This is the seventh in a new series of articles that will focus on the activities and accomplishments of the LaunchBase programme, an incubation platform of the Maastricht Centre for Entrepreneurship (MC4E). Composed out of two specific programmes, LaunchBase covers a comprehensive approach to business development.
In the past month, several articles have been published covering the LaunchBase programme, the entrepreneurial eco-system in Maastricht and the opportunities and challenges for founders associated with it, as well as some of the events which are tailored to foster entrepreneurship within the Limburg region.
But who are the young minds which are participating in the current round of Base, a a pre-incubator programme that provides its members with entrepreneurial knowledge, ideas and networks? From the previous round, two young entrepreneurs won the Local Hero Award in Maastricht, proving that the seeds of the first round were already growing faster than expected and ensuring the success of Maastricht’s incubator programme on an international level.
To find out more about the ideas, motivations and backgrounds of the Base programme participants, I went to the pre-incubators co-working space at the Tapijnkazerne and had some inspiring talks with the participants.
The following four stories of Base participants perfectly show the diverse background of entrepreneurs within the Base programme, not only in terms of the individuals’ nationalities, but academic or professional backgrounds, project areas and different ways of approaching entrepreneurial challenges. Once again it became clear to me, that the people itself are motivating, inspiring and challenging each other within the programme.
“We just love to create stuff”
Shreyas Rao and Redencio Jozefzoon, two young gentlemen who are about to finish their studies in artificial intelligence at the Department for Knowledge Engineering, were the first who had to deal with my storm of questions. I asked them why, in our current times, when they have knowledge of several programming languages and should be able to find a well-paying job, they would choose to start investing their time in entrepreneurial activities which most likely will lead to never-ending work and close-to-empty wallets?
Redencio summarized their motivation in one sentence: “We just love to create stuff. It is not really work for us, it is not a burden, and this is our life. Sometimes we do not even sleep for days and just keep programming for days and nights.”
“It is like a social initiative,” Shreyas added. “I want to appeal to the masses and create something which really helps the masses.”
The project the young entrepreneurs, together with three other members of different backgrounds, are working on is named GatherBand. It is a social network for music, or stated differently, a social network for bringing musicians and concert organisers together.
Shreayas explained his reasons for joining Base: “For me, it is always difficult to stay focused; I jump from project to project and end up with so many different tasks on my desk, and the Base programme helps me to stay focused as well as, within the GatherBand project, to focus on the unique selling proposition of our idea.”
Base expands your horizons
Next, I meet Adriana Groh, a student of European Studies from Germany, who is working on her Business Model Canvas, a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool that allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent and pivot your business model.
“Working on the business model canvas and understanding its concept might be nothing new for students with a business or economics background,” she told me. “However, for me it is something I only learn during the Base programme.”
She explained how Base is adding to her education: “I wanted to expand my horizons and I joined the programme without any specific idea in my head. For me, the motivation was to learn how to work with potential ideas in the future and to understand what skillset are needed for entrepreneurs.”
The idea Adrianna is currently working on might seem pretty simple at first: an online hair tie shop based on a monthly subscription model. “Every women has this small but annoying problem of using hair ties—and shopping for them can be seen more as a burden than a pleasure, as those hair ties are usually required for your style, but shopping for them does not give us the same pleasure as shopping a new dress. They are a necessity, but acquiring them is an annoying process.”
Adrianna does not yet have a name for idea and said she is just at the beginning of starting up, as the Base programme is providing her with unique knowledge she did not acquire before in her studies.
It’s not just for students
After getting a cup of coffee, I am heading to the next table, where I find Peter Delahaye working on his laptop. Peter, a high school teacher and father of two, represents perfectly that the Base programme is not only tailored towards students. He is also proof that an entrepreneurial spirit is not only for a certain age group or lifestyle, and that no dream is too big for open-minded entrepreneurs.
Peter’s goal is to create what he described as an “Airbnb for online-high school tutors,” to overcome distance and safety issues some parents might face when searching for tutors for their kids. “The fact that you can do what you want or what you like inspired me to join this programme,” he said. “I have so many ideas in my head, and it would be a pity to keep them locked in there. The Base programme helps me to work on my ideas, but also guides me and keeps my feet on the ground.”
His idea to start in Limburg and scale up within the Netherlands is currently at a stage in which he needs a mentor to keep him focused on his work, and he appreciates the work the Base programme is doing in this regard.
Already a business owner
Last but not least, I have met Supratip Nag, a 34-years old entrepreneur from Maastricht who holds a bachelors degree of Electronic Engineering and a masters degree in Business Administration. Combining those degrees with a passion for food and living in Maastricht, also sometimes referred to as the “Gourmet city of the Netherlands,” lead to the creation of HomeHandi, an online platform where people with a passion for cooking and even professional chefs can sell food items cooked by them.
Because he already owns a business that is up and running, Supratip is different from most of the members of the Base programme, but there is still plenty of value added for him by taking part.
“I need to set up a team of enthusiastic and dynamic people for HomeHandi. We are also planning an app version of the concept. At the moment, I would like to reach out to as many customers as possible and we are looking for ideas on how to improve the concept further, especially in terms of promotions.”