Starting entrepreneurs inspire each other in "Take-off community"

17 September 2019

Exchanging information and gaining inspiration. With that goal, NWO organised the second introductory meeting for the "academic entrepreneurs" who received funding in the programme Take-off. The event was held on Wednesday 11 September in Utrecht. ‘This funding helps us out of the vicious circle to the virtuoso circle we are now part of.’

NWO's Take-off programme supports economic activities that emerge from scientific research to help bridge the gap between research and market. The programme is funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Researchers can apply for funding to start a business and bring an innovative idea to the market. Take-off phase I offers funding up to a maximum of 40,000 euros for a feasibility study or market research. In phase 2, starting entrepreneurs can apply for a loan to make their knowledge innovation commercially viable.

Inspiring and connecting

To inspire and connect the starting entrepreneurs, NWO organises an introductory meeting every six months for the newly funded projects. Besides a lot of practical information, the focus was on the stories of the startups in particular: in short pitches, they told each other with which idea they wanted to conquer the market.

Experiences and advice

Several entrepreneurs who had previously received Take-off funding and are now a step further in their development shared their experiences and advice. ‘Involve your product's users right from the start of its development’, is what Ide Swager from MoMo Medical urged his fellow starters to do. With his MoMo BedSense, he is combatting pressure ulcers, which form a major problem for patients as well as healthcare providers. ‘It's great that as technologists we can put something together, but the question is always: how is this relevant for practice? We tried to ensure that each new step in our development reached the nurses within two weeks, and thanks to their ideas and advice, our product rapidly became better. That is part of the reason why we can market our product already.’

Test propositions

Arjan van Diemen is also close to launching the Trusttester. His product makes it possible for the identity of a person to be verified in a digital transaction. The product uses data verification and not data exchange so that privacy rules are never challenged. ‘Use every opportunity to test your proposition and develop it’, was one piece of advice he gave. ‘A good network is an important part of that. And make sure that you gather the right people around you.’

Virtuoso circle

Fellow entrepreneur Marie Weijler van LipoCoat agreed with that advice. With a bacteria-resistant coating, LipoCoat improves the comfort and safety of medical aids such as catheters, contact lenses and prostheses. The first contact lenses with this coating will enter the market in 2020, but during the past three years, the company has received 15 prizes and awards including the title European Biotech Startup of 2019. ‘Take-off helped us in many ways, for example the prototyping, but also getting the technology ready for the market and increasing the Technology Readiness Level’, said Weijler. ‘And last but not least: it gave us faster access to subsequent funding. In a nutshell, it helped us out of the vicious circle to the virtuoso circle that we are now part of.’

Strong community

She had several tips for those present: ‘Put together a team that is as diverse as possible, spend more time on fundraising than you think is necessary and ensure that your revenue model works. And really important: talk to other starting and experienced entrepreneurs to exchange experiences and learn from each other.’

And that is precisely the main purpose of the six-monthly meetings at NWO. ‘Our aim is to form a strong community of new and alumni startups from the Take-off-programme’, says programme coordinator Xavier Weenink. ‘By bringing these starting entrepreneurs into ongoing contact with each other and with us, we contribute to knowledge utilisation and an accelerated entry to the market and the startup ecosystem in the Netherlands.’

Knowledge market

The morning therefore ended with a lively knowledge market where several entrepreneurs demonstrated their product or service. Tips and advice went both ways: the "advanced" entrepreneurs learned just as much from the experiences of the new starters as vice a versa. One of those present was Boy Trip, whose E-Trailer app improves the comfort and safety of travelling with caravans and camper vans. An entirely different product than the electrically driven trailer where his adventure as an entrepreneur once started. His lesson: ‘Ultimately, it is not about what the researcher wants, but about what the client needs.’

On the Take-off page of the NWO website Trip tells more of his story. In the coming months, more short interviews about the experiences of Take-off-startups will be published on this page.

More information

Source: NWO