable logic controller) programmer dealing with large projects in the oil, gas and steel sectors. Arguably this working experience helped him to navigate the sector before starting his own company. The process of establishing his startup was not straightforward, Shahpour says: “If I say that we had a great vision for RealPars from day one, I would be lying.” With a passion for everything online and spotting a need for education in industrial automation, Shahpour together with his co-founder started creating online content: “I started experimenting in 2012. Back then, and still, it is difficult to find really good material. After we started, one thing led to another, and currently, we have one of the biggest – if not the biggest – YouTube channels for industrial automation.”
Achieving high-growth since establishment in the Netherlands
Shahpour’s relocation to the Netherlands made sense. “I had a connection with the Netherlands. Some Dutch friends lived in Isfahan for a couple of months to study Persian and another friend back then moved from the Netherlands to Iran to work for our company – and she still does, from Belgium! On the business front, I really liked the entrepreneurial atmosphere so I knew that if I wanted to expand internationally one day, the Netherlands would be my first pick.” He connected to Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship through the website of the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Agency) and got accepted to the Startup Visa Facilitator Programme.
“Lots of good stuff has happened since then. Our team doubled between 2019 and 2020, as did the revenue. For the marketplace, I remember setting a goal during the incubation programme: to launch an MVP and have 1,000 products on it. We had no idea how to get there but right now there are 75,000 items available via the platform and we have sold to over 42 countries.” In addition, RealPars signed partnership agreements with Siemens and Phoenix Contact and is exploring possibilities to collaborate on developing certified courses for their products specifically.
Gaining legitimacy from the sector
When asked what he is most proud of, one thing that stands out is “that we have earned the trust of established companies in the industry, which is definitely not easy.” Being in the Netherlands and close to the companies he aimed to reach out to, helped a lot in speeding up the development of the startup, Shahpour remarks. Another point – on a more personal level – is that he did not give up when faced with difficulties. “At a lot of moments in the past few years we could have said: alright, this was it. It was a good idea, but it did not work. Instead, we tried to solve the challenges in front of us and just continue. Now, after four years, we are not a startup anymore that will just disappear.”
Future goal setting
What are his growth ambitions, then? “We aim for the marketplace to be the go-to platform for industrial automation and – at a later stage – industry too,” says Shahpour. However, the real goal is to reach an IPO and to become a recognizable brand at the level of the giants in the industry. About how to get there he says, “we are not going to do it by using the same playbook as these companies did: we would be 100 years late. I knew that if I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I wanted to really build something. It would not be a small company. There are a lot of good signs that we can get there, but it will not be easy.”
Get a coach!
Shahpour’s advice to starting entrepreneurs is to get a coach and, more importantly, to be willing to pay for it. “At first, I also thought it was too expensive and not worth it, but you need to invest in yourself. In the end it helped me a lot because entrepreneurship is such an unknown journey.”
In Shahpour’s view, managing an organization in the second, third or fourth year is much more difficult than running a startup for one year. This is because you are essentially building an organization which consists of different parts or elements that you have to continuously match in a way that they produce a certain outcome. “You should know someone who went through this process before, but who is different from your family and friends. Sure, they can give you good insights, but you need to ask someone who has done what you want to do.”
Curious to know more about Shahpour’s entrepreneurial journey with RealPars? You can reach out to him via LinkedIn.
Or watch this short video by How it’s done from RTLZ:
Applying for Startup Visa Facilitator programme
International innovative entrepreneurs have the possibility to apply for the programme throughout the year. With a startup visa, international startups have one year to start an innovative company in the Netherlands. On the Startup Visa Facilitator page, you can find all the information you need, including a brochure.