A day in the life of… office dog Bennie!

Is the start-up life a dog’s life?

“Well, yes it is! That is, if you are me: Bennie – the Chief Happiness & Customer Suppawt Officer at Mercator Launch. In Silicon Valley it is already the most natural thing in the world: dogs accompany their owners when they go to the office every day. In fact, companies like Google, Zynga, and Facebook (to name a few) are actively encouraging this. Due to COVID-19, the office actually came to me. So, I decided to join the team.

What my day looks like? First of all, it’s my job to greet entrepreneurs and colleagues when they come to the house, err, office. Because, let’s be honest, would you prefer my spontaneous and happy hello or the early morning ‘before-the-first-coffee’-faces of your co-workers… This part of my job is actually quite challenging. I have to wake up and get up all the time! So, when I can, I take a quick break. I like to visit a patch of grass outside or hang out at the “barking lot”. After my break, I like to join meetings from my pillow. When they start talking about human stuff and I get bored, I tend to fall asleep pretty fast and start snoring, much to the joy of all my colleagues.

The other really important task I have is to improve the team spirit. On a daily basis I make the team do some teambuilding exercises to improve collaboration and communication. Small ones, so they don’t really notice. Like, deciding who gets to walk me that day or give me my afternoon snack. And sometimes, when someone in the team has a really stressful day, I just offer to take them for a walk and after 10 minutes they always say: ‘I feel so much better’. I do what I can.

Finally, I am an active promoter of a healthy lifestyle and make sure all my colleagues exercise enough. Did you know that a dog’s microbes are good for humans? These microbes shape your health and help humans strengthen their immune system. And, of course, I work very hard to distract and reduce stress. Not to brag but people just melt when they pet me. Being around me makes my colleagues happy, their blood pressure drops, they are more zen and the overall working atmosphere improves tremendously. And it’s not just me making this stuff up, it has been scientifically proven.

My role after COVID? Good question. Well, some humans are allergic and some people just don’t like being surrounded by dogs like me all the time so I will probably not join the team on location but, as I already barked at my team mates, I am always ready to help if they need me.

Who inspire me? In the world of tech, dogs have been part of the founding lore. Back in the early days of Amazon, the company’s first dog (a corgi named Rufus) would help launch new versions of the website by a click of his paw. At Google, the company’s first dog was Yoshka. The dog and his owner were often the only ones who showed up at the office before 11am, making Yoshka de facto the first receptionist. I want to be like them and follow in their paw steps.

The lesson here: great companies like Google and Amazon were founded by a dog. So, make sure to get a spirit animal just like me in your founding team!

Do you want to see more pictures or take a walk with me? Send an e-mail to !

Summer time management

How to recharge yourself and your business while getting it to the next level

It’s summertime! Time to go out, have fun and get some well-deserved chill time. However, when having your own business, is there ever time when you can really sit back and relax? Well, yes of course! And even better… you can combine business with pleasure! 😉

You probably built your business around your passion. And because having a business can be tough and a lot of work, it is good to go back to that first feeling of love you had for your business. 

First, let me tell you who I am. My name is Julian Leijser, I am 33 years old and I live in Arnhem. 10 years ago, I finished my Master in Business Communication at the Radboud University. I started my own business right after that.

When I started my business, I focussed on change management. Later on, the focus slowly started to shift to projects within the startup ecosystems. Four years ago, I started another company which is called Habits of Happiness. This company is in a totally different area of expertise: the field of essential oils and natural medicine. Currently, I am still working on both businesses with great pleasure. As an experienced entrepreneur, here are my tips for an inspiring summer!

  1. Go abroad and get inspired

The best thing about being a student is freedom! And in the summer time you have that same freedom. Use your weeks off wisely! Go on a roadtrip to wherever and explore new countries and cultures. New places can inspire you, teach you more about yourself and broaden your horizon. And it might just bring you that great new (business) idea. Whether you just started your business or not, going abroad always give you renewed energy.  Even lack of money is not a good reason not to go! Just find yourself a side job at your destination. Go couch surfing and make new friends. Take a tent with you, you will thank me later. And if you’re not really a ‘road trip’ type of person, go discover our own country. Lots to explore!

2. Go combine your hobby with your business

Are you the workaholic type? Go combine your business with something fun and completely new. This will really take you out of your comfort zone. Last year, we were fully into corona-mode. Before the pandemic, I always gave live workshops but, as you all know, this currently is not possible. So, what I did was I call Dutch festival campings like ‘Buitenland’ and ‘Lievelinge’. A week later I was invited to be part of their program for the summer with my essential oil business, where I met a lot of potential new customers.

Steve Jobs says it very strikingly in his commencement speech at Stanford University: ‘Go do what you love!”. A must see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc!

3. Go do a fun new collaboration

As I said before: summertime is all about having fun and recharging. Go to Instagram or another platform you like to use and search for people who inspire you. I’m really into healthy routines, so I search for people who inspire me on this topic on Instagram. What I do next is contact them and ask: ‘Hey, are you up for organising something together like a training or an event? Most people love it when you reach out to them. That has been the basis for my monthly training which is called ‘The Miracle Morning’. What inspired me for this training? A book I read about having an early morning routine from Hal Elrod (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR21ynDHwH8). Want to experience the effect of The Miracle Morning training yourself? We will probably start a training again soon, so make sure to check out our socials!

4. Go reinvent yourself

When you have your own business, the only way up is to experience ups and downs and get to know yourself better through the process. Also, training and summer schools can help!  Look for a summer school that really rocks your boat and ticks all of your boxes of things you want to learn. Summer schools can help you to get a clear vision, let go of all your baggage and free you up to take your business to the next level. Mercator Launch has also set up a list of online courses you can follow: https://www.mercatorlaunch.nl/online-courses-to-follow-from-your-home-office-or-couch/

Want to join our community?

You can contact me personally at 003181483222

Or join or socials at:

FB: https://www.facebook.com/habitsofhappinessforeveryday/

Insta: https://www.instagram.com/habitsofhappinessforeveryday/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJTvQwy7lm48JguPKMhT5NQ

www: https://habitsofhappiness.nl/

In the spotlight… Delreco!

Previously known as Domus Discipuli, but now with a brand new name and logo, Delreco is in our spotlight! Delreco stands for Deliver, Repair & Collect, which is exactly what their service entails!

We asked them 5 questions about their company.

What problem are you solving?

International students are often limited to furnished rooms, since they come alone and cannot bring their whole interior. With our service we provide international students a fair chance on every room. We deliver, repair and retrieve the furniture.

What drives you?

We feel that we are the generation that will make the planet thrive again. With a sustainable business model we want to start providing our own generation an attractive choice to stimulate the transition to the circular economy.

What support did you get from Mercator Launch?

We participated in different master classes and received individual coaching. Their guidance helped us develop our business plan and setting the right goals. We are planning to join the Venture Track in September.

What are the future plans for Delreco?

The coming year we aim to set up our business in Nijmegen, as our short term goal. We are planning to expand to multiple cities with universities in the Netherlands to deliver our service the coming years. Our ambition is to go international within 5 years.

What do you need to make this happen?

We are looking for partners to help with transport and storage. Next to that we are searching for sustainable suppliers of furniture. Additionally, we need to create brand awareness to reach our potential customers. To achieve this we will need investors.

What tip would you offer other entrepreneurs?

Find something that makes you do that one extra step. If your passion lies with your concept, it will make your story stronger and people will believe you. But it is also important to keep improving and validating your business plan. Surround yourself with people who motivate you. And next to that, always keep networking. Talk with everyone you meet!

A day in the life of Project Coordinator… Jon!

Each morning there is a competition between my alarm clock and my 4-year-old; who can wake me earlier? Usually, my boy wins and the morning starts by making him (and his baby sister) breakfast followed by 20 minutes of negotiation at the highest level to get him to put his shoes on and leave the house for school (“please, 1 more minute with the lego’s daddy”). Biking through Nijmegen centre to drop my kids off is a nice way to start the day, as I get physical activity and can experience the calm beauty of early morning Nijmegen.

Back at the home office I grab a strong coffee and start the day with some emails and prepare my meetings for the day. Working as project coordinator for public-private research projects provides an enjoyable amount of variation. One meeting concerns a research collaboration with a large pharma company, another is about spacial planning for renewable energy projects. In order to assist our research at Radboud University optimally, we are currently running an investigation of research & valorisation opportunities within the different Radboud institutes like Donders and HFML.

I try to take as many lunch walks as possible, but unfortunately I usually end up having a quick lunch and running back upstairs. I can’t wait to be (back) in the office and enjoy the beautiful university campus again. Speaking of the campus, after my lunch it is time to discuss potential collaborations with a foreign research group that are interested in relocating their research facilities to our university. Trying to make this happen takes a lot of work and involves organising many meetings, both internally and with external parties like the province, municipality and collaboration partners.

When my working day is drawing to a close, I always try to make some time to focus on follow ups and writing before picking up the kids and finally winding down by cooking a great family meal. After putting the kids to bed there is some room for relaxing or, if needed, some last-minute emailing ;-). I am always available for creative business ideas and to support research innovation on the Radboud campus.

4 tips for a fruitful summer!

Empty desks, out-of-office automatic replies and a deafening silence that allows you to work on that one project you never really had time for. As an entrepreneur, you usually don’t just take three or four weeks off from your startup. Especially since it’s far too much fun to be an entrepreneur! How do you ensure you have a relaxed and pleasant summer while improving your startup? We would like to give you four tips!

1. Take time for reflection and evaluation

The quiet summer time is an ideal period for reflection. You can use this time to evaluate your business strategies: what works well and what could be improved? During the summer there are less (work) distractions, which gives you time to work on your strategy for better results. It also gives you room to think of new ideas. You often come up with the best ideas at the weirdest, most relaxed, moments. So don’t forget to bring your notepad, pens, post-its and markers to your holiday spot and let those creative juices flow with a (non-alcoholic) cocktail in hand!

2. Do the tasks you never get around to

Make a list of tasks you’re going to do that you normally never have time for. Like the ultimate “I’m really going to do that in a short time” job of bringing your inbox down to zero unread emails. Or going through your folders and cleaning up your drive.

3. Surprise your colleagues with new knowledge or skills!

Take a course and surprise your colleagues when they come back by suddenly being the best at video marketing or tinkering with PowerPoint presentations. We have already made an overview of online courses, check it out here: https://www.mercatorlaunch.nl/online-courses-to-follow-from-your-home-office-or-couch/.

4. Catch up on some entrepreneurial reading

The summer is often the moment when you really have time to read a good book. Of course, this can be a nice short novel, but it’s also an opportunity to soak up the sun while reading inspirational entrepreneurial books. So, we prepared a book list for you! You can find it here: https://mercatorlaunch.nl/your-summer-reading-list/

Not that much into reading? Then listen to podcasts about entrepreneurship. Here are some listening tips: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/332940. Prefer to be visually stimulated too? Then you can go crazy on YouTube with inspiring TEDtalks https://www.ted.com/topics/entrepreneur.  

Finally, one of the best things you can do is refuel. Just do nothing at all. Clear your head and make sure that you are full of positive energy to get back to work on your business after your holiday!

Your summer reading list

Whether you prefer lounging by the pool or going on a hike in the mountains… it is always good to have a book with you for a well-deserved pitstop. Summer is the perfect time to catch up on your reading list! And why not combine business with pleasure? Here are some great books about the secrets of entrepreneurship, successful teams and how to disrupt the (business) status quo! So recharge, get inspired and find new motivation through these amazing books. Happy reading!

  1. Business for Punks
    James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog (2015)
  2. SPRINT: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days
    Jake Knapp (2016)
  3. Het geheim van bol.com (Dutch only)
    Michel Schaeffer, former director marketing at Bol.com (2018)
  4. Shoe dog
    Phil Knight, co-founder van Nike (2017)
  5. Spotify Untold: How a Small Swedish Start-Up Changed Music Forever
    Jonas Leijonhufvud (2020)
  6. Grip: het geheim van slim werken (Dutch only, English translation available soon)
    Rick Pastoor, ‘inner boss’ of the journalistic platform Blendle (2019)
  7. Samsung Rising, Inside the secretive company conquering Tech
    Geoffrey Cain (2020)
  8. Speak, inspire, empower
    Mark Robinson (2020)

Need more reading tips?

Contact us!

Catching up with… Koen Smit from Yogademics!

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

Koen Smit started his own company where he offers yoga classes to PhD students in order to reduce anxiety & stress, and improve focus Since Koen has his own experience as a PhD student, he knows how to help his customers improving their quality of life. Koen combines his part-time work as a researcher with his enterprise. We are very eager to find out how he and his company, Yogademics, are doing.

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

“When I was 26, I had just started working on my PhD. One day I was helping a friend move and lifted a box when I heard a crack somewhere in my body… I hurt my back and was unable to move for about two weeks. And I was only 26! That is when the idea started to take root to spend more time working on my physical health. I ended up doing yoga and noticed that I did not only physically felt better and stronger, but it also helped me mentally as I was better able to process my work. Before I started doing yoga, I was constantly thinking about what I needed to do and what I could improve in my research. Whereas after I started doing yoga, I was capable of tuning that out more. I then started teaching yoga to my colleagues in the Spinoza building here in Nijmegen. Even though it were short classes in a very dusty classroom, the responses were very positive. That is when I really started playing with the idea of setting up my own company and seeing where it could go.

My focus is on people in academia, who have a high risk of getting stress related issues. Research shows that about 30% of PhD candidates are stressed and overworked to a clinical degree. So, there is a lot of room for prevention here, something I want to play into with my company. Since my target audience is so specific, I can tailor my classes to their wishes. I noticed that a lot of participants prefer a more scientific approach to yoga; they like to hear how their body can benefit from a certain pose during the class. Next to that, I know how busy researchers are and how important it is to give them a moment to calm down and collect their thoughts.”

What are you working on right now?

“Right now, I am doing the Venture Track at Mercator Launch. I am currently working on my product description and we are looking at the finances. I have little experience with financial aspects, but I am very happy with all the support from the business coaches. I am also running a pilot with yoga classes. Researchers can join in for free and give me feedback on the class. This way, I can find out what people like and how I can further improve and tailor my classes to their needs. After the pilot I will be adding a payment system to my website, which I have been building recently! It’s not completely finished yet, but overall, I’m very happy with my results so far.”

“If you want to go to the shore of success, you have to swim through the sea of misery first”

What challenges did you face over the last year?

“I noticed there are quite a few parallels between doing a PhD and setting up a company. It is a lot of work and you have to strongly rely on yourself and your capabilities. The big difference is: doing a PhD mainly consists of data collection, analysis, reading and writing (at least, in my case). Many tasks that involved thinking and working for yourself. Setting up yoga classes and hosting them is totally different. Going from internally focused work to working more externally took a bit of getting used to. Also, I was used to promoting articles. But now I need to promote myself, as I am the face behind the company and I need to convince people why they want to work with me or follow one of my classes. It has been very interesting to learn more about marketing and how to build my own website. As an entrepreneur I am now doing all sorts of things I had no experience in whatsoever. A great learning experience!”
What is your ultimate goal with your company?

“People can experience a lot of stress in the workplace. My vision is that preventing a problem is always better than curing it, which is why I founded Yogademics. I think prevention in this area is gaining ground right now and Yogademics can enter that wave. My yoga classes are specifically intended to reduce stress and regain focus. My ultimate dream is that Yogademics will eventually offer both online and offline yoga classes on different universities all across The Netherlands and that our services can play a key role in preventing stress related issues for people in academics.”

What inspires you to do better every day?

“I love it when I see that people are really enjoying my classes.  My primary focus is on making people happy with my class, making sure that my class added something positive to their day. So, it is really the people who inspire me to do better every day!

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

“When you start something new, you have to learn how to do a lot of new things. You may even feel self-doubt, shame and think ‘I can’t do this’. But you can! This quote really helped me believe in myself: “If you want to go to the shore of success, you have to swim through the sea of misery first”. I found that really reassuring somehow. Everyone has to deal with difficult hurdles, but you can do this! Work through the challenges and learn from everything you do. And, very important: when in doubt, just do it!”

Need help to overcome a hurdle or to learn a new entrepreneurial skill?

Contact us!

Why celebrating success should be the norm

By: Mark Spijker, Director of INNOVATE & Owner of Buro Einstein

If there is anything that I have learned in the past year it is appreciating the little things I always took for granted. A beer in my local bar, a good conversation at the coffee machine with a colleague, a weekend away with friends or even the freedom to cycle home from a meeting after 10 o’clock at night. Things I have always taken for granted. The funny thing about these occasions, however, is that you only start to appreciate them when they are no longer certain. The past year has, in that aspect, certainly been a real eye opener in many ways and a strong reminder to appreciate small moments of happiness more.

This is also true for entrepreneurs. Every day we achieve small successes that we take for granted when we should not. Because of everything that happened over the last year, I have noticed that I do not realise this enough. An appointment that went well, bringing in a new customer or just having a really cool meetup with INNOVATE. We should celebrate these things! Success has become the norm for many entrepreneurs, and although there is nothing wrong with showing ambition and moving on to the next big milestone, celebrating success should be included in the process as a norm. More often than not this is not the case.

Even with greater successes, we often just move on quickly and continue to achieve results, but we do not pay enough attention to what we and the people we work with are all accomplishing. And that really is a shame because by celebrating successes you lay the foundation for even more successes. Achieving a goal and celebrating it is addictive.

If you look at this process in a scientific way, it actually all makes sense. Every time you celebrate a success, endorphins are released which makes you feel just a little happier. This feeling is addictive and will probably trigger you to achieve success the next time. In this way, celebrating successes is conducive to the performance of your organisation. In addition, celebrating success is also a good way to ensure more solidarity within your team. By celebrating a success that you have achieved together, you will grow closer to each other and your team members will probably be willing to go the extra mile for each other in the future. All this will only improve the atmosphere within your team. More parties, more success and a better atmosphere… who would not want that?

The conclusion? Think about the successes you achieve, really try to reserve a moment for that and do not hesitate to do something crazy to celebrate those successes. It is not a given that you achieve success, although you will probably only find out if there is not much more to celebrate. Celebrating successes does not only increase your performance, but it simply makes your (team’s) day a lot more fun. In any case, I have found myself a new good intention.

And now? I am about to start a new tradition: toasting to a week with many small successes. Cheers!

Tips and tops of the past 3 years

Mercator Launch has recently turned three (yay!). In the past three years we have experienced absolute highlights and valuable learning moments. Everything brought us to where we are now. But not without providing ourselves with continuous constructive feedback along the way. So why stop now? We asked our own team: what have we learned in the past 3 years and what are our successes? Read all about our tips and tops below!

Tips: the important lessons we have learned

  • Do not limit your success; once you set a goal, you start working to achieve that goal. Ask yourself, “Am I ambitious enough in setting my goals?” What we have experienced at Mercator Launch in recent years is that we could never have imagined that we would be where we are right now after 3 years. The lesson we want entrepreneurs to take home with them is to adjust goals upwards when possible or even set them absurdly high when the opportunity arises.
  • It is better to have a strong team with a bad idea than a bad team with a strong idea. Your founding team is crucial. A strong team can get from an idea to the execution. This applies to our startups as well as our own team, and any network in which we participate.
  • Entrepreneurial researchers, students and employees visibly benefit from our IMPROVE programme. We have noticed that entrepreneurs who already have some experience can still learn and grow a lot by participating in the programme.

Tops: the milestones we have achieved

  • Our continuous streak of 8+ evaluations. Every time the IMPROVE programme is finished, our participants rate us very highly, an important signal that we do our job well. And if we do our job to the best of our capabilities, we will give our startups the most optimal boost, which will hopefully help them achieve success.
  • Mercator Launch has become a unmissable in the region. We just started, have continuously improved and are now everyone is aware of the importance of having a pre-incubator in the area.
  • Developing and executing the IMPROVE programme. We have created a full-fledged, professional and hugely meaningful programme for our target audience. Last year, we worked really hard on improving the quality of the programme and made the decision to split the programme into multiple tracks. This way, the different tracks are a better fit with where the entrepreneurs are at that time.
  • From idea to business plan to voucher and eventually even to a loan from business angels. A couple of our startups have already achieved this level of success and we could not be more proud!

So, there you have it: the road to success is always paved with a little trial and error and lots of room to fail. Even ours! We look forward to every lesson and success story, big and small, we are sure to experience in the next three years. Cheers to the future!

In the spotlight… Skik!

Skik is one of the startups currently participating in the IMPROVE programme! Skik is developing a tool for big events like festivals, based on algorithmic predictions.

We asked the founder, Eline de Jong, 5 questions about the company.

What is the problem that you are solving?

Getting visitors to listen to you –the organizer– while they are enjoying a festival is a challenge. Especially if you want them to disperse so it will stay safe at the busiest places at the event. With our tooling we give the organizer a way to forecast the density of the crowd and therefore act beforehand to dissipate them, while visitors will get personalised recommendations to get the most out of their day. 

What drives you to make this service?

Algorithms can do a lot for making one’s life easier. In this case we make people happier and safer at your event. Furthermore, the technological challenges to develop an algorithm with different methods (machine learning, agent-based modelling) are intriguing and there is a lot of potential for other applications.

How did Mercator Launch help you?

The coaches of Mercator Launch helped us to figure out where to start and what to focus on.

What are the future plans for Skik?

In the coming months we’ll start working on the prototype, and in September development starts for the MVP. In spring 2022 pilots will start, and in the summer several festivals will use the tooling for their crowd management.

What do you need to make this happen?

The team needs to be complemented by a programmer/data scientist, funding needs to be procured, and assistance for building the user interface acquired.

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

There are going to be ups and downs, never give up when you believe in your idea. You need to adapt to the punches startup life is going to give you, but stay true to why you started in the first place.

A day in the life of… Marco!

Marco is a Master student International Business Communication, performing a study into science-based entrepreneurship. Additionally, Marco has a lot of experience in marketing & communication strategies for businesses.

“Monday. Again.” I always try to shake the “Monday blues” mood as I believe starting off the week with good vibes is the best way to get energised! As a master student working part-time, it would not be a Monday without overlapping meetings and having to catch up with my writing for my thesis and my research for Mercator Launch.

After conducting my curricular internship at Mercator Launch on improving communication with PhDs, from November 2020 to January 2021, I was asked to follow up on the matter through a research project to map the encouragement of entrepreneurship across Research Institutes from Radboud University and Radboud University Medical Centre. I am excited to assist Mercator Launch in the process of bringing science to society and, interestingly enough, I celebrate my third year in The Netherlands at the same Mercator Launch celebrates its third year of existence! Double celebration, double the fun, right?

I usually start the day by snoozing my alarm a couple of times as I prefer to have 15-30 minutes time “waking up in bed” before I get up. This way I am a more functional person when I get my feet on the ground! Today I got out of bed at 09:15. Being able to sometimes wake up a bit later is perhaps one of the best perks of still being a student!

Irrespective of my mood, timing, or agenda for the day, what follows is a coffee attack: I grind some coffee beans and prepare a good cup of coffee to fuel my morning. During this time I normally catch up on my socials and emails and read some news. This gives me some context as to how smooth my day will go and if there were any events that either affect me directly or that are of my interest.

With coffee running through my body, I join Mercator Launch’s team meeting at 10:00. Everyone shares what is being (or needs to be) done and solutions for certain problems emerge from short brainstorm moments. Although the meeting lasts for one hour, I need to leave half an hour earlier to meet my master thesis supervisor at 10:30.

Overlapping commitments is something I normally try to avoid but depending on the matter at hand, its urgency, and/or the people involved, that is not always possible and this was one of those cases. Given the short time available to complete my thesis, the earliest I could meet my supervisor was in the middle of two other meetings. Provided I incorporate some minor changes, my collection methods got a “GO” and I can start collecting my data! The first good news, just after two hours of being awake… what a day already! As I further discuss my thesis with my supervisor, it becomes clear that this meeting will take longer than anticipated. So, around 10:55, I quickly write an email to inform my lecturers I will not be able to join the informal Monday coffee break at 11:00.

My thesis meeting ends at 11:40 and I directly start implementing the changes agreed on with my supervisor. At 13:00, I am already hungry but a part of my Crisis & Reputation Management course’s group reminds me we have an assignment due on Wednesday. After taking some time to (re)discuss the assignment and confirm task division among us, I am ready for lunch a little over 14:00.

Today I was going to cook something for lunch but the time I took for the assignment was not on my schedule, so I’m running a little behind and decide to eat some bread and cheese instead. For tasks involving other people, I do my best to stay within an 8:30 to 17:30 timeframe which I consider to be reasonable working hours. Having finished eating my lunch at 14:45, it becomes obvious there will not be enough time for me today to incorporate the changes discussed with Brechtje in the research project I am doing for Mercator Launch. I will probably have to send the improved version of the project tomorrow.

As the clock strikes 18:00, I decide to let the research project rest for today. Tomorrow I will review it one last time before sending the improved version. For many the workday would be over at this point but, being a student, I tend to always work “a little” after dinner. Time to cook and eat the postponed lunch: chicken curry with rice!

At the end of the day, I look at what I did during the day: what could I have done better and what needs to be done the following day? I occasionally avoid the last part because I tend to get ahead by jumping right into it and, well… This has cost me some hours of sleep. After this, it is time to put my computer and myself to sleep! What an intense Monday this was, can hardly wait to see what the rest of the week will bring!”

Any questions about Marco’s research?

Contact us!

Catching up with… Adjmal Sarwary!

Adjmal is one of the founders of MindTrace, a company that offers a remote prototype testing tool so you can optimize your content before you publish it. Their technology turns a webcam into an entire testing lab. We are very curious to find out what Adjmal has been up to and what he is working on right now!

We have known each other for a couple of years now and you were there at the start of Mercator Launch. Why do you think it is so important that Mercator Launch was founded?

“Back when I started my company, I could have really used the services that Mercator Launch offers right now. The services and programmes Mercator Launch provides are a valuable addition to the university as it allows people to build something real. I also feel like Mercator Launch created the perfect startup atmosphere right away, because the way the team works is the exact same way as a startup would. Full of passion, enthusiasm and ambition! Business coaches Rob, Brechtje, Britta and Ed helped me get into touch with people in their network, which was great. I really had the pleasure of watching Mercator Launch grow into the professional company it is now.”

How are things at MindTrace?

“Things are going well at MindTrace. There will be some changes in the company though, because I decided to look for a new challenge. I still love the technology behind MindTrace and firmly believe in our business model, but continuously working on the company caused me so much stress that I decided it is time for something new.”

Does leaving MindTrace mean that you are quitting the business world altogether?

“No, definitely not! MindTrace is doing very well at the moment, so getting out of a successful business does not feel like a failure to me. I have been debating with myself whether entrepreneurship suits me or not, but at the moment I am very convinced that I will not stop being an entrepreneur! But I would like to do something else. One of the things I want to keep working on is my podcast about the intersection of science, technology and business. That is a very interesting domain because when you discover something new in science, how do you build technology around it and create a business model that works? Take for example speech recognition. First, scientists will try to segment and understand language on a theoretical level. Once they discover something new, you need to decide: how fast do you move to the market? How do you build your business around that? This trajectory really interests and fascinates me: how do you make sure that your science, tech and business (people) work well together? Do all people involved speak the same language? Topics like these make me so curious, and that’s why I want to keep talking to people on my podcast.”

What are your plans for the future?

“I am on the job market again. It is a very interesting process as I have not had to apply for a job in such a long time. Being an entrepreneur, I sometimes felt like a generalist. I was not particularly good at one specific thing, which can feel weird. On paper I know what I am worth and what I am qualified to do. I have also some programming abilities, but to me that feels so normal that I do not see it as a special skill, especially not one that could land me a job. I started looking at my skill set differently and figured out what I could offer a company, which got me looking in the direction of Data Science or Product Management. These jobs are often a combination of working with products, lots of contact with people, possibly some programming and thinking creatively about solutions. All things I love to do! And most of these skills I learned while being an entrepreneur!”

What was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

“I learned two very valuable lessons I would like to share. The first is: don’t wait. If you are not happy with something your programmer created or there are errors in your financial model, you need to communicate that right away. You need to prevent yourself from carrying around stress and frustration. Make sure to communicate respectfully and open, and don’t be afraid to contact people if you have questions for them. This is also true for when you do like something a lot, communicate it and don’t wait!

The second lesson is to focus on people, not on technology. Technology is obviously very important, but if people do not understand it or do not need to use it, the technology becomes useless. And if you don’t understand your user, then you can’t let the technology fit their needs. You need to validate to see whether your technology matches the need of your users, so: people come first. Always. Being a techie myself, it took me a long time to understand this. You need to get past your enthusiasm for your product, and listen to the people and what they want. Only then your business will be successful!”

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

“Never base your job or company solely on your passion. A lot of people think, passion comes first, skills second. But I think you should follow your skills and let the passion arise from there. Passion always sounds positive, but the thing with passion is that it can make you super happy but also super frustrated. If you do something you do not care about, you will feel less stress when something goes wrong. Only when you work with your passion do you feel such highs and lows. So, my tip would be: follow your skills and start from there. Of course, you still need a base of passion to build on, but just make sure you do not build your business on passion alone. Surround yourself with a good team, atmosphere and dynamic. Ask yourself the question: why do I want to start this business? Is it worth starting this, even if it doesn’t work out in the end? If the answer is yes, then go for it! It means you have the right entrepreneurial drive for your business.”

Why do you think it is important to celebrate successes?

“Because successes are rare. A friend once said to me: “dude, you gotta celebrate your successes, because the rest of the time you will be eating shit.” When you celebrate your successes, you literally take a step back and look at the bigger picture of where you are at that point. Successes are not the rule, they are the exception. And celebrate your successes together! Everyone has played their part, so involve your whole team in the celebration process!”

Curious about Adjmal’s podcast? Go check it out at www.adjmal.com.