25-10-2016

Prince Constantijn: Startups, Think Big!

It’s time to take things to the next level. Last Friday, during the Let’s Gro inspiration festival, Founded in Groningen hosted the event Startups, Think Big, with speakers like Prince Constantijn and Ray Quintana from Cottonwood (one of the biggest early stage investment funds in the US). Not just to talk about all the great things happening in Groningen, but to challenge startups and the Groningen ecosystem to think big.

Thinking bigger means challenging talented people to look beyond creating the next to-do or delivery app, and challenge them to work on relevant cases and issues. Like making unused patents of the Groningen University and other organizations available for talent and startups. Or using their flexibility, creativity and power to innovate, to collaborate with established companies to tackle challenges and work together to achieve bigger, shared ambitions. Groningen calls itself City of Talent, but talent needs to be used, or it means nothing. That’s what this event was all about.

Next level

Prince Constantijn recently succeeded Neelie Kroes as StartupDelta’s new Special Envoy, making him the ambassador or godfather of Dutch startups. He praised Groningen’s startup ecosystem for its inclusivity and togetherness, but also said it’s time to take things to the next level: “There are a lot of great things happening here and startups from Groningen are ranked highly everywhere, but it’s also important to look beyond your own city limits.”

“The world is your environment, not just Groningen”, Prince Constantijn continues. “Your competitors are global, so it’s important to think on a global scale if you have bigger ambitions. But your talent, dreams and ambitions should not be elitist, they should connect with society and all groups within it.”

As for taking it to the next level and working with higher ambitions, Constantijn announced that the University of Groningen and the Hanze University will work together to create a pilot for an entrepreneurial Master’s program, the first of its kind in the Netherlands. That means Groningen students from all academic fields, not just economics, can enroll in a Master’s Degree program, to combine their knowledge with the skills to set up their own business.

Prince Constantijn recently succeeded Neelie Kroes as StartupDelta’s new Special Envoy, making him the ambassador or godfather of Dutch startups. He praised Groningen’s startup ecosystem for its inclusivity and togetherness, but also said it’s time to take things to the next level: “There are a lot of great things happening here and startups from Groningen are ranked highly everywhere, but it’s also important to look beyond your own city limits.” “The world is your environment, not just Groningen”, Prince Constantijn continues. “Your competitors are global, so it’s important to think on a global scale if you have bigger ambitions. But your talent, dreams and ambitions should not be elitist, they should connect with society and all groups within it.” As for taking it to the next level and working with higher ambitions, Constantijn announced that the University of Groningen and the Hanze University will work together to create a pilot for an entrepreneurial Master’s program, the first of its kind in the Netherlands. That means Groningen students from all academic fields, not just economics, can enroll in a Master’s Degree program, to combine their knowledge with the skills to set up their own business.

Ray Quintana is general partner at Cottonwood Technology Fund, one of the biggest seed and pre-seed investment funds in the US. So what’s a big US fund doing in the Netherlands? “I get asked that question all the time. But the only people asking me that, are from the Netherlands. You guys don’t realize what you have here, which is great for us! It’s our little secret”, Quintana explains jokingly.

“The Netherlands has an ecosystem in spades”, Quintana says. “You can hit like a heavyweight and have the resources of places like Boston and Silicon Valley, the kind of resources the rest of the States are jealous of. But you don’t leverage it. In the US, people are far better at making do and leveraging what they have, which is something you need to do too.”

A brief history of leveraging the ecosystem

Quintana stresses that this kind of leveraging is not something the Dutch need to learn, but rather relearn, because back during the Golden Age, we were pretty good at it. “You guys pretty much invented working as an ecosystem. You were a global super power back in the day, which is an amazing feat for such a small country”, Quintana explains.

And the key to that success, was the Dutch ecosystem. Different companies working together towards shared goals, sharing resources and knowledge. “You guys shared analytics and ship data, so everyone could benefit from the combined knowledge. And with innovations like lumber mills, the Dutch were able to cut wood 30 times faster than the rest of the world.”

Startup pitches and ecosystem boosters

In short, we need to go back to our Golden Age mentality and way of doing things, by sharing knowledge and collaborating as an ecosystem, working towards relevant issues and shared ambitions. The good news, we already have some good examples of startups working on relevant issues. SustainableBuildings gave a short pitch on how they can do their part in fighting global warming, by making office buildings more eco friendly. And CC Diagnostics pitched their new way of screening for cervical cancer, saving €2,9 million a year in medical costs for incorrect test results.

Aside from startup companies with big ambitions, DutchChain presented their initiatives to boost the ecosystem, with the biggest blockchain Hackathon in Europe, with a big emphasis on startups, government and corporates working together in a year long cycle and creating real life solutions. Or Grow Ventures, who aim to bring all parties together, creating a platform for ideas and radical innovation, the kind that companies are not able to do by themselves or internally.

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Startups & basketball
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Startups & basketball

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