Maastricht’s own incubator programme: The next round of LaunchBase ready to begin

This is the last of a series of articles focusing 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.

A lot has happened in Maastricht’s entrepreneurial scene over the past year. LaunchBase, which was founded in April 2015, has not even celebrated its first birthday, but has already finished its first round of the Base programme. The second round is currently running, and promises new innovations driven by entrepreneurial minds.

The Base programme, which is part of the pre-incubator LaunchBase, helps young entrepreneurs become ready for their first business by offering workshops, discussions and networking possibilities. As the first round of the Base programme in 2016 is soon closing its round of applications, I would like to take note on the events at LaunchBase of the past year.

Inspiring workshops
As the first incubator of its kind in the Maastricht or even Limburg region, the Base management, led by Director Lydia Gommans, has enriched the participants with well organized workshops, covering interesting, hands-on and value-adding topics such as “Crowdfunding for entrepreneurs” or “Life-hacking.”

06aea5c-2Did you know that crowdfunding might not be as simple and straightforward as it might seem? While attending the workshop to write about the first steps of the Base programme, I was hanging on every word of the guest speaker Maarten Kamphuis, an entrepreneur who perfectly explained the ups and downs of a crowdfunding campaign based on his own path of success.

I have always been fond of entrepreneurial and creative minds, which is the reason why I decided to write articles about entrepreneurship; however, given my current life situation, launching my own company was not an option—but after attending this workshop, I had many ideas buzzing in my brain, and my mind was full of visions about how life as an entrepreneur could be. The quality, professionalism and innovative enthusiasm with which the workshop was held and organized can only be described as inspiring.

In another workshop by Adina Petre, a life coach, clinical psychologist and entrepreneur herself, taught all the participants (and lucky me!) how to detect the first signs of entrepreneurial burnout and how to survive as a young entrepreneur in the jungle of university work, networking events and business discussions while still keeping up a private life. The lively discussion was fed by simple life hacks from Adina and I am sure that, if adequately applied by the participants, they may help to achieve more in less time while sustaining a more healthy and social lifestyle.

What you gain from an incubation programme
You might ask yourself why these workshops, as an example of the great work undertaken so far by the Base programme, may be needed in Maastricht. We are living, studying and working in a city with a great academic and professional reputation—the School of Business and Economics (SBE) offers courses in innovation and entrepreneurship, and even a complete Master track dedicated to this field of business—so why even bother with an incubation programme?

Crowdfunding_LBIf you, like me, have a business background from Maastricht University, you probably know a lot about starting a business already. Theoretically. As a future business founder, you may have all the general knowledge you need, but LaunchBase helps you choose which knowledge to apply on your particular idea or project.

Not just for business students
If you do not have a business background, if you study in one of the plenty other faculties in Maastricht and have a entrepreneurial mindset or simply want to learn about “being a founder,” you probably are grateful for some guidance. I met Adriana Groh, a student of European Studies from Germany, who was working on her Business Model Canvas when I interviewed her a few months ago: “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.”

During the same Base session, I met a young high-school teacher who described the programme as “guidance for his idea and a way to keep my feet on the ground,” whereas on the next table two students of the artificial intelligence track appreciated the way that Base keeps them focused on their initial idea.

Most important, I met people of different ages, from many different backgrounds, with different visions, mind-sets, ideas and styles of working together or alone. In my opinion, Base connects people within the Maastricht region not only physically with its co-working space offered for all participants, but also virtually, and helps them to accelerate on what they are striving for.

Maastricht’s bright future
Next to enriching the people’s experience while staying in Maastricht and working on their projects, it also supports the entrepreneurial activities within Limburg, which could be one potential driver for growth in the currently not most economically outstanding region in the Netherlands.

Crowdfunding_PresentationI already wrote about the bright future of Maastricht’s entrepreneurial eco-system. The last event of the Base programme I attended shortly before Christmas has underscored those described facts. During an “Elevator Pitch Workshop,” in which all participants of the current round were invited to pitch their project in front of a jury composed of MC4E professors, innovative ideas were presented and showed evidence of Maastricht’s creative, innovative and most important, internationally connected students.

One idea was a medical application to self-remove stiches of wounds without visiting a doctor (including a prior adequate risk-assessment) to reduce patients’ time and stress as well as health care system costs. Another project aimed to connect musicians to gig organizers. There were two students trying to set up their food-delivery franchise model on bicycles. We also heard the first concept of a social network for podcasts (you don’t believe it is not out there yet? I was surprised as well!)

I could go on with this list for a while, but I guess you get my point. Base is a programme that, next to the workshops and networking events, supports its participants with mentorship and personal, customized coaching and co-working space. Not even one year of the programme has passed and some participants have already won prices in start-up competitions. But for me, LaunchBase has the potential to become more than just a couple of entrepreneurs who might win some prices in the future. It has the potential to change Maastricht, influence the skills of its inhabitants, the reputation of the university and connect international people to achieve something great.

Check out the requirements to sign up for the next round.

Jonas Heller has been passionate about the entrepreneurship world since working in Berlin for Zalando, one of the fastest growing start-ups in Europe. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE) in 2012, and after 18 months in Berlin, he decided to follow an academic career and return to Maastricht for a Master’s degree in International Business, after which he hopes to pursue an academic career in the field of disruptive technologies. Still keeping abreast with all things entrepreneurial, Jonas writes and tweets frequently on the subject. You can follow him at Twitter.

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