On 25 September we will announce which 5 startups have won the first Brabant Startup Awards. In the run-up to that event in Tilburg’s Wagenmakerij, we look ahead with the members of the jury. Today Tarique Arsiwalla, co-founder of Dongen based Protix.

Oerei (“prehistoric egg“), Friendly Fish, Bloosom and ProteinX: the names of some of the concepts and products of Protix in Dongen already reveal the company’s background. Tarique Arsiwalla, who founded the company together with Kees Aarts in 2009, has always focused on a better, more sustainable food chain. They do this by producing new, sustainable ingredients from insects. The insects grow on vegetable food residues, which also prevents food waste and creates a circular food chain. The World Economic Forum has already rewarded Protix with a Technology Pioneer Award and the business contacts with world players such as Buhler and Hendrix Genetics also indicate a success story. But that didn’t happen by itself, says Arsiwalla.

Tarique Arsiwalla

Tarique Arsiwalla

“For us, the decisive moments of success were mainly the moments of setbacks. At those moments you are forced to think out-of-the-box and you come up with creative, often better ideas than what you had previously thought of or expected. In other words: use a setback in such a way that it makes your company even stronger.”

Another lesson from Arsiwalla’s experience is an absolute focus on turnover. “That’s how you work on your growth model”, he says. “Realising the entrance of the first customers – and therefore turnover – requires continuous improvement, asking for feedback, new improvements and so on, until someone says: yes, I will pay for this. You also need to meet the right people on that journey. People who are willing to go through this process together with you.” But how to find these people? “As an entrepreneur, you largely take control of that process yourself: go where you need to be… whether it is a trade fair or a busy shopping street, and talk enthusiastically about what you do. People love passion and if this feels right they will give you their time and help to strengthen the proposition. As soon as your product is sufficiently market ready, you use your entrepreneurial creativity to map out how you launch like a rocket.”

Brabant

For the growth of Protix, the Brabant ecosystem has proven to be very valuable: “We have done our first innovations in Brabant, but also the further commercial scaling up. The strong focus on agro-food, the entrepreneurial climate and the municipalities that are willing to welcome a sustainable business are just a few examples.”

When assessing candidates for the Brabant Startup Awards, Arsiwalla pays particular attention to innovation. “I try to assess whether the service or product adds something new to what already exists, and furthermore whether there are sufficient opportunities for marketing and profitable growth. And no doubt I will also take into account whether something good is created for people, animals or the environment.”

One last tip for young starters? “Visit as many relevant meetings as possible, local, national and international, everything directly or indirectly related to your business… especially in the initial phase. Come out of your cocoon and start learning.”