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There is a flourishing start-up and scale-up community from the Utrecht entrepreneur John Fentener van Vlissingen inside the buildings just a few tram stops away from Utrecht Central Station. It’s where entrepreneurs with an innovative and scalable product can house their businesses. With a bit of luck, you’ll run into the big man himself and end up talking to him about business strategy. “You’ll find corporates among the speedboats here,” says Jelle Drijver, Managing Director of DotSlash, the company that handles the rental and allocation of space in this community hub.

What is DotSlash?

“DotSlash is more than just a corporate building where you can rent out square meters of office space. You can do that anywhere. DotSlash is a location in Utrecht that is made up of two towers: building 100 and building 400. These function as a kind of campus where start-ups and scale-ups are able to grow. In building 100 the focus is on start-ups, while in building 400 on scale-ups.”

Director Jelle Drijver of DotSlash with in the background the Social Brothers company workspace           Photo: Lucette Mascini

How would you define a start-up?

“Some people think that every self-employed person who has an idea is a start-up. In our opinion, you are a start-up if you build a scalable and reproducible business model, preferably tech-driven.”

That means that start-ups come to DotSlash when they’ve passed the first development stage …

“Yes. The start-ups will have what’s called a ‘minimal viable product’. Then the product is in place and the company is ready to expand and conquer the world. If you’re in that phase, after an incubator like UtrechtInc or a venture builder like Holland Startup, for example, DotSlash is really a logical place to turn to. You already have a business. You’re already making money and you’re ready to grow.”

Why is your work establishment called ‘DotSlash’?

“We’re mainly geared towards tech companies. [Such as the Social Brothers, ed.] In computer language, dot slash is the start of a code. After that, an action always follows. When you start out here, then you’re ready for whatever comes next: as in – action.”

How do you determine whether a start-up can rent space here??

“You have to meet several conditions in order to be able to rent here. That minimum viable product must be ready. You have to be able to scale up, preferably also internationally. And we ask companies with two or more founders: filter out that freelancer who has a great idea.”

With scalable, do you mean that you have to be able to sell a massive amount of a particular product?

“Yes, for example, when one of the companies at the Dutch Game Garden has finished a game which might sell exceeding well in the app store. For example, here we have Watermelon Messenger. They make a chatbot based on AI for big companies which can answer about 80% of all support questions. They can sell that chatbot thousands of times.”

What does DotSlash add to the innovation ecosystem in Utrecht?

“We fill the void after the initial incubation phase. You become part of an active community. We have a growth program, inspiration sessions and mastermind sessions around a variety of themes. As well as relevant partners who have joined DotSlash that you can spar with.”

Which companies are your partners?

SHV, Rabobank, StartupUtrecht , Peper in je Pand, Capgemini, Deloitte, Philadelphia Zorg, Walvis Venture Capital and the Municipality of Utrecht.”

What is SHV’s role?

“That’s also what’s so special about DotSlash. The owner of the real estate is not a foreign investment company that only looks at the spreadsheets but rather at Boron, the family office of John Fentener van Vlissingen [president of SHV, ed.]. He is an entrepreneur with roots in Utrecht who admires entrepreneurs. Especially those  who – as he himself puts it – do not have a safety net like he had when he started out, yet still have the nerve to go into business. He thinks it’s great that a young start-up is bursting into life and is trying to make it big, so full of ambition and drive.”

Europalaan 100 in Utrecht, where Dotslash is located. Photo: Lucette Mascini

He could have exploited the office buildings for more money, right?

“If he’d opted for more traditional businesses as tenants, he could have made far more money on this property than he does now. But he also looks at the added value that DotSlash offers the region and to entrepreneurial Netherlands.”

What use is a partner like Rabobank or Capgemini to you?

“Our start-ups and scale-ups gratefully use their expertise. But you could also ask: what do our partners get out of it? They act like corporates between all of the innovative start-ups. They see what’s on the horizon. They have a lot of clients who run up against a problem somewhere. Now they can say: we are flex-working every Thursday at DotSlash in Utrecht between about a hundred start-ups and scale-ups. There is a club there that is solving that problem in an innovative way. Maybe you can talk to each other.”

“It’s also good for their own company. Deloitte now advises start-ups who will soon also need an accountant. The same goes for Rabobank. The oil tankers are also mixed in here with the speedboats. Here they can figure out how to adjust things by a few degrees so that they will also be ready for future markets.”

Lunchtime at DotSlash. Photo DotSlash

What is so unique about DotSlash?

“The cooperation with other parties such as StartupUtrecht, the municipality, the Economic Board Utrecht and soon the Regionale Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (Dutch Regional Development Authority), our partners, Holland Startup, the owner of the property, the community, the location, the accessibility. Do I have to go on?

How does the foreseeable future look like for DotSlash?

“We are expanding on April 1st with the building on Europalaan 400 [a building in the same business park, ed.]. Then dozens of new companies will move in. About 5000 square meters of space will be available there. These are as good as already leased. Advanced scale-ups are coming in, such as Dutch Game Garden and Faqta.The latter is an educational scale-up that is currently in building 100 and it’s really taking off. It’s planning to rent a whole wing. Ultimately, I dream about renting out this entire park to start-ups and scale-ups.”