Home News Fifteen years of Prowise: “proud of how far we’ve come”

April 17, 2024

Fifteen years of Prowise: “proud of how far we’ve come”

A retrospective and outlook with the founders of Prowise

Interview of Michael and Erik for the fifteenth anniversary of Prowise

For Michael Ahrens and Erik Neeskens, founders of Prowise, it sometimes still feels like yesterday when they walked into a primary school with the first ‘Bordwijs’ – which was the initial brand name – interactive whiteboard. On April 1, 2009, the momentum started, and Prowise is still riding that wave today. It’s a significant moment to pause together and reflect on some special moments, and dare to dream about what the future holds.

If you’ve ever been to Luchthavenweg in Budel, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the Dutch hospitality combined with the innovative mindset of the Prowise founders. Both characteristics are evident when you step into Michael or Erik’s offices. Behind the dozens of photos on the wall lie remarkable, humorous, and unique moments of the past fifteen years.


15 years of Prowise… what are you most proud of?
Erik: “Honestly, I can’t give a single answer to that. So many wonderful things have happened. But if I had to choose, it’s that we’ve come this far together and that we’re changing education. That’s what I really like.”
Michael: “For me, it’s exactly the same. I’m also proud that we’ve been growing for 15 years. Growth always comes with ups and downs, and then we had a period of COVID-19 as well. Despite the difficulties, we managed to retain the majority of our team. Many departments have hardly any turnover, which is quite remarkable in these times.”

Foto's Michael Ahrens
Sources: Esquire.com, Matt Yohe, Apple

At Michael Ahrens’ Office

I see a lineup of “smart people” hanging there, who are they and why are they here?
Michael: “Actually, that’s quite easy. The most remarkable one for me is Robert Noyce. Many people probably don’t know him, but he’s the Founder of Intel and also known as the father of Silicon Valley. He treated employees as friends and rewarded and encouraged teamwork. Noyce’s management style could be described as ‘roll up your sleeves.’ He rejected luxury corporate cars, reserved parking spaces, private jets, offices, and furniture in favor of a less formal, relaxed work environment where everyone contributed and no one received extravagant rewards.”


So, you’ve done something similar?
Michael: “Well, somewhat differently. He did it on a much larger scale, and his inventions had a much greater impact, but he has always been a great source of inspiration. And he was also a mentor to Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs is hanging right above him in the lineup. He repeatedly proved that with creativity and customer focus, you can achieve a lot.”


I see one woman among the lineup of men, who is she?
Michael: “That’s Malala Yousafzai, and she stands for the right to education for everyone. And that sometimes you have to fight for it. The right to education for everyone naturally aligns with how we think here at Prowise.”


There’s actually another woman hanging there: Os Moen. People from Budel certainly know her as the ‘mother’ of Budel.
Michael: “Yes, we come from Budel (NL), and I think mothers ultimately lay the foundation for all successes. They shape you in your youth, instill values ​​in you. Os Moen actually stands for hospitality, friendliness, and community spirit. Values ​​that we also consider important at Prowise. No matter how rich or poor you were, there was always room at the dinner table.”


And which photo are you most proud of?
Michael: “I’m most proud of the Bett Award. It’s where a lot comes together. The step to expand as a company abroad is very difficult. And also winning awards abroad, especially at the ‘Oscars of education,’ was a recognition for all of Prowise that we can make it abroad. The same is often said about Germany; that it’s very difficult for a Dutch company to establish itself there. And now Germany is the largest part of Prowise.”

Foto's Erik Neeskens

At Erik Neeskens’ Office

What’s your favorite photo?
Erik: “Actually, they’re all hanging here because they’re all beautiful moments, of course. But what I find particularly special, for example, is this group here, at the Bett, a few years back. The amount of fun we had together at such a conference often surprises other exhibitors. Especially when we were doing the conga line at half past eight in the morning, no one understood that.”


A photo with Michael and Erik in Chinese traditional attire, there must be a fun story behind this?
Erik: “Yes, that’s right. We were in China, we’ve been there together several times. After this trip, we returned just in time for carnival, and you know how it is in Budel, the festivities start early! We were supposed to land on Sunday morning and go straight to the carnival in costume. So, we bought these outfits in a wedding store in China, and I managed to convince Michael to change in the airplane restroom. Bianca and Lilian picked us up, and that’s how we stepped off the plane.”


In this photo, one of our sales partners receives a ‘Prowise Award.’ How important are partners for Prowise?
Erik: “We’ve been working with the same partners for a long time. The partners we choose to work with, we want to continue with them for the long term. It’s the same case with our partners on the procurement side of things. Here, for example, is a bronze horse we received from a partner in China. The horse symbolizes success and luck. When you work together for a long time, you build sustainable relationships.”


At the end of ‘Luchthavenweg’ is the Budel airport. How did you manage to stand on the runway, waving with Prowise flags?
Erik: “That was the first time a Prowise client flew to Budel. For such a special occasion, we rolled out the red carpet and our colleague Hay played the accordion. It was a fun moment!”


And then we have King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima with the Prowise logo between them. How did this image come about?
Erik: “Our interactive whiteboards are installed at Arcus in Heerlen (NL), and that’s where the King and Queen visited. I received this photo from someone else. It’s a funny image because Prowise is literally between them. You often see Prowise on the news, or for example, in the government’s commercials. Especially when you start paying attention, you realize how often we’re actually on TV!”


Outlook for the next 15 years

What do you expect in the next 15 years? Which photo will hang on the wall?
Michael: “There’s going to be a lot of change in the coming years. AI is going to have a huge impact on everything we do and also on educational developments. I hope that at the core, we remain the same company, with the same ambition and drive to improve education.”
Erik: “Well, I won’t be around then, will I? I’ll be almost 75!”
Michael: “It wouldn’t be good if Prowise depended solely on us by then. We’ve built a strong team that we can rely on. I’m also convinced that if we chose to sit on a mountain in Austria to go fishing, everything would continue here. And that’s super important.”
Erik: “Then that’s the photo that will be added to the wall!”

Afbeelding van twee mannen die zitten te vissen

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