Bringing innovations to festivals

Anna van Nunen founded Innofest
Anna van Nunen founded Innofest

During her studies (BSc Psyschologie and MSc Social and Health Psychology) Anna van Nunen always thought she wanted to follow the academic path and become a professor. Things turned out differently and in 2015 she founded Innofest. Together with eight Dutch festivals she offers startup companies the chance to use festivals as a test case for their innovations. 

Why did you start Innofest?

I saw a need with startups and incubators for a test ground for their innovative products. Launching a new product is all about testing it and improving after the test to get the best results. Festivals are the perfect place to do this, because they provide an infrastructure for thousands of people who need a weekend full of food, music, electricity and so on. I came into contact with three Dutch festivals who all wanted to incorporate sustainable innovations in their events. Together we started Innofest. This was 2,5 years ago and currently there are 8 people working at the company. 

One of my favourite projects we worked with is called Soundappraisel. They are researching how sound and noise disturbances are experienced. We sort of put them through a festival pressure cooker where they could test their product at one festival, improve the product and test the improved product at the next festival. Now they have an app on the market and they work with various festivals and events.

Where did you see yourself working during your studies?

I always wanted to become a professor and I had the perfect resume to pursue a PhD. I did a research master in Social and Health Psychology and also took the honours track. When it was time to look for jobs I stumbled upon a vacancy as a trainee at TNO (the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research red.) which was more about applying new technologies in our society, also with a possibility to do a PhD at TNO. I applied and got the position. At TNO I learned a lot about innovation and the implementation of innovations; “How do we use data in our healthcare system? What sort of technological innovations does defense need?” I also learned that my strength is in managing projects and people, not necessarily in doing research. So, I stayed on as a project manager. However, I had a hard time with working for such a big organisation and wanted more freedom in managing my own time and plans. I registered as a self-employed person and after a while I quit my job at TNO. 

Do you have tips for students who also want to start their own company?

Networking and grapping every chance you get! During my first year being self-employed I had a lot of coffee appointments with acquaintances and contacts to get the word out and this provided me with a lot of opportunities. Some of them were not nearly close to my dream job, but I also got a lot of great projects. For example; I went to Boston for four months to map out their startup ecosystem, but I also took a lot of jobs as volunteer coordinator at festivals and this is actually how I got in contact with the festival partners of Innofest!

What are your plans for the future?

With Innofest I am working on a more sustainable financing model, so we can also survive without our start up subsidy. I also want to attract two more big national festivals next year, so I am in negotiation with some of them now and looking for the best match. For my personal career path, I stopped planning ahead. I could have never imagined that I would end up running a business in the cultural and innovation sector. You never know what comes your way. I seek out all the opportunities I can get and that way I am sure I will end up doing new and wonderful things. And if not, then I am also not afraid to change my career path again and start something new.