25 November 2019

Recap & photos Entrepreneurship Day 2019

Brainstorming about cookies, generation Z and an ice skating hooligan in a bear suit

During the second edition of the Entrepreneurship Day, organised by the Centre for Entrepreneurship, fresh ideas were generated and exchanged to spark innovative entrepreneurship. The focus was on two special startups who used the wisdom of the attending crowd to explore how they can expand and conquer their market.

The decor was a former trade market floor in the Beatrix building, the Jaarbeurs Innovation Mile (JIM). An enormous hall, turned into one big shared office space for startups: a fitting location for an event about entrepreneurship for and by entrepreneurial students. Enthusiastic hosts and hostesses guided us through the co-working space to a more intimate auditorium with a wooden grandstand, a large video screen and an artificial grass carpet on the floor: perfect for the approximately seventy people present.

Students walking in JIM Utrecht Auditorium at JIM Utrecht Sit wherever you like Hosts Eloisa and Max from UtrechtInc Students Show of hands if you're having fun Rianne Poot, programme manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship
Click on a photo to view it in a larger size.

The programme for the evening was simple, but effective: two companies pitched their most pressing challenges to the audience, who gave feedback and tips by writing their input on paper-lined tables. The keynote by an experienced entrepreneur, a 'lightning round' with 30-second mini-pitches and closing networking drinks completed the programme. Discussions were substantial, extensive feedback was given and many good tips and ideas were put on paper. Probably also a courtesy to the two inspiring startups that presented themselves.

A new generation on a traditional labour market

The founders of FRGRND, both alumni of Utrecht University, were the first to take the plunge. Their assumption is that there is a gap between traditionally organised organisations, run by baby boomers and their children, and "Gen Z", the digital native generation that grew up with laptops, smartphones and social media. With the help of youth panels or young advisory boards, they want to help create future proof employers to prevent the demanding Gen Z from going 'job hopping'.

Writing down feedback and ideas
Fleur Huijs and Rachelle Leerling of FRGRND Brainstorming for FRGRND Rachelle Leerling pitching for FRGRND

Cookies made of brewing waste

The second pitch was Enactus (social) enterprise Bostelbakkers. They use brewer's spent grain, a waste product from brewing beer, to bake Bokkies: seriously delicious cookies. With grain from local breweries, the cookies are made by a small team of students and refugees (who meanwhile practice their Dutch). Every Wednesday is bake night - low key and small scale, using a family kitchen. Yet, they already have nine coffee corners in Utrecht as customers, plus the Rabobank. The bakers are also exploring the possibilities with the caterer of the municipality of Utrecht.

One of the challenges Bostelbakkers face is: "How to scale up and become commercially profitable, without losing sight of our social objective?". Brainstorming students suggested setting up a kind of franchise formula, so that Bokkies can be baked in several cities: growth, but still the production remains small scale. There is plenty of brewer's spent grain: 34 million cookies could be baked every year from the waste product from the breweries in Utrecht alone. There is no shortage of resources; all that's left is to conquer the market. Another tip as a result of the brainstorm was to team up with a large food producer like Unilever. Nowadays, multinationals are also expected to take their corporate social responsibility. A promising idea, perhaps.

Lucas pitchting for Bostelbakkers Marit pitchting for Bostelbakkers Brainstorming for Bostelbakkers Tasting Bokkies Bostelbakker Anniek Brainstorming for Bostelbakkers

From ice skating hooligan to social entrepreneur

Keynote speaker Jan-Paul de Beer used his own experiences to show the audience how you can become successful by having guts and perseverance. In 2009, during the World Cup ice skating in Thialf, ice skating champion Sven Kramer got a big hug from a 'real teddy bear'. The incident became known as "the ice skating hooligan" in all nationwide media. With this bold PR stunt, De Beer managed to convince HEINEKEN to be his customer, when his company Brandfighters was still in the start-up phase. "I had to pick up my business partner from the police station and we were fined 450 euros, but the fantastic exposure attracted the attention of the big client we were dreaming of," says De Beer.

If you have a good idea, spam everyone you know. There's always someone who wants to help you.
Jan-Paul de Beer
co-founder and chief of Springlab

In 2013, De Beer left advertising and co-founed Springlab, where he uses his creativity to stimulate exercise and dynamic learning for toddlers. He wanted to get away from his desk and literally get himself and others moving. To develop the 'beweegvloer', he needed funding: he decided to approach every school director he could find personally via Twitter. His advice to the audience of entrepreneurial students tonight: "If you have a good idea, spam everyone you know. There's always someone who wants to help you."

Although he started out as a successful video marketer, De Beer has developed into a passionate idealist with flair. "I've been working at Springlab for six years now, but I feel like I could easily work here for another fifty years. Make sure you do something that you love."

Jan-Paul de Beer, co-founder of Springlab

Lightning round

Last but not least, all attendees had the opportunity to pitch for thirty seconds on any subject. A projected countdown clock made sure that everyone stuck to the time limit. The pitches were surprisingly on topic. People asked for input on a business plan, sparring partners and members for an advisory board. There were even internships offered (and found, later during the drinks). Present lecturers pitched their course or research project. The second Entrepreneurship Day was an evening with promising participants and wonderful insights.

Text by Arthur Lengkeek and Carlijn Schäffers. All photos by Ivar Pel.

Listening to pitches
Entrepreneurship Day 2019
Time for drinks