Joris Jansen and YOKUU, they got together like milk and cookies

You often see in some American film how a group of people, neatly dressed in suits and gathered around a long oval table in a trendy office, brainstorm until they come up with a genius new product that in no time becomes a huge success. Well, that's just not how things went at YOKUU. Anyone who says YOKUU, says in one breath Joris Jansen. But who is this young man in whose brain the all-purpose cleaner full of good bacteria slowly but surely took shape? And how did his love for microbes develop?

From rabbit's feet to the kot in Antwerp city

Joris saw the light of day 29 years ago in Mortsel. "Via the natural birth canal," he says with a laugh. That immediately explains why he was bitten by good bacteria from day one. From an early age he was fascinated by the power and beauty of nature. Playing outside and being creative by designing and building pits for his rabbits, that was little Joris' life.

After his secondary studies, Joris went to live in Antwerp, where he started his studies in Industrial Engineering. In the third year a specialization had to be chosen, it became almost logically biochemistry. In that context, he did a research on bacteria in the air in 2013, took samples in domestic and agricultural entourages, and then worked his way up, studying microbes in an indoor environment.

In 2015, he published his thesis on healthcare-associated infections, patients who contract an infection in the hospital itself. A phenomenon that leads to thousands of people dying every year due to the indoor environment of just the building they came to heal.

He asked his thesis supervisor why we don't actually clean with bacteria, who then put him in touch with a company that was already trying to make this happen. Joris did a PhD for them for a year but then his proposal for further study was rejected.

From the kot to the basement

After his studies, Joris stayed in Antwerp. He ended up in a job that had nothing to do with his passion and in which he could not find his feet. That is why he decided to continue along the path he had chosen and to make microbes his mission. During the research for his thesis, he had discovered a huge gap in current hygiene practices, which only deals with bad bacteria. It seemed to him that not a word was spoken about the existence of good bacteria, while we ourselves carry billions of them on and in our bodies. And he found that strange.

Unknown is unloved, so Joris wanted to open the debate on the current hygiene model, on the fact that there are both good and bad bacteria, and on the positive influence that microbes have on living organisms and on their environment, both inside and outside. Too often, after all, "healthy" and "safe" are seen as synonymous with "free of microbes and bacteria," but in his investigations, Joris had stumbled upon a different reality. So he wondered if we could also use good bacteria to clean, and what impact that would have on the environment, what added value this could bring.

But then he found himself on a roller coaster of setbacks: experiments that failed, rejections from people who didn't believe in them. For every person he could ignite with his story of good bacteria, there were always at least two who told him he was a dreamer. Friends and family warned him that he had to realize in time that the time had come to quit. That he should just do a normal job anyway.

Because Joris invested not only time in the good microbes, but also money, money he didn't have. He forced himself to go to the limit, and sometimes even just past it. But his intuition told him that he was working on something special, something for which all those investments were really worthwhile.

He also literally retreated underground, went to live in a basement of a co-housing project, to reflect. Financial worries, practical setbacks, he had to let it all sink in. But those good bacteria didn't let him go, and after the dark days, things slowly lightened up again.

Light at the end of the basement

Not giving up and continuing to believe in it, the product became more and more concrete in Joris' mind. He just felt he had to go for it. And sometimes you can't help but swim against the current, you have to question "the normal" and even "the new normal", because who actually determines what that is?

And then suddenly it was there. May 2018. The idea for the pearl. "Yes, I've got it, this is something no one has presented to me before," Joris glowingly recalls of that moment.

It was the light at the end of the tunnel, or the basement in this case. YOKUU became

suddenly something concrete, something you can plan towards. And after that, there were several bright spots on the long road that still had to be travelled. The support from Start It @KBC, the recognition and accompanying subsidy from the City of Antwerp as an innovative circular project, his election by UNIZO as Antwerp Starter of the Year 2020 - these are just a few.

Team

Joris has also gathered a small team around him. People who firmly believe in his project and share his long-term vision. He himself is mainly involved in product development and realizes that he will have less and less time left to deal with all the other important business activities. "If I really want to see it big, I'm also going to have to learn to share. You also just can't do this alone. You really need a team of people who all have their own expertise and who, as co-founder, are also really committed and really want to make something of it together, who want to fight for it," he said in an interview last year. He therefore cherishes the ambition to turn his startup into a real scale-up.

The Human Microbe

Yet he still wants to leave room for the playful. To reinforce his message on social media, Joris chose an alter ego. "Admit it, Joris Jansen sounds a bit like Peter Parker," he laughs. As "The Human Microbe" he has been trying to convince people of the power of microbes for several years now. In a world in crisis, he wanted to use this to create a positive vibe, to make a positive impact with "his" good bacteria. "Now yes, those bacteria are everywhere, but I wanted to put them back where they belong, close to humans, and give them back the function they have had in nature for millennia: cleaning!", he says about it himself

So for The Human Microbe, no brightly colored, scented, chemical cleaning products that kill 99.99% of bacteria, just a new way of cleaning that respects nature and our health. So YOKUU!

Trying out YOKUU? Try it here.