To make the world a little bit quieter. With that aim in mind, Rick Scholte started his company Sorama in 2009. During his doctoral research at TU/e's Department of Mechanical Engineering, he developed a method for visualizing sound and vibrations. Based on this information, products can be made to run more quietly. Following a small dip in 2011, Sorama is now making good headway.
Visualizing sound, how is that possible? “We have developed a camera that is equipped with 1024 tiny microphones. Using the camera, we scan, as it were, a product. This reveals with great precision the part of the product that is producing sound. It might be a small motor, but could just as easily be casing that is vibrating. A manufacturer can use this information to make the product quieter.”
During his research, Rick Scholte was already being approached by parties interested in his method. "I took that as confirmation that I should start my own business." Scholte approached TU/e Innovation Lab. “I attended a couple of valorization workshops, among other activities. They really helped me get started.”
Today he regards TU/e Innovation Lab mainly as a sounding board. “And giving feedback is something I'm also keen to do; the knowledge I am acquiring as a new business owner is useful to them. I don't subscribe to the idea, for example, that you always need to put a 'technie' together with a business partner. It is absolutely not the case that by definition techies are no good at business. What's important is getting a good match.”
In Scholte's case, as it turns out, things didn't work out between him and his business partner. “In 2011 I moved forward on my own. I had the feeling that I needed to start again from scratch, but eventually things turned out for the best. Our company is now growing substantially. Ten prototypes of the new, portable camera have now been sold. These cameras were offered for sale to ten prominent Dutch companies. We have ongoing contact with our customers. What could you do better? What are you missing? It is vital that you know your market. Many tech starters become fixated on finding a financial backer, but don't forget your market. Ultimately, it's all about the market.” Another way of getting this market feedback is to take part in competitions, like New Venture, for instance. “This is another way of meeting other business owners. And what also didn't hurt: we won 25,000 euros.”
Sorama now employs fifteen people. What will the future bring? “At the end of this year we want to sell a batch of fifteen cameras to our regular customers. Only once we are totally convinced that our product is fully developed will we enter the international market. There we can make real headway. Achieving a high turnover or making a profit are not aims in themselves, but the consequences of our vision, targets and strategy. For us, these are what count.”