The Best Dutch Brands website talked to Aard Groen, director of VentureLab International about creating successful start-ups.
Best Dutch Brands: VentureLab International is your brainchild. What was your a-ha moment which inspired you to begin VLI?
Aard Groen: My a-ha moment came to me after the Innovation Platform Twente asked me why many start-ups from UT weren’t growing further. Although we already had another business development program called Kansrijk Eigen Baas, which helped companies start up, I realized we also needed to help prevent entrepreneurs from stunting their company’s growth during the early stages of their high tech high-growth company’s development. They should become more competent and aware, and this is possible if they work consistently on this goal through coaching, networking, having access to finance and remaining focused.
BDB: What are some barriers when making a high tech start-up successful?
Aard: One barrier lies within the idea behind the company. If the persons who developed the technology set up the company based upon the idea that the technology will sell itself, the company will almost never become big. Something which causes this behavior is that they’re not market oriented enough. They don’t know what their clients want, but they are also not seeking what the client needs. If that link is missing, then it is almost impossible to create a large company.
Even if you do have that link, there can still be issues. For example financing a start-up is usually perceived as the big obstacle. Unnecessary, because there are plenty of financial resources available for high-tech start-ups. The problem lies usually in how entrepreneurs ask for the money. If you appear to be a technology-driven person and not a client-driven person, and if you have a poor network and an unclear presentation, it could be difficult to receive finance or find investors.
BDB: How does VentureLab International help entrepreneurs receive financing for their companies?
Aard: We first make our entrepreneurs “investor ready”, helping them have a prepared and presentable plan, the ability to do the first initial negotiations about the terms of reference for how they will get investments and what kinds of share they will share with the investor, and what will be their exit strategy. The real financing comes from someone else.
We’re connected to several formal and informal investor networks and we are able to introduce our participants to the right investor.
BDB: Are there international participants in the program?
Aard: We have many international participants; the program is given in English so there are no barriers for international people to join us. We are also recognized by the NBIA (National Business Incubation Association) in the United States as a Soft Landings International Incubator designation and we help to set up a business in northwestern Europe, specifically in the Netherlands.