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Alumni in the spotlight: Thomas Kauffmann    Mar 01, 2017

Alumni in the spotlight: Thomas Kauffmann
Mar 01, 2017

Every year, we wave goodbye to a new load of graduated transportation scientists. After the graduation ceremony, we proudly follow our alumni. Which small professional footsteps or giant leaps do they take and how do they look back on their time as a student of the Ba/Ma Transportation Sciences? In ‘Alumni in the spotlight’, we fire several questions at our alumni. This edition: Thomas Kauffmann, founder of Vengo and in the meantime flourishing entrepreneur.

Bought a couch that doesn’t fit in your car? An urgent customer delivery? Thomas Kauffmann, alumnus of the master Transportation Sciences, developed the application ‘Vengo’ that solves an urgent transport problem in a blink. “The app connects people who want to send goods, directly to willing drivers or transport companies who still have space left. The two parties set the price amongst one another. You can pay online and follow your package in real-time”, says Thomas Kauffmann. His ultimate goal? Reducing ‘empty’ kilometres and promoting batching. “80% of all vans and lorries on Belgian roads is only partly filled, 20% even drives around empty. By promoting batching, we can reduce these ‘empty’ kilometres and still meet the increasing transport demand without making traffic jams longer.”

“I come”

After several brainstorm sessions, the name ‘Vengo’ turned out to be the winner. Brief, powerful and with an underlying meaning. “In the beginning, many names were suggested that pun on the word ‘van’. I waved aside all these ideas. I didn’t want to reduce our company and especially our name to a delivery service or a van company. The name had to have a broad view”, said Thomas Kauffmann. “Suddenly, my associate Steffen had a flash of inspiration: ‘What about Vango or rather Vengo?’. When we proposed this name to our co-workers, one of them said: ‘Hé, Vengo, that is nice. Is it derived from the Spanish ‘I come’?’ The name inspired us all: Vengo was born.”

The app had a slightly difficult start, but then grew from 0 to 250 registered users in one month and a half. “The reactions will stick in my mind forever. Users spontaneously send us their feedback: what – according to them – makes Vengo unique, but also what we can improve. I really hope that everyone keeps sending us ideas massively, because we take up every idea. If we don’t take it up immediately, we will after some time.”

Future plans
Currently, the application is only available on iOS for the senders and on Android for the drivers, but this will change in the second quarter of 2017. “Senders can order and track their shipments from any platform – and by that I mean Android, iOS and PC.” The developer targets Flanders first, but he has plans to extend the services. “We begin with a guaranteed service in Western Europe or more specifically, as they say so beautifully in logistics, the ‘Blue Banana’. In the long run, we aim at Europe, but that are still future plans. We must learn to walk before we can run.”

#ThrowbackTransportationSciences

Alumnus Thomas Kauffmann pursued his master’s degree while working part-time (80%) at Grontmij. “I was determined to obtain my master’s degree even with my 4/5 job. Although I correctly estimated that I wouldn’t succeed in getting my master’s degree within the provided two years, I underestimated the intensity of the combination. I couldn’t go to important lectures and seminars, attended almost each course with a different group and completed each group assignment independently. Eventually, it took me four years to obtain my master’s degree, but the work-study combination was tremendously enriching. There undeniably exists a multiplier effect when you can link theory to practice. I have obtained my master’s degree with better results. Furthermore, my work experiences increased my job opportunities.”

The day of graduation ceremony is still fresh in the memory of the young entrepreneur, but at the same time feels so far away. “I remember that particular day as if it was yesterday. My mother called that morning to ask me if I would go to the graduation ceremony. Perhaps, I should have responded like an ideal son, but I didn’t. ‘Come on mom, I have to work… I really don’t have time for that. They’ll send me my master’s degree anyway.’ The fact that my graduation seemed like ages ago, only shows that I haven’t been sitting around doing nothing in the meantime and that I’ve had many opportunities along the way. I worked at Grontmij – the current Sweco – and Caterpillar, and recently established an own company.”

Does this busy man have some advice for the current students Transportation Sciences and the generations likely to follow? “Asking advice from someone who ignored all conventional study methods? (laughs) I advise all students to fight for the thing you want more than anything. Don’t stop at half measures, because half-measures get less than half results. Step up and go for what you really want. You’ll just have to find out by experience what that exactly is.”