Catching up with… Bas Tuenter

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

“Always happy to discuss ideas”
How a passion for sustainability developed into an ambitious start-up

Changing the world and having your idea make a difference, is a dream to many students and researchers. Bas Tuenter, graduate of the master’s degree molecular life sciences, is currently well on his way. He is the founder of Sustainables, the start-up that aims to get rid of all single use items in research in an effort towards a more sustainable future. But how did Bas come up with his ideas? And how did those ideas turn into a real-world start-up? This is his story.

During his time as a student, Bas got into sustainability and became involved in the international youth climate movement, via YOUNGO, the youth constituency of the UNFCCC. Wanting to be decrease his impact on the environment, he tried to make differences to his day to day life. In the supermarket he looked at the packaging of products, to make sure it could be recycled. Becoming more aware of his own ecological footprint, the abundance of single-use items during his research internship astounded him. Items like pipet tips and reactor tubes (typically used in a biomedical research environment) were discarded and incinerated after only being used once. Researchers agreed with him that this was a problem, but they had other priorities. Realizing that nobody was going to solve this problem, he decided he would do it. He was going to take out the time necessary and make a difference.

How was he going to do this? He contemplated building a machine that researchers could use to clean items before he quickly realized he had no idea how to build such a machine. There was also another thing on his mind, he wanted to take work out of the hands of researchers instead of adding to it. He wanted to find a solution that allowed researchers to focus on their craft. As he put it: ‘You do you, and we’ll make sure you can continue your research in a sustainable manner’.

During his master’s degree and internship, he was trained to perform research himself. His degree hadn’t taught him anything about business or about starting one. In his words: ‘I had zero experience thinking like a business, how do you start one, what’s important when running one’. Not knowing what steps to take, he turned to Mercator Launch. He met with business coach Rob Groenendaal which eventually led him to join the IMPROVE programme. A programme designed to guide future entrepreneurs to start their own business. In this programme, Bas worked on specifying his ideas and figuring out his value proposition. By testing his ideas and talking about the results with other participants of the IMPROVE programme and researchers, he was able to validate his ideas and create Sustainables.

Joining the Venture Track programme also meant meeting other future entrepreneurs that are trying to create their own  startups. ‘An empowering group of people’ is how Bas described them. Connecting and talking about ideas helped speed up his process immensely. It helped push his ideas in the right direction and also gave him access to a larger network. The people around him encouraged him to make decisions and try. He made many mistakes but this helped him learn. He was able to find out what could be improved by asking for feedback on his ideas from everyone he met. He listened attentively to the feedback, especially when people were critical. Figuring out why people were critical and finding solutions to this helped to get people on board.

When asked what tip he would give aspiring entrepreneurs Bas said this: ‘Don’t postpone, make a mistake now and learn’. He points out to embrace feedback and keep feeling encouraged. This, he says, will skyrocket your performance. He believes in this so much in fact, that he asks anyone that has a question, comment or criticism to reach out to him. The ambitious entrepreneur is always happy to discuss ideas, especially with people that disagree with him.

Sustainables is looking to expand the team. If you’re interested in creating a sustainable laboratory, reach out to