Let's talk digitization with Camille from Natura Mater!
Hi Camille, can you please introduce yourself in a few words?
I am Camille Mommer, one of the 5 founders of Natura Mater, a project launched exactly a year ago. Before that, I worked a lot in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, especially at hub.brussels and then at Agoria.
Can you tell us a little more about this new professional challenge?
The idea for Natura Mater didn’t originate with me, but my experience in support structures has always given me the desire to one day launch a long-lasting and value-creating project that would make sense in “the next world”, therefore something more sustainable with a positive societal impact.
The project was started up because one of my associates, who was an architect and general contractor, once wanted to renovate his house with sustainable materials. He realised that even with his background in the field, it was very difficult to find materials that weren’t too expensive, that contractors could use, that were deliverable, etc. Based on this observation, he said to himself that others had probably encountered the problem before him and he decided to set up a tool to bring this market from being a niche to being the norm.
With Natura Mater, we invented our new profession to become sources of sustainable materials for the construction sector. Our focus is to help the various professional players in construction by facilitating the implementation of sustainable materials on construction sites. We work with all professionals, from investors and project owners to architects, including general contractors or even EPB consultants. The idea is to bring together all the expertise in sustainable materials and redistribute it across the entire value chain in the life of a building through advice, knowledge sharing (“Where to find materials”, “How to use them on site”, etc.) and logistical support for transporting these materials to the site, which are still scarce in stores.
What does your tool look like now?
We aim to develop our digital platform, but you should know that the construction sector is still not very digital, which is an obstacle to acquiring new customers. For the moment, we have project support formulas (package or subscription) more intended for architects and project managers, and a support formula for general contractors where we will negotiate the factory prices and producer prices of materials for them and manage delivery to the site.
What do you consider digitisation to be?
I would say that it is identifying and implementing the best possible digital tools to automate a company’s processes and make it more efficient, thus increasing its impact and its value. It is a reflection on the digital tools available today and employing those that can have a positive impact on the business, but in the service of the customers and the workers of the company. Basically, it’s not adding a layer of digital for the fun of it, but really to do more and do it better.
And for Natura Mater, how do you perceive this digitisation?
Like a huge building site! As we are very young and I come from the tech world with an engineering background, I really want to be able to automate as much as possible based on existing tools. However, I keep in mind that digitisation is above all useful for automating a process and that, in a startup, the processes aren’t always very well defined and need to evolve regularly. It is therefore complicated to automate this part as it is.
We are therefore working on the digitisation of our way of working, in particular on the operational aspect of things (cloud server, email addresses, remote collaboration tools, etc.) and on the other hand, we are working on the digitisation of our sales. For us, communication and sales go through our website so we also have a lot of digital marketing work to do to create regular content and increase our visibility and our prospect channel. Finally, since our job is to promote little-known materials, we are trying to digitise this knowledge by creating a database that allows us to keep this information or even one day make it available as a product.
What was your experience with mic.brussels?
In another life, I worked with mic when I worked at lifetech.brussels where we created a healthtech incubator in partnership. More recently, I got in touch with mic again through a workshop on digitisation. This was really useful for me because I saw the potential of digital tools for our activity but without knowing how or where to start, in an intelligent way, and without digitising simply to digitise because we then enter into a reverse logic where we add processes which aren’t always useful and which make working methods more cumbersome.
Typically, I couldn’t have mentioned the three pillars mentioned above before this workshop because that was where we were able to identify them and that we understood that we shouldn’t try to do everything at the same time. On the contrary, there will always be material to automate, so we must focus on what has real added value now and the rest we’ll deal with later. We don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel: others have done things if not identical then similar before us, so we ought to reuse what has been done before and adapt it to our particular case.
What are the next big challenges for Natura Mater?
First, we must refine our business model to remain sustainable. What is interesting is that we realised that our customers expect us to monitor these materials to always keep them informed of what is happening in this area. One of our operational challenges will be to manage this knowledge management part to maintain, formalise and share all this information and that it is not all inside the head of a single employee who would then be responsible for answering all the questions from customers.
A word for the 10th anniversary of mic.brussels?
Happy birthday! Honestly, I think it’s cool that you are 10 years old because it shows that you have real added value in the Brussels ecosystem and that you have really important expertise for companies, especially in the digital age. This partnership with Microsoft remains very interesting because they are still one of the important players in the sector and being able to provide access to these tools is essential. I hope you can continue to inspire and develop Brussels SMEs – I believe that there is still a lot of work to be done and it is good to have knowledge and resources available to companies which have a real public utility.