A day in the life of… Aline!

First, let me introduce myself: my name is Aline Oosterhof and I am an independent contractor in the field of Marketing and Communications. One of my main (and favorite) projects is working in the Mercator Launch Marketing Team.

“It’s 7.00 AM when my alarm goes off. I jump out of bed and get into gear. My running gear that is. To energise myself (and others) during the day I need a good kickstart every morning.

Some days, that kickstart consists of a short walk before I crawl behind my laptop and other times it’s a good cup of coffee while watching my favorite show… today it’s running! 😊

After my run I feel the adrenaline flowing and I’m ready to start my day. Today is going to be a very special day: I’m giving the ‘Promote your startup’ Marketing Masterclass to some of the Mercator Launch IMPROVE-alumni.

So, after I’ve had my coffee and some yoghurt, I start my workday by reviewing my Masterclass one last time and I check whether I estimated sufficient time for every part of the workshop. I make one small adjustment and decide to leave it at that. I’m 100% ready for this afternoon!

Then it’s time for our weekly marketing meeting where we discuss our content calendar, important news and events that are coming up that need our attention. This week is packed with putting out interesting content AND the organisation of the Innovation Competition. Everything’s on track and we talk about the content we have lined up for next month.

During the marketing meeting, we briefly touch on the subject of Growth Hacking, one of our experimental marketing projects. After our meeting, I check the performance statistics of our latest LinkedIn campaign out of curiosity and I’m very pleased with the results. Our LinkedIn campaign is part of one of our Growth Hacking experiments that really seems to be paying off. Every two weeks, we carry out one or two really ‘out-of-the-box’ marketing experiments for little to no costs to decide if that’s an effective way of doing marketing for us. It’s a very interesting and fun way to find out what works for your company. A great tip for startups to ‘hack’ your way to success! (Check out this book on Growth Hacking!)

Now it’s time for lunch and a quick walk outside with my ‘Ommetje’ app before I’m cooped inside for the rest of the day!

At 12.45 PM I go into my Masterclass Zoom session and make sure my camera angle is good. I’m always a bit nervous before I have to talk to a group, but after the first minute my anxiety makes way for a rush of energy. I’m connecting to people and helping them build their companies by teaching them a thing or two about marketing. All the participants are really involved and passionate about their startups. There’s a great vibe during the entire Masterclass and everyone is sharing their stories and complimenting each other on their ideas and pitches. After an exhilarating three hours I shut down my computer. That went well! It feels really good to be able to share my knowledge about the subject with others and help them grow their business with marketing!

I quickly call my colleague to debrief and decide to call it a day. I go outside for another walk and process the Masterclass. What went well? What could I do better next time? With a smile on my face, I think: you never know what another day working for Mercator Launch will bring, but one thing is for sure – it’s always inspiring!”

Do you have a question for Aline?

Ok, you have a passion. Then what?

Blog by Robi Janssen

In modern industries, compared to 20 years ago, the development of new ideas and start-ups is accelerating as fast as ever. As a starting entrepreneur, you have to be able to anticipate and adapt to the market in order to become successful. In order to stay ahead of the competition, it is necessary to apply a different way of product development; focus on your customer instead of your product. This way of product development is called the Lean Method. With this method, you establish a business idea by making use of validated learning. You will have conversations with your customers in order to find out what problems they encounter and you adjust your products according to their customer needs.

The past few months I have applied the Lean method to my own business idea: I validated my idea for ‘Esportslokaal’. Entrepreneurship always begins with a passion. Something you love and something you would like to earn your money with when you’re older. Because let’s be honest: you don’t want to do something you don’t like for the rest of your (working) life.

My passion is esports: the competitive playing of online videogames. My business idea was to organize esports tournaments at local football clubs around Venlo. This is my response to the declining membership numbers, resulting in the financial problems that the local football associations are experiencing. Furthermore, I also discovered a big desire for esports events in the region.

I thought I’d hit the jackpot with this idea, so I enthusiastically began working on my Lean Canvas model on the basis of my own assumptions. But after completing one building block, the first questions arose: do the problems that I want to solve with my idea actually exist in this region? What is my target audience that would want to participate in this competition? What is my Unique Selling Point? How am I going to reach my target audience? How am I going to make profit from this idea?

All these questions are vital when starting a business. Of course I can start a nice and fun esports competition with ‘Esportslokaal’, but if I can’t answer these basic business questions, ‘Esportslokaal’ is doomed to fail as a viable company in the future

By executing problem and solution interviews, I talked to 24 different potential customers. Among them were two esports experts and one expert in local football clubs. They helped me get the answers to the questions I’ve mentioned above. I did this to gather as much information as possible to help me create and develop my business in a validated way.

All the information I gathered during these interviews was essential to ‘Esportslokaal’. During the interviews, it turned out that the problems I wanted to solve were actually present in the region, but I was wrong about who my target audience actually was. I thought Esportslokaal would be perfect for 20 to 34-year olds, but it turned out that 11 to 20 year olds were way more interested in esports tournaments. The interviews also made clear that my target group prefers long-term relationships with companies and products, rather than short and fleeting ones. This fact ensured me that a certain revenue model needed to be chosen that aligned with this need. So, I decided on a subscription revenue model. Moreover, simple things such as what social media platforms I should use to reach the target audience appeared to be different than expected. Not Facebook, but Instagram and Snapchat seemed to be the platforms on which my target audience is very active.

As you can probably imagine, I had to adjust numerous assumptions by virtue of the information I received from my target audience. This doesn’t mean that my business idea was bad, it just means that my assumptions about my customers’ needs were wrong. My validation process turned out to be an opportunity to transform my idea into the perfect product for my customer. As a result, I will not only host online competitions at local football clubs, but I will organize live local esports events in the region as well.

Using the Lean method as a way of validating my business idea is perfectly consistent with the business programs they offer at Mercator Launch, where I work as a graduate intern. Mercator Launch recommends starting entrepreneurs, like me, to start conversations with potential customers in order to develop an added-value product or service.

Mercator Launch also recommends using certain models that I used myself throughout my research. The Value Proposition Canvas is a very useful tool to study your customer’s problem and develop your Unique Selling Points. Another great model is the Business Model Canvas, which I will start using myself in order to work out my business idea in further detail. For me, being able to do my internship here, is a business match made in heaven!

Do you have a passion and do you want to start your own business? And do you want to know more about the validation process or about Esportslokaal

Contact us

In the spotlight… International Students Work

1. What problems are you solving?

We connect international students and graduates with local companies to enhance the integration of the internationals in Dutch society.

 2. What drives you to provide this service?

All members of our team have experience studying abroad or being an international student in the Netherlands. From personal experience, we know how hard it can be to find your place in a new city. However, we also know the drive and potential of international students. That’s why we want to push them in the right direction!

 3. How did Mercator Launch help you?

Mercator Launch really helped us with their feedback on our general business plan during the Discovery track and Venture track, but also customised feedback on our business proposal for funding (i.e. GV voucher). We eventually got the funding and now we have been able to professionalize our marketing activities and attract our first customers.

As starting entrepreneurs we did not know the importance of networking and having the right connections yet. With the help of Mercator Launch we got in contact with key decision makers in the region, such as the Rector Magnificus of the Radboud Univeristy, Han van Krieken!

Last but not least, the guest lectures of OostNL and Rabobank gave practical tools and insights.  

 4. What are the future plans for International Students Work?

We have so many energetic ideas and plans. But for now we focus on getting more students and companies in the region Arnhem-Nijmegen on board to validate our business case.

 5. What do you need to make this happen?

Stronger collaborations with both universities and local companies.

 6. If you can give one piece of advice to future entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to share your business plans and challenges you face. It’s not just your own network but the network of others that will bring you closer to a well running business.

Join the IMPROVE programme yourself!

Catching up with… Expectalent!

In our series “Catching up with …”, we catch up with former IMPROVERS to see how they are doing and what they are working on!

Stephanie and Mbali are IMPROVE alumni. We’re curious to find out what they’re up to these days at Expectalent. Expectalent is a socially innovative company that supports internationals to connect, integrate and find access to local opportunities.

How did you come up with the idea for Expectalent?
Stephanie: “Four years ago, I moved from Ghana to The Netherlands to study here. After I graduated, I found out that it is difficult to find a job in the Netherlands as an international. I was very lucky to get a job in a small international company. However, it definitely wasn’t my dream job.

A lot of my friends left Nijmegen after graduation and I found myself feeling somewhat lonely. So, I told my friends that I had the idea to start an African organisation in Nijmegen, to find social connections and local communities. On an intercultural night, I met my co-founder Mbali Mbuyisa. She is from South Africa and experienced the same problem I did, namely that she couldn’t find any other African students in Nijmegen to connect with, even though we both knew they were there. We told several local citizens about the problems we encounter and our idea to create an African organisation. The reaction was quite shocking: they were under the impression that there was already a lot in place for us as internationals. That’s when the idea for Expectalent was born: we create a big community where internationals can connect with locals and local industries.

We got in touch with Mercator Launch and decided to apply for the IMPROVE programme. We have learned how to validate our idea. The programme really motivated us to become more active in writing proposals, pursuing projects and basically ‘selling’ our product. We talked to Radboud University and the Municipality of Nijmegen and they were really excited to get involved.”

What are you currently working on?
“Right now, we’re working on two research projects together with the Lindenberg and Stadsschouwburg Nijmegen. We’re looking into how inclusive they are and how open these organisations are to everyone. The Lindenberg asked us if we could help them reach more international people in Nijmegen. More often than not, the intention within organisations is good and they do want to include more people, they just don’t know where to start. Next to our research projects, we’re working on projects for the anti-racism awareness week and education week. For the summer, we’re planning to organise events and even a little festival for international students. We are very happy to have a couple of projects lined up for Expectalent already!”

What challenges did you face over the last year?
“Local organisations are sometimes hesitant to trust us because we’re not Dutch. Additionally, not everyone recognizes what needs to be done about inclusivity. So, we have to keep talking to people. We have made some very good connections that help us get in touch with more local institutions. For instance, Mathijs Buddingh of the Municipality of Nijmegen has really helped us a lot.

What is your ultimate goal with Expectalent?
“Our main goal is to not only have an office in Nijmegen, but that we’ll be active in other cities as well. We want to create valuable communities in parts of The Netherlands that currently don’t have a lot in place to facilitate connections between the international and local communities.

What inspires you to do better every day?
“Our motivation is that we don’t want any other international (student) to feel as lonely as we once did. We want people to have good experiences in their host cities and feel that they made the right decision to move there. We want to try to make people feel more at home. It takes a lot for someone to move away from their country and start over on their own. Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where international people feel welcome and included. And that’s what we work hard for every day!”

Want to join the IMPROVE programme yourself?

The inspiring business success story of… you!

“The IMPROVE programme is an eye-opening opportunity to learn more about building your business – the true magic of turning random ideas into concrete projects” – IMPROVE programme participant

NOTE: this inspirational story is based on a fictional character, we’ll name him or her ‘you‘ because it could be you. You decided to apply for the IMPROVE programme at Mercator Launch and this is your story.

“I found out that Mercator Launch helps academics and students with the commercialisation of their research results and business ideas. This is why I contacted them. I had an innovative idea and was wondering if I should build a business around it. I met with a Mercator Launch business coach who told me all about the support I could get from them. They can help you with IP checks, office space, network, and funding. It all sounded great, but I was really looking for way to figure out where to start and what to do. Luckily, they could help me with this too!

The flagship of Mercator Launch is the IMPROVE programme. IMPROVE is a one-stop-shop to test your business ideas, build your first prototype, get your first customer and build your founding team. Everything you need to get started or start growing. And the best part is: you don’t have to do it alone! You start the programme with other ‘wantrepreneurs’, so you meet like-minded people to share your highs and lows with.

“Mercator launch guides you through the enormous amount of choices you have to make when starting your own business” – IMPROVE programme participant

Last October, I started the programme with 27 fellow wantrepreneuers. We were grouped together based on which phase our business idea was in. This helped us focus on the different aspects of starting a business that were relevant for us at that time. The business coaches guided us through the 3-month-programme. They organized weekly sessions about certain topics, such as: determining the business value of your idea or product development from a customer perspective. In between the sessions we did research and tested our ideas by talking to potential customers. It was a lot of work, but definitely a great learning experience for me! Sometimes it was stressful to find out something did not work as I thought it was going to. But most of all, it was fun and exciting to see my idea come to life!

The result? Me and my fellow ‘wantrepreneurs’ worked out 19 innovative ideas and turned them into viable business concepts. Together we interviewed more than 125 potential customers and 9 of us already went to the chamber of commerce and launched their business. 7 of us wrote our first business plan. 5 teams even got their first funding.

Next to that, everyone in the Venture Track – the advanced programme -, got their first paying customer or paid pilot. To summarise for the BETA’s among us, this is a 100% score! 😉

Long story short: would I recommend it? Definitely! And so would everyone in my group. Just read the quotes.”

Are you ready to turn your idea into a solution?
Don’t hesitate and sign up for the next IMPROVE programme.

Expert blog: ‘Why team diversity is so important in business’

By Dorian Woods, Assistant Professor Strategic Human Resource Management

Team diversity describes teams with unique, diverse members. Usually, this diversity entails differences in gender, race, ethnicity, physical abilities, age, class, sexual orientation, or other social backgrounds. Some differences are immediately recognizable while others might not be noticeable or obvious at first.

Why is team diversity important?

Employees are the most valuable asset of an organization and actively diversifying teams can bring immeasurable advantages to a company. This is because diverse teams are more equipped to find creative solutions when employees with different backgrounds and experiences are involved. Diversity ensures a company’s potential for innovation and its ability to respond to challenges more effectively. In addition, companies with diverse teams are ahead of the game by reflecting the diversification of the general population: this diverse group can provide knowledge for catching future trends and identifying prospective clients.

Good communication and a culture of inclusion

Diverse teams function well in companies that encourage and contribute to creating an inclusive culture. Diversity managers understand this and tap into tools such as anti-biased training or supportive networks and mentoring. Fostering a culture of inclusion creates a working environment where team members can feel that they both belong to a group but at the same time that they are accepted for their uniqueness! This atmosphere helps diverse members effectively listen and learn from one another in order to perform successfully.

A level playing field

Companies that take a responsible social position in the face of wider social inequalities help to create trust within their teams. For example, diverse teams profit from a leveled playing field in decision-making processes, an equal distribution of “good” and “bad” tasks over time, as well as fair and transparent criteria for compensation and promotions. Emotional issues at work related to diversity also need to be dealt with. For example, micro-aggressions against certain minority groups should be named for what they are and deemed unacceptable.

Creating diversity: a good business investment!

Companies and organizations have increasingly focused their attention on team diversity, and with good reason. If managed well, diversity in companies is well worth the effort. Employees are a company’s most valuable resource, so making an effort to think about diversity is crucial. Recruiting talented diverse employees and promoting their ability to work together can move the company to unimaginable heights.

Any questions about team diversity?
Feel free to reach out to me or to the people at Mercator Launch. Always happy to help!

Dr. Dorian Woods, Assistant Professor, Nijmegen School of Management

Top 3 must reads about Team Diversity

Team diversity and inclusion are very important for startups and other organisations. These three books will help you expand your knowledge on how to deal with diversity in the workplace and create a happy and well-functioning team.

1. Startup Culture Mindset – Bernhard Schroeder

This book was written for startup founders and executives who aspire to create an amazing team that buys into the company’s mission. The key is to understand that the founder of a startup determines the company’s culture on purpose. And in order to do that well, you have to understand the key elements of a culture framework. Based on twenty years of company creation, leadership, and observation, Bernhard Schroeder shares with you the key elements of a culture framework. [1]

2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni

In the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni shares a story about the fascinating, complex world of teams. A CEO faces the ultimate leadership crisis: she has to unite a team that is currently in such a bad state that it threatens to bring down the entire company. Will she succeed? Will she be fired? Will the company fail? Lencioni’s gripping tale serves as a timeless reminder that leadership requires as much courage as it does insight. In this book, Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams—even the best ones—often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. [2]

3. The Founders Dilemma – Noam Wasserman

One of the most important decisions entrepreneurs will ever face when starting a company is: should I try doing it alone or bring in a cofounder and investors to help build my business? Finances and relationships are at stake and could suffer. Wasserman’s book examines how early business decisions can make or break your startup and your team. He reveals the common pitfalls founders face and how to avoid them. Should you work with your friends? How do you split equity within your founding team? Important questions that Wasserman deals with in his book. [3]

Looking for another book tip or do you have a question for us?

[1] https://www.storytel.com/ae/ar/books/1333647-Startup-Culture-Mindset

[2] https://www.bol.com/nl/p/the-five-dysfunctions-of-a-team/1001004001579293/

[3] https://www.bol.com/nl/f/the-founder-s-dilemmas/9200000027496330/

A day in the life of… Florine!

Most mornings, I snooze a couple of times before I get dressed, get a cup of coffee and check the news on my phone. Often, I forget to buy my breakfast at the supermarket, so I have to improvise some alternatives. This morning I’m lucky because I have the right ingredients at home to make banana pancakes!

Today is going to be a big day. The Hero Entrepreneurs event is on the agenda tonight and it’s one of the things I’ve been working on a lot lately. Hero Entrepreneurs is an inspiring event which is organised by Mercator Launch and the Hogeschool Arnhem-Nijmegen (HAN). I’ve got a long day ahead of me, but I’m really excited for the big event tonight!

First thing on my agenda is a meeting with my manager to talk about how things are going and to discuss and prioritize the marketing activities for the week. After this short catch up, it’s already time for my next meeting about the Innovation Competition.The Innovation Competition is a training program for PhDs and postdocs to discover the business potential of their research. During this meeting, we work through the necessary actions and check what communication outreach needs to be prepared.

After the meetings, I check my email and see that one of the speakers has contacted me with some questions about Spacial Chat, the online environment of Hero Entrepreneurs. We agree to meet each other at the test environment and we  discuss if everything works according to our plan. Luckily it does and everything is good to go!

I have a quick lunch and jump into my fourth meeting of the day. I go through the script of Hero Entrepreneurs together with the rest of the organisation. After this last meeting with the organisation, I inform all the participants of the evening (almost 350 tickets have been sold!) with the latest information.

Now it’s time for a longer break. I go outside with a friend to go on a snow walk. We find a great place for sledding. After 20 minutes of fun and snowball fighting I head home, take a quick shower and get ready for the event. I send some last emails, make some calls and get in place (with four screens) to start off and enjoy the event we worked on so hard!

At 23:30, I close my laptop and go to sleep with a smile on my face. It’s been a long, yet very fulfilling day! Curious about Hero Entrepreneurs? Keep an eye on our socials for the aftermovie!

Meet… Rona Jualla van Oudenhoven

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategist at Radboud University!

The Radboud University Nijmegen is very committed to contributing “to a free and healthy world with equal opportunities for all and to make a significant impact on a regional and an international level.” (Radboud Strategic Plan). This ambition led to the creation of the function ´Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategist´ at the university. In this article, Radboud´s very own DEI Strategist Rona will tell us what her job entails and what her daily worklife looks like.

Rona:The university embraces ‘diversity of knowledge’ and ‘diversity of people’. Research points to organisational benefits of investing in diverse teams and having an inclusive space for students and staff. We promote a culture of accountability and transparency based on an equity and rights-based framework (DEI framework). It is our mission to create a safe, inclusive and equitable campus society and culture that embraces and embodies diversity and the values of social justice for all while advocating for positive systemic change.”

What is it exactly that you do?

“My role as a DEI-strategist is a difficult job that requires tact, diplomacy and patience but also one that results in a safe, equitable and inclusive space for everyone to work in. So, from the point of view of being an agent of change, it is the best job ever! What is it that I do exactly? My core activities are:

  • To facilitate, mentor, stimulate and support all levels of the Radboud organization in order to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion in their teams;
  • To stimulate collaboration and help create insightful programmes in order to engage with the themes diversity and inclusion;
  • To organise interactive workshops and events about these themes;
  • To partner with students, employees and other campus and external networks to facilitate and share informed, respectful assenting as well as dissenting views.”

Why is diversity within startups so important?

“It’s always better to prevent problems within your startup than to cure them. As an entrepreneur, make sure you implement a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion framework in your company. This includes transparent and bias-free practice in recruitment and selection, grading of papers, conducting research, policy development and so forth. By embedding this in your organisation, you are creating an environment where everyone feels they belong and they will work harder to achieve the same organisational goals.
I hope that more organisations recognize that we all have a part to play and stop taking the easy way out. More organisations need to act just, ethical and compliant with human rights standards to help create a better world. Next to changing the world for the better, it just makes good business sense. It sometimes is as difficult and as simple as that.”

Do you have any questions about diversity, equity and inclusion at the RU?
Please feel free to contact me for any questions at .

In the spotlight… Leornova!

This month Leornova is in our spotlight! The company is focused on providing the skills that are needed in the digital age, especially for higher education staff. We asked the founders, Evelien and Elisabeth, six questions:

1. What problem are you solving?

Leornova’s mission is to empower higher education staff to build the skill sets they need to be the change agents within their organisations.

2. What drives you?

We founded Leornova to contribute to the digital readiness and sustainable future of the field of higher education. Working in internationalisation of higher education at a research university ourselves, we are confronted with these challenges on a daily basis.

3. What support did you get from Mercator Launch?

During the Venture Track, we received coaching from Brechtje en Saskia and were appointed a mentor from our field. Our coach pushed us to look at the bigger picture and to keep working towards a solid business plan. Our mentor made some valuable suggestions as to financials and people in his network. This saved us a lot of time (and money). 

4. When is Leornova successful?

Leornova is successful when we inspire and empower future generations by reshaping the field of higher education. We want to build towards an internationally-connected, sustainable, and digital world.

5. What do you need to make this happen?

We started Leornova because we feel that there is still so much opportunity to improve the knowledge about internationalisation, digitalisation, and sustainability in higher education. We believe the synergy between these fields is the way forward.

6. What tip would you offer other entrepreneurs?

We love that we are not financially dependant on our business. We both work four days a week, and that takes the financial pressure off our business and allows us to experiment. It is a fact that most companies do not make any profit in the first 2-3 years… Therefore our tip would be to make sure you have a great business partner so that the process is fun as well!

Inspired? sign up for our IMPROVE program!

Catching up with… Ken Koontz!

In our series “Catching up with …”, we catch up with former IMPROVERS to see how they are doing and what they are working on!

Ken Koontz started his own company. He consults, designs and produces interactive experiences and games that have an applied purpose. From learning objectives to increasing engagement to behavioural interventions, his work uses the power of play to teach, connect and inspire for lasting effect.

Ken is one of our IMPROVE alumni. We’re curious to find out what he’s up to these days.

How did you originally come up with the idea to start your own business?

“I have been working in game development since 2007. A couple of years ago, I moved to The Netherlands because I got a great job at the Radboud University – Creative Director of GEMH Lab. I was hired to increase engagement of participants in studies through games, one of them was able to significantly decrease weekly smoking rates over time, with higher doses of gameplay leading to better outcomes. The link this job had to social and behavioural sciences and psychology, it just clicked with me. I was able to create tools to help study and observe behaviour. It felt like a very honest environment at GEMH Lab and I really enjoyed the fact that my work was helping people. I had found my niche!

After my project at Radboud ended, I decided I wanted to keep working on social and applied games to help people, so I started my own company. Starting a company in a foreign country can be challenging (I am originally from North Carolina in the United States). Luckily, the system in The Netherlands is so welcoming to young starting entrepreneurs, even if they’re from another country. 😊 My next challenge was to define my services; what do I offer that is so unique that people will hire me? How do I explain what I do and sell it? And that’s when I found the IMPROVE programme at Mercator Launch. The first part of the programme helped me realize that I already knew a thing or two about setting up a business, but the second part helped me figure out how to grow my business. My business coach Brechtje helped me compartmentalize what I needed to do and this really helped me in my process. I needed to take one step at a time.”

What are you currently working on?

“Right now, I’m finishing up my last project for Radboud University. This project aims to create awareness of social media use for people. We are creating an app where youth can reflect on their social media use and what they find important in life, regain control and agency of their relationship with social media and ultimately improve their wellbeing.

After this project is finished, I am really proud to say I have my first two official customers signed up already! For one of my new projects, I’ll be working to develop a playable game prototype with the University of California, Berkeley that tries to prevent aggression and promote prosocial development. This project is the first step toward providing at-risk youth with access to an innovative, youth-centered, engaging intervention for positive development.”

What challenges did you face over the last year?

“The biggest hurdle I had was to figure out how to explain to people what it is that I do. It is hard for me to tell people what I do in a way that just anyone can understand. The mentor I was paired with during my IMPROVE programme was close to my industry and had a marketing background. He helped me understand what my company actually is. I always thought: I make video games.

But my added value is that I am the interface between science and development. I am the one who can integrate the science in the game, maintain its integrity and still be fun. My mentor helped me see that. Now my story is clear and I’m working on how to pitch it. The only thing left to do is… figuring out how to explain what I’m doing to my mom, haha.”

What is your ultimate goal with your company?

“Now I could say I want my company to go BIG! But the truth is, I really just want to enjoy my work, contribute to creating helpful and meaningful games and work enough to sustain my desired lifestyle. Doing what I do gives me the freedom to work anywhere, and that’s what I love: being able to live where I want, do what I’m good at and hopefully help some people on the way!”

What inspires you to do better every day?

“Fear is a double edge sword to me, it is a great motivator but fear of failure, fear of not making it is a constant struggle. When I get up, ‘fear’ is the first thing that runs through my head: you have got to get up and do it today, or else! Once I get up, the motivation and eagerness to do great things helps me to keep going. Then I get into this flow state and lose track of time just because I love what I’m doing so much!”

Do you have one last tip for entrepreneurs (to be) who want to turn their passion into their job?

“Something you hear a lot is ‘if you are doing something you love, you don’t have to worry about money’. In a way I agree, but my tip is: if you turn your passion into your job, find another passion. Then you have something to get lost into whenever you hit a brick or when you’re in a slump. So, get a passion to be able to reignite passion into your company!”

Sign up for IMPROVE now!

Top 3 upcoming events

1. Hero Entrepreneurs

After a successful first edition of Hero Entrepreneurs in 2019, the Radboud University and University of Applied Science Arnhem – Nijmegen (HAN) are organising the second edition online on the 9th of February! That’s in less than two weeks. So, time to decide to sign up (which you definitely should do 😉). Curious what we’ve got in store for you at this event? Continue reading to discover what we have organised for you.

During ‘Meet the experts’, from 6 to 7 PM, you can talk to experts and ask them anything you want about starting your own business. Furthermore, local heroes like BEO Lifestyle, Sit & Heat, Proforto and Van Eigen Deeg  will share their success stories and tell you all about how they founded their startup.

After you have seen and talked to the experts and local heroes, it’s time for the big players: the national heroes take the stage! Inspirator, author and successful entrepreneur Arko van Brakel is our host for the evening and will give us an inspirational speech. Kleertjes.com founder Claudia Willemsen shares her story about how she became market leader in her field in just a few years since she started her business from the attic of her own home. Next, founder of Radboudumc spinoff Thirona, Eva van Rikxoort, will talk about the booming AI technology she developed and how the pandemic has helped her grow the business.

After our national heroes, it’s time to enjoy the rest of the evening at our very fun and educational afterparty! Professional pub quiz company Upbeatles hosts 2 pub quizzes, and student DJ association SoundLab Nijmegen will turn your living room into a dancefloor! Not into quizzing or dancing? There’s also a place to meet fellow students and entrepreneurs!

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up here.

2. Masterclasses

Are you ready to take your entrepreneurial skills to the next level? We’ve got you covered! In February and March, we will host 4 masterclasses on 4 very important topics! The subjects of the masterclasses will be: Build your founding team, Get connected, Pitch perfectly and Promote your startup. The masterclasses will take place on Wednesdays and will last between 3 to 5 hours each. They will be both informative and interactive, which allows you to put your newfound knowledge and skills into practice immediately. On this webpage you will find short descriptions about each masterclass. Hopefully, we will see you there!

3. Innovation Competition

More than 80% of the PhD candidates pursue a career in industry, start their own company or end up working in the public sector. The Innovation Competition is a training program designed for researchers who want to innovate and discover the commercial applications or services from their own research and technology. Last week, we have announced the first semi-finalists who will participate in a three-day training course. On February 24th, we will announce the finalists who will pitch their business idea in front of a jury during the grand finale. Oh, and did we mention that the winner will receive €10.000 to invest in their innovation? This is a competition to watch! Stay tuned and find out who will win this competition…