Our company was founded by four friends, with a similar vision and ambition, the same business ethics and work drive, and a profound interest in technology. It started out as a digital design agency called Cowboys & Indians, where our founders’ complementary skill sets could excel in a wide array of different digital and design projects.
Tom Vroemans had the business capabilities to set the course, manage the sales and daily company operations; Vincent Pauwels was in charge of all things design; and Nick Verbaendert and Thomas Van Sundert were on top of technology.
On 5 November 2008, we decided to start an adventure. Not knowing yet where it would take us, but strong and confident that we were onto something big.
A first catalyst in the growth of our company came about: mobile technology. The democratisation of mobile technology, spearheaded by the iPhone and the App Store, got our attention. After one year in business, it was time to adapt the course.
In 2009, we hired our first employee and started a second company called Appstrakt, Belgium’s first real dedicated mobile technology agency. As a first experiment with mobile technology, we created our first venture avant la lettre, a mobile TV guide called ‘MijnTVgids’.
We moved from the living room to our first official office, an open space in a former coach house in the old city centre of Antwerp.
Appstrakt was becoming a mobile force to be reckoned with, and Cowboys & Indians was growing into a digital advertising agency. Amongst others, we started working for Antwerp’s most renowned festival, Laundry Day.
While building their website, we had the (back then) crazy idea to develop a mobile application where the festival visitors would be able to see the complete line-up.
Another catalyst for us, because this idea eventually put both our companies on the radar of Proximus and Live Nation Belgium, for whom we started creating and managing entire festival campaigns. Another big leap forward. By the end of 2010, both companies had grown to a headcount of 12, we moved to a bigger office and were ready to step up our game.
While Appstrakt was building and supporting mobile apps for both small and listed companies, and Cowboys & Indians was entering the media landscape, we started yet another venture: Appmiral. The mobile festival guide was born. Appmiral quickly conquered the Belgian festival scene and was ready to strengthen the group.
After four years in business, we could count on 30 team members across 2 service companies and a product company, to ideate and design advertising campaigns; to develop, manage and support digital products; and to manage operations, talent and sales. With Appstrakt in the lead, both in headcount and revenue, we made a bold move to introduce more focus in order to bolster our growth.
By the end of 2012, we ceased our profitable advertising business at Cowboys & Indians and integrated our creative team into Appstrakt. Staying ahead of the curve with a new proposition, ‘Creative with technology’, and widening our capabilities beyond mobile.
A year after the merger of our design-focused agency into Appstrakt, a holding structure was conceived to get us ready for the next step: founding and accelerating startups.
To walk the talk, we made our first investment in a startup called Tablebooker, a tool for Belgian restaurants to manage their reservations. Appstrakt, the holding company, and its ventures (Tablebooker and Appmiral) moved to a bigger office, right in the fashion district of Antwerp.
Some of us even moved a bit further, to the United States, where we opened an office in New York to serve international clients like AB InBev and Spotify.
About a year after moving to the new office, the team of now 60 people had outgrown the available space. A second floor was needed, because we were about to extend and strengthen our offering once again. We started to build a strategy team to support our clients in defining the purpose and value proposition of their digital products.
And with the addition of a hardware lab, the team was ready to create prototypes for clients like Toyota Motors Europe.
In 2014, we grew from a design and development agency into a full-service creative technology agency.
Under the flag of ‘all things digital’, Appstrakt created bigger, more complex and more business-critical products. From strategy to execution. We were evolving into an end-to-end partner for our clients – who we also refer to as partners because its co-creation that leads to results.
We successfully exited our first investment (Tablebooker) and bought a significant stake in an online, personal styling startup. Ready to apply our learnings, to let our digital capabilities thrive and to let ‘Suitcase’ shake up the (old) fashion industry.
By the end of 2015, our value proposition had completely outgrown our company name. It was time to rebrand.
As of now, we were known by the date our brilliant adventure in the digital realm started, November Five. Able to strategise, define, build and grow digital products. As well as our new name, a project spinoff emerged: Spencer, the employee companion. A new venture ready to rock the employee experience scene.
By the end of 2016, we knew what we wanted to be. Not the biggest, not the loudest, we simply wanted to be the best. We knew our true potential and were building a team of champions to get us there. A team of champions that just needed… a stadium. And we found ourselves one, a new office that was ready for our ambitions.
We added senior executive power to our board – Phillip Vandervoort (Microsoft, AB Inbev, Proximus) and Vincent Bruyneel (Capco, Telenet, Liberty Global) – and moved our international focus to the Nordics with a client service office in Stockholm (to better serve companies like Coca-Cola and Spotify).
To keep our team on par, we introduced bi-weekly meetups to share knowledge and work on team and personal improvements. And, as we continuously challenge and improve our way of working, we introduced a new service called ‘Product Definition’, where we would iteratively define and design product experiences, and validate assumptions and technical architecture prior to development.
2017 was also an excellent year for our ventures. Spencer convinced Telenet, a major Belgian telco player, to invest and get on board. And we sold our venture, Suitcase, which was ready for the next step, to FNG Group, a listed and leading Belgian fashion player.
On 2 January 2018, we moved into our very own offices.A big step after 10 years in the business. A moment to reflect and look ahead. We wanted to continue evolving November Five into an intelligence-driven organisation, streamlined to build digital products and ventures.
We introduced a company matrix with self-managing teams to better manage our end-to-end product engagements. With intelligence domains (operations, technology, and design) on one side and service lines (strategy, definition, engineering, product operations) on the other.
While we had always been re-inventing ourselves, 2018 will be remembered as our most significant and most impactful transformation to date, internally referred to as ‘2.0’.
We ended the year with a bang and founded a new venture, Gorilla, a top-of-the-line pricing engine for the utility industry.
We successfully (and fully) transformed from a tech expert into a full-service digital growth partner. A trusted partner to companies looking to increase their market share, grow their internal efficiency or get a new business or venture started.
2019 was a great year for our 3 SaaS ventures. We successfully seed-funded Gorilla and signed customers like British Gas. We realised +100% ARR growth for the second year in a row with Spencer, and had Appmiral performing in over 20 countries and at over 55 events.
Lastly, we created a spin-off of our headquarters, now known as ‘The Market’, where we made our inspiring venue available as an event location.
By the end of 2019, November Five is a multi-disciplinary and passionate team of over 100 people across 5 different ventures, learning and growing together with a mindset to grow.