Benno Oderkerk, who cofounded and is CEO of Avantes (Apeldoorn, The Netherlands), which makes miniaturized fiber optic spectrometers, has received the EPIC Phoenix Award 2014 from the European Photonics Industry Consortium. The award is presented annually to a European photonics company that exemplifies the challenges and merits of entrepreneurship.
"The story of Avantes is an example that success is no accident -- it is hard work, determination, perseverance," says Carlos Lee, Director General of EPIC. "The EPIC Phoenix award is a symbol of the challenging realities that entrepreneurs face and the journey that this entails; I am honored to present the award to Benno Oderkerk."
|Benno Oderkerk, CEO and cofounder of Avantes, receives the EPIC Phoenix Award 2014 from Carlos Lee, Director General of EPIC (European Photonics Industry Consortium) at Avantes' headquarters in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands (left). Avantes-developed software is designed for use with the company’s miniature spectrometers (right). (Image left: EPIC; image right: Avantes)|
Luitzen Roosma and Benno Oderkerk founded the company in a shed in Eerbeek, The Netherlands, in 1994, at first selling products from suppliers in Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. No profit was made the first years, and the founders had to live from savings. Benno and Luitzen then began developing software on their own as well as producing fiber optics.
Avantes-designed spectrometers came in 2002
In 1996 they organized the sales of one of their suppliers in Europe, structuring and expanding the supplier's spectrometers business. In 2000, Roosma and Oderkerk named their own company "Avantes" and bought a small spectrometer company in Amsterdam. Avantes opened a U.S. sales office and in 2002 introduced Avantes-designed spectrometers to the market.
A strengthening Euro and intense competition led to a nonprofitable period for Avantes that included layoffs and loans using the private property of the owners as collateral. The company regained profitablility in 2005, eventually opening offices in China and England. In 2011 the headquarters was relocated to the present 3000-square-meter facility in Apeldoorn.
Spectrometers from Avantes are used, for example, as explosives detectors for standoff detection of explosives and bombs, as forest-fire detectors to help protect the Peneda-Gerês National Park in Portugal, and to measure fluorescence of liquid samples for many purposes.