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When I started writing blogs for Innovation Origins three years ago, I had also just started my first job at Lightyear. A company that underwent tremendous growth throughout those years. We went from around 10 employees to more than 120. From a small office without daylight to 3 floors of an office building and 3000m2 of lab facilities. From the first investor café where we raised €100k+ to a total investment of €40M+. From a 3D model to a prototype within just two years. From developments to 32 registered patents. From a kitchen table idea to a story that has reached more than 3 billion people.

On the one hand, because Lightyear arose out of one of the student teams at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), it feels as if very little has changed. You are doing something that has never been done before, so you have to find your own way. You have to keep team members motivated and in line. Keep investors/sponsors happy and work very hard towards providing physical proof of your story.

Essential skills

On the other hand, I have learned a lot. Especially when it comes to the soft skills side. Project management, people management, stakeholder management, expectation management. Essential skills for every employee. Jan Mengelers (former president of TU/e) already said that students learn things that takes the business world 40 years to get. Now I understand even better what he meant back then. Obviously, you do not have that much time with a start-up. For goodness sake, why don’t they teach you these things way sooner, for example in high school?

At Lightyear, we let everyone who joins our ranks do a DISC-test and each team discusses all these results with each other in detail. Everyone at Lightyear has written their own guide based on their own profile, which in turn can be viewed by anyone in the company. It is sometimes a real eye-opener. In general, drawing up and analyzing such a test teaches you to understand why people are at times on a totally different wavelength than you are.

It also teaches you a lot about putting your own behavior and stuff into perspective; the first step towards personal growth. Why not hold these kinds of tests with all first-year students? Not only does it make people work together more effectively and more pleasurably, but it can also make you feel more personally confident. By having a better understanding of where your strengths lie or not, you are able to get more out of yourself

Book tip: Surrounded by Idiots

Know your own strengths

Knowing where your strengths lie is important. If something is not successful, then you can say with certainty ‘I did everything I could but it didn’t work out.’ If you are not so sure, you are more likely to fear failure. You start to doubt yourself. ‘Maybe I could have done a little better after all …’

For me, the key to Lightyear’s power is the concept of the solar car. A car that takes some of the pressure off the end-user and at the same time makes the world a more sustainable place. The next model will be available in 3 years’ time. A further step towards our ultimate goal of making the solar car available to everyone and all over the world. We are going to do everything we can to make that happen. See you in 3 years!

About this column

In a weekly column, alternately written by Mary Fiers, Bert Overlack, Eveline van Zeeland, Tessie Hartjes, Buster Franken, Jan Wouters, and Katleen Gabriels, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally joined by guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous IO articles in this series.