Not every entrepreneur is a Mark Zuckerberg. Or every startup a Google. But with some help… these 3 startups became a success, won prizes, raised funding from investors and completely upset existing markets. Reporter Judith Katz (Forum opinion magazine) visited them.

Also read the article: 3, 2, 1, lift off! This incubator makes startups successful

synple Breda

Roderick Rodenburg and Machiel Resink

“My partner Roderick Rodenburg and I spent some ten years working in Unilever’s supply chain department when we had a good idea”, says Machiel Resink, co-owner of Synple. “We noticed that there were too many empty lorries. How much more efficient – and better for the environment – would it be to allow companies that normally do not cooperate with each other to share truck space?”

This startup disrupts the logistics
Enterprise: Synple
Incubator: Starterslift Tilburg
Owners: Machiel Resink and Roderick Rodenburg
Established in: Breda
Number of employees: 23 (including owners)

“In my search for advice, I had run into hip startup incubators, but I thought that wasn’t for me. Rather for students. Moreover, I didn’t want to be a startup at all, but I did want to be an SME right away. In the end, I came into contact with Starterslift. My image was adjusted immediately. We got a business coach, who asked a lot of tough questions. Believe me: a solid sparring partner who has no interest in your business is really worth gold.”

“As a startup, you need all the help you can get. In a corporate environm,ent everything is well taken care of. As a manager at a large company, you know exactly which product you are dealing with and what the prices are; everything is very much in the frame. Now we started completely blank. Starterslift has saved us from a lot of mistakes.”

“Gradually, we realised that we shouldn’t be with the companies at all, but with the transporters. For them, we have developed smart technology that recognises when a truck is at risk of being empty on the road. The system searches for orders from another carrier that fit into that empty space, in order to make a match.”

Of course, you have the Mark Zuckerbergs of this world who are building a business without any help. But you also have a lot of people who do have a very good idea but need a bit of help from society to get them going. Not all startups will be successful and not all young football players will become a Lionel Messi. But those who do make it are of enormous value to our economy.”

Read also: Synple gets innovation prize for transport platform (Dutch)

jam-ruud-schippers-martijn-schippers-miranda-schippers_680

Left to right: Ruud Schippers, Martijn Schippers and Miranda Schippers of JAM. And yep: they are family of each other Photo: Starterslift

This startup disrupts the labour market
Company: JAMwerkt.nl
Incubator: Starterslift Tilburg
Owners: Ruud, Miranda and Martijn Schippers
Established in: Bladel
Number of employees: 13 (including owners)

“As a young student, I noticed – in the midst of the economic crisis – that it was so difficult for young people to find a part-time job”, says Ruud Schippers of JAMwerkt. “Of course, you could always go to the hotel and catering industry or the supermarket, but I thought there were certainly many more companies in need to get young people into their company. I started JAMwerkt.nl with my little brother and sister. First on a very small scale: young people could indicate on our website what they were looking for and we could then link companies to it. We have built on this step by step.”

“In general, our revenue model was known fairly well in advance. But that doesn’t mean that you automatically earn money. Moreover, we had no experience in the temporary employment sector. When I was able to go to Starterslift via my studies at Tilburg University, we went for it. Thanks to the coaching, we were able to take much smarter steps much faster. You can also learn lessons the hard way, but thanks to the Starterslift we were able to move forward much faster.”

“Our ambitions are very high. With the help of regional managers, we are now expanding further and further in the province of Brabant. After that, we want to start franchising the concept elsewhere. I believe that you can arrange a lot on the internet, but the personal approach remains important.”

“Of course, your own startup is hip and fun and there is room for freedom with us. On the other hand, however, we are extremely focused on growth figures. We have annual plans, quarterly plans and, within those quarterly plans, sprints that we want to achieve. In that respect, we really work in a very structured way.”

“At the moment we are busy with the transition to a platform on which young people can also do study choice tests and generate their CV. We will work with schools and civil society organisations that have similar goals: to help young people, students, and start-ups get a successful start on the labour market.”

Read also: JAMwerkt.nl wins Zilveren FD Gazelle Award (Dutch)

digital-mkb-hugo-leijtens-gijs-paijmans_680

“My idea was good”, says Hugo Leijtens of Digital MKB, “but not the implementation”. To the left of him his partner Gijs Paijmans Photo: Starterslift

This startup makes cryptopoints for SMEs
Enterprise: Digital SMEs
Incubator: Starterslift Tilburg
Owners: Hugo Leijtens and Gijs Paijmans
Located in: Tilburg
Number of employees: 5 (including owners)

“I had an entrepreneurial adventure and a good job at Nikon when I noticed how many shops were still working with paper savings cards”, says Hugo Leijtens. “Large companies such as KLM have their own loyalty programmes for regular customers, but this did not yet exist in the SME sector. My first idea at the time was to develop an app for each store that would allow customers to save for gifts.”

“I am very emphatically a technician. And what do they do? They build a beautiful product, put in cool features and try to sell them. At Starterslift I learned a different way of working. By constantly testing hypotheses, you discover what customers really want. A good entrepreneur can sell his product to one or two customers, but if you want to grow afterward, you have to do things differently.”

“During the first workshop, I was told: ‘Go outside, go and talk to your customers’. This is quite difficult when you are used to doing everything from behind your computer. By analyzing the data you have collected in customer conversations, you can make much better decisions than first building a product that is already finished.”

“At first, my plan worked, because I got apps sold. Until the local fishmonger said: ‘I actually want to save together with the butcher and the baker’. But the baker and butcher preferred to work with yet other entrepreneurs. And again, not with entrepreneurs who had nothing to do with them. But how do you do this in a way that benefits everyone equally, without having to make all kinds of complicated agreements among each other?”

That’s how we came up with the idea of the RetailCoin, a cryptocurrency that works with blockchain technology. Customers can save tokens and exchange them at participating stores. Entrepreneurs who participate can exchange these tokens themselves for money at a digital trade fair. A shop that sells something gets 25 percent of a purchase, the shop where the tokens are handed in for a free product gets 75 percent. That’s how everyone benefits.”

Read also: How crypto-entrepreneur Hugo Leijtens collected 20 million from a Russian investor. (Dutch)