Heidi Rakels
Co-Founder and CEO of GuardSquare, Belgium

© Winand Van Meerbeek

Q: What motivates you?

A: I like new challenges and taking calculated risks in order to achieve my goals.

Don’t look back

Challenge has always driven me in life – first with judo and now with my company, GuardSquare. I can now say that starting GuardSquare is ten times more educational than professional sports! I used to work as an independent software engineer, so I didn’t have any experience working in a team, let alone leading one. ProGuard is where it all started. Eric released his open-source software in 2002 and it became widely adopted by developers. When Google included ProGuard in its Android SDK, we received constant requests for additional features. Knowing this was a golden opportunity, we decided to take the chance and found GuardSquare.

Today, I learn a lot by talking to company leaders that are a few steps further in their development. I don’t fear making mistakes, and I’ll gladly adapt to the feedback I get. I believe that constant adjustment is the key to success.

If I have a tip for startup founders, it’s this: don’t look back. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t linger on them for too long. Keep your goal in mind and don’t lose focus. Enjoy each moment to the fullest!

Heidi Rakels, 47, lives in Leuven, a Belgian university town. She holds a master’s degree in Computer Science and worked as an independent software consultant in the air traffic control and telecom sector. As a professional judoka, she claimed the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics. In 2014, she founded GuardSquare together with Eric Lafortune. GuardSquare develops DexGuard, the most advanced security software for Android applications.


This article was published in ‘the Hundert Vol. 8 – Female Startup Founders Europe’, May 2016.