In episode 19 of The Scale Lab podcast, we welcome a special guest. One who can be rightly considered a legend within the Dutch tech ecosystem. With more than 30 years of entrepreneurial experience, Corinne Vigreux, founder and CMO of TomTom, joins Constantijn and Joe to share the scaling journey of TomTom as well as the business learnings she has gained throughout the years. Here are some key excerpts from their discussions:

[00:00:18] Constantijn: Why do you think that in Europe we tend to celebrate entrepreneurs less compared to the U.S.? You are doing incredible stuff in the Netherlands, but it seems that it’s being modestly talked about.

Corinne: It’s a bit of a conscious choice from my side to work under the radar. I never felt it necessary to be at the forefront in promoting my image. Maybe it’s a bit of a Dutch trait to be humble and do your thing without much bragging. In any case, the things I’ve been working on, I’ve always been doing them for people and much less so for recognition.

[00:02:47] Constantijn: You work in so many different areas – you are a Member of the Supervisory Board at, you are a founder at Codam College, you are an investor – where do you find the energy to do it all?

Corinne: First of all, I feel privileged to be in the position I am in. I’m a successful entrepreneur and I feel the responsibility to be doing something for others with what I’ve got. I love helping young female entrepreneurs and I love being involved in tackling the social mobility issue with Codam and other organisations across Europe.

I’ve said to myself that if I am able to help with social mobility I will do it because I know how it is to go from one side of the line to the other. And I don’t give up whatever the circumstances, which I believe is an important character trait for an entrepreneur. With 30 years of experience, I can assure everyone that being a founder is not an easy journey and certainly comes with ups and downs. You need to dust yourself down and pick yourself up on a regular basis.

[00:05:43] Constantijn: What were the critical decisions you made with TomTom and when did you know you had a product-market fit?

Corinne: I suppose a lot of people think that finding a product-market fit is quick, but this is not the case. If you look at TomTom we’ve been building our product for a number of years. So throughout these years, you check your assumptions and test the water within different markets to identify that fit. It doesn’t happen overnight, you need to collect insights and test the assumptions until you built enough confidence to take on risks.

[00:10:01] Constantijn: TomTom has been a market leader for more than 30 years, how do you get that agility in your company to adjust to everchanging market conditions?

Corinne: Back in 1991, when we founded TomTom, we were really good at creating easy-to-use software for blue-collar workers. We were building an array of different products both for B2B and B2C audiences because we wanted to have a bigger market and be able to build a brand across different industries. We bootstrapped ourselves until 2005 and then IPO-ed, because we understood that at some point we will have to make some big acquisitions to stay competitive. It was after the IPO that we decided to acquire Tele Atlas.

We anticipated that if we wanted to grow, we needed to have access to capital. And if you want to IPO, you better do it while you are growing – it’s all about the right timing in the tech industry!

[00:15:51] Constantijn: Let’s delve a bit deeper into the topic of investments. What would your advice be to all growing companies when it comes to interacting with venture capital?

Corinne: As I said, entrepreneurship is made up of lots of ups and downs, so you want to choose your investors very carefully and make sure they understand the dynamics. Often the investors will invest in you with the vision of making money in the process, and that’s perfectly understandable, you need that money to be able to grow. However, if you look at how I invest in companies – I look much more long-term, I look at the team and the potential.

Especially in tech, there’s always someone who will start a new product similar to yours from a blank sheet of paper. It never lasts forever. At some point, you need a lot of courage to just throw everything you have to repurpose and refactor your technology.

Corinne Vigreux, co-founder of TomTom

[00:31:55] Joe: One more question on people: you’re known for talking about talent. Are there atypical things that you look in hires? Is there something else besides ‘experience matching job description’ that you look for?

Corinne:  I think it’s very important that who you hire fit your company culture. Culture is everything. In TomTom, you thrive if you can make decisions. We are a relatively flat organisation so we really empower leadership.

Want to hear the whole story? Tune in for the full episode

© techleap All Rights Reserved