Catching up with… Day-1-Dutch!

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

Day-1-Dutch is developing a fun and educational app that helps refugees with their integration process.

Jeltje Alberts, Majlen Reinerink, Vera Russchenkamp and Isa Toorneman are Discovery Track alumni and currently participating in the Venture Track. We’re curious to find out what they are up to these days at Day-1-Dutch.

How did you come up with the idea for Day-1-Dutch? And how did you turn it into a business?
“For our studies Social Work at Saxion Enschede we followed the course Innovative Organising. In this course we had to focus on a target audience, investigate the problems they face and come up with a solution. We got the idea for an educational app that helps refugees with their integration process. We reached out to VluchtelingenWerk and pitched our idea. They were so enthusiastic that they connected us to refugees. We talked to them and learned that it can take up to two years to get a residence permit! During that period, many refugees are very keen to learn and start their own integration process, yet they get little to no opportunity to do so. So, we sharpened our idea for the app further: we want to give refugees the right tools to start their integration process from day 1 they arrive in The Netherlands! The tools allow them to learn the Dutch language and our culture and society faster, more easily and within their own pace. We were so excited about our app that we decided to do more with our idea. We approached the Center for Entrepreneurship in Enschede, who in turn helped us find Mercator Launch. We then applied to the IMPROVE programme so we could continue working on Day-1-Dutch and turn it into a successful startup!”

Tell us more about the Day-1-Dutch app!
“Our app is an interactive educational integration game, with multiple levels. The app will be available in different languages and each user starts with an entry test to determine their start level. They will then be assigned to that starting level and begin their learning process. Users will go through multiple modules about different (cultural) topics: the names and use of Dutch objects and things such as furniture, Dutch society and our norms and values and practical things such as ‘how to use public transport in The Netherlands?’. Learning the Dutch language is enabled with showing translations in the app. At the moment, the app is not finished yet but we are working on a demo video that demonstrates the different features and modules within the Day-1-Dutch app.”

What are you currently working on?
“We just finished the Discovery Track (the first part of the IMPROVE programme, red.) and are now starting with the Venture Track. We have been working a lot on validation with COA (Centraal Orgaan opvang Asielzoekers), municipalities and VluchtelingenWerk. We are now shifting our focus towards a product/market fit involving market research, financials and Intellectual Property Rights. The end goal: a working product and our first actual customer.”

What challenges did you face over the last year?
“Around this time last year, we started the course that led to Day-1-Dutch and at the end of June we decided to continue working on our idea and develop it into a real product. That’s when the real challenges started! Since our customers are entities, like municipalities, we have to deal with a lot of bureaucracy. It is hard to find and reach the right person and it takes up a lot of our time. As we are all trying to combine our business venture with our course load, work and internships, it was sometimes difficult to find enough time to do it all. The four of us really needed to make sure we put in the effort needed to make Day-1-Dutch succeed. Fortunately, we now have Britta as a coach. She helps us map our processes and asks us the critical questions that help us move forward. During the IMPROVE programme, we already looked at a lot of important things, i.e.; how does the refugee system work in The Netherlands, who is responsible for what and who finances it all? The insights we gained were all very useful for the development of our app and getting it to our future users.”

What is your ultimate goal with Day-1-Dutch?
“Ultimately, we want to reach every refugee in the integration process that wants to learn from day 1! We want our app to improve the well-being of people in asylum centres and make sure they don’t just spend their time waiting around while they could be doing something fun and useful. Furthermore,we want our app to be one of the standard learning tools people are given when they enter the asylum centre. In this way, we can give all refugees equal opportunities and help people that are excited to learn more about the local language and culture.”

What inspires you to do better every day?
“The knowledge that we can do something useful for motivated people. We can make sure their time and energy does not just go to waste and we can ultimately contribute to the improvement of the integration process, both for refugees as well as for Dutch society. Working for others is very much rooted in our hearts and in the Day-1-Dutch company.”

Do you have one last tip for entrepreneurs (to be) who want to turn their passion into their job?
“Working with your idea and starting a company are amazing experiences that will teach you a lot. You will get to know new people, gain a lot of knowledge and improve yourself in the process. Even if nothing comes of it, it’s educational and makes you a better person.”

Are you interested in helping the Day-1-Dutch team develop their app or do you know someone that can help bring the app to the users? Contact Day-1-Dutch.