By Jelmer Laks
The lean week
To me Holland Startup is not merely a venture builder, co-working space and investor hub. It is a vibrant community where we as entrepreneurs help each other to bring out the best in ourselves and others on the road to building a successful startup. The backbone of the processes that support us as co-founders are the 4 meetings that we attend each week. We call this the lean week and it looks like this:
Our week starts with the standup meeting at 10 o’clock sharp every Monday. In which (you guessed it) we stand, and discuss our learnings from the previous week as well as communicate exactly what we intend to get done this week. For me this meeting has two purposes; to allow everyone to learn from each other's failures as well as to solidify what your week will look like. It has the added benefit of providing accountability if the planned actions are not completed as well as context if there are any lessons to be taken from this week’s actions during the next standup meeting.
During this co-founder only meeting we try to pick each other’s brains for solutions to problems that co-founders are currently facing. We provide updates to what we are currently working on and have open discussions as to how we might do better or how we can solve our most immediate problem. In this way the entrepreneurs support each other and speed up problem solving significantly. I think this meeting really allows us to stay in touch with the other startups efficiently and understand where each of us stands in our development. Plus it’s also just a lot of fun to have a beer and reflect on where each of us is heading.
Every second Wednesday we focus on developing our business development skills. Ranging from growth hacking to sales we attend a workshop organised by the management team of Holland Startup. Here we cover the basic skills that co-founders need in order to efficiently build a business. Besides the workshops given by the management team, experienced entrepreneurs drop by to talk about their businesses, failures and entrepreneurial journey. It is incredibly valuable to have access to experienced entrepreneurs that teach us the basics as well as show us their failures and allow us to learn from their experiences.
The cornerstone of the week is the bi-weekly meeting in which we meet with the management team of Holland Startup. This meeting revolves around evaluating and managing progress, identifying opportunities for improvement and provides the opportunity to dive deeper into the current state of our startups. Exactly how we measure progress and what process we use to drive the development of our startups will be a topic for a later blogpost, so if you’re interested in that aspect of Holland Startup’s business development cycle I suggest you keep an eye on this part of the website or subscribe to our newsletter.
In my experience our weekly schedule pushes us to focus on the tasks at hand. While never missing an opportunity to learn from our own failures as well as those of others. Coming together a number of times a week allows us to to share our journey and receive and give advice to others along the way. If one thing holds true for entrepreneurship it’s that you never build companies alone. This value has been ingrained in the lean week from the very beginning and I believe we will continue to reap the benefits from going at it with all of our collective strengths and weaknesses.
Next to my own views on the lean week I thought it would be valuable to share some of our Entrepreneur’s as well. I asked three of our entrepreneurs to give us an insight into their opinion on the lean week.
The weekly process at Holland Startup has provided me with a couple of learnings. The weekly structure has had a positive impact on my view of how cooperation instead of competition can influence the efficiency with which one progresses. Our workshops and bi-weekly meetings provide a constant input for innovation and learning. The openness with which these are set up has helped our start-up to never be stuck for too long when we hit a wall in our development.
Carl van Heijst
The weekly structure facilitates the translation of long-term goals to weekly subgoals. Entailing multiple feedback moments, your thoughts are weekly confirmed either challenged by co-founders and the experienced HS Management Team entrepreneurs. For me, this translates to a high-pace, highly extrovert environment which enhances my performances. Weekly updates on the other HS startups gives you an insight in the theories translated to practice and the assumptions confirmed or falsified in experiments. Lastly, your feedback being heard, appreciated or disproved forms your entrepreneurial mindset.
I like the lean week a lot! It’s a good combination of moments to share your experience with other entrepreneurs, getting new inputs and learn cool stuff that you’ll need in the development of your startup.
We as co-founders focus on building amazing companies. What Holland Startup offers us is an environment that helps us mitigate the risks of building startups, fosters innovation and radically speeds up problem solving. This is driven by our weekly schedule but most importantly by our sense of community and shared vision of entrepreneurship. What we end up with is a self supporting group of entrepreneurs with the capacity to drive innovation efficiently and scalably. I’m excited to see what all of us will achieve with the support of Holland Startup in the coming years. Onwards and upwards.
This week we are in the Bunker with Carl van Heijst newly joined Co-Founder of Solbuzz together with Tiemen Roest at Holland Startup
Can you tell us what you’ve been working on with Holland Startup?
Carl: Tiemen and I recently started with SolBuzz. The idea is to connect customers and their rooftops with capital. Our research tells us that the average Joe does not have the money for photovoltaic systems (read solar panels). That’s where we see a need in the market. We have not found the sweet spot yet and right now we are investigating whether or not the lack of growth in the personal solar space is actually a bigger issue also including the need for maintenance etc. And we are exploring whether or not we can use the collective buying power of for example all apartments in one apartment block or entire property management firms.
What goal do you have with SolBuzz?
Carl: To satisfy my inner desire to contribute to a better world.
The most challenging part of being a co-founder?
Carl: Leaving the mindset of thinking in solutions or actual products. Focusing on evaluating what the core problem is and whether or not it’s worthwhile to solve this problem is a big challenge.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Carl: It actually came from my aunt. She said something that’s pretty corny but I think is very true “if you want something in life you are the only one that can achieve it and have to work for it”.
What drove you to join Holland Startup as a co-founder?
Carl: Having the experience of founding a non profit organisation. As well as having serious doubts about whether I should pursue a more “standard” career path of being a regular employee, or for example doing a traineeship with a big company. The question for me was whether that would really make me enthusiastic and drive me. Since it’s your first job and you don’t yet have the financial burden of children a house and so forth, I thought this was the perfect time to become an entrepreneur.
Which word describes Holland Startup the best?
How do you think your fellow co-founders would describe you?
Carl: Another guy from Zeeland, haha. I hope first of all friendly and nice to hang around with. I think that’s very important when you’re working together. I hope they see me as a patient colleague that is always interested in hearing a nice story and helping others on their startups. Summarized I guess you could say helpful. So friendly, patient and critical in a constructive way. And since these were all positives and to balance things out maybe a little bit stubborn.
Where are you from?
Carl: I’m half Dutch and half Belgian. Born in Belgium and raised in Zeeland the Netherlands.
Tell us what it was like growing up in your hometown.
Carl: I grew up in a pretty boring town in Zeeland. I always say that it’s a fantastic place but it’s pretty boring. There is beautiful nature but there is nothing to do. However this quiet, warm and stable environment really resulted in me having a very stable and comfortable upbringing. I seriously doubt whether I would have been who I am, and I’m very happy with who I am right now, if I would have grown up in a big city. I had a very stable social life and very intimate and comforting group of people around me. I seriously question whether that would have happened in a big city. The city seems like a more tough environment, and I think that would have shaped me differently than where I grew up.
What was your childhood dream job, being a firefighter?
Carl: Actually yes haha. There is one picture of me in front of the local fire department when I was 5. So I think I did want to become a firefighter. When I was a little older my parents were worried that I would become the CEO of the Dutch bank. Because I was always sitting in my dad’s office counting money. When I was 10 or 11 I got a hole punch and stapler plus some special paper for my birthday. And I was seriously happy stapling forms and signing them. It’s complete bullshit but it has to say something. Next to playing with lego I was running my own office. I think it was really about running my own business. In the summers at home there was just nothing to do and I was frustrated with that. Running a business and doing something yourself was really something I was intrigued by.
Carl’s childhood office, the place to be for stamps, staples and starting businesses.
What is your favourite thing to do in Utrecht?
Carl: I love to play soccer in my time off.
What is your top secret advice for people in or coming to Utrecht?
Carl: I really love the cinema ‘t Hoogt. But my main secret spot would be de Drie Dorstige Herten, it’s this really cool small café close to the Dom tower.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Carl: New Zealand, because of it’s diversity in wildlife and nature.
What book do you think everyone should read and why?
Carl: The Blue Economy by Gunter Pauli. It’s based on the idea of building new revenue streams on existing input of products or services. Those new revenue streams are made based on nature in a biomimicry type way. It talks about creating more value with the things you and I already have.
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
Carl: Donald Trump, to experience how his brain works.
What is the most impactful thing that has happened to you or someone around you recently?
Carl: Robbert Jan getting inside my head. He noticed an inner feeling I could not yet describe myself. We were brainstorming on SolBuzz and what our underlying motivation is to pursue this idea. He suddenly said “I’m sensing from the way your talking and what you’re saying and doing, that you’re basing your decisions on more than you’re telling us. I don't know if you can already describe it yourself but there is more that you’re taking into this”. It was true that there was something I had not been able to put my finger on that was pushing me in a certain direction.
Anything you want to share with our readers?
Carl: It’s based on the former question. It has been a pretty intense couple of weeks. I was surprised by myself how much I was affected by the process of getting into the mindset of working on your own thing. It’s way more personal than anything I’ve done before. What you are doing is 100% you. And this is very confrontational, knowing that I cannot walk away from anything that we’re doing here and that in essence the business is a reflection of what I want it to be.
Every month we ask an entrepreneur, CEO or investor that visits Holland Startup 5 questions, and share their answers with our community. This month we asked Pascal Ontijd, co-founder of SnappCar, to share his vision, insights and experience with us.
What do you believe that few people agree with you on?
There are a number of issues in the world that require a much higher sense of urgency in pushing for improvement. I’m mainly focused on climate change, social isolation and inequality at home and around the world. People around me do acknowledge and observe these issues but many people do not agree with me on how quickly we should move to solve these problems. It’s time to kick into high gear to address these fundamental issues.
What’s something you’d tell your younger self?
I should have started my first company earlier than I did. Just start and you’ll learn and improve much quicker. I probably should not even have finished my university degree. From high school onward I felt like my way of thinking did not fit the system. I probably could have spent my time much better by just doing and learning that way. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time as a student. But I did not take away any skills that I really needed and could not have learned by just going out and doing what I wanted to do. If I would have started my first company earlier I would have found and developed my own style of working much quicker, instead of trying to follow someone else's process.
What’s the most useful piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Follow your gut feeling. This may sound easy but it really isn’t. It is a constant point of attention for me. I have encountered the struggle with my gut feeling tens maybe even hundreds of times. What would have happened if 5 years ago I had not followed my dreams and started SnappCar? This struggle continuously surfaces in the small choices of daily startup life.
Are there any lessons you’ve had to learn multiple times?
As I said among other things the realization that you have to follow your gut feeling. I need to constantly remind myself of this personal rule. I also have the tendency to lose myself in the thing I’m currently working on. This results in an inability to take a step back from what I’m focusing on and make the right decisions. Finally I think that most of the times I’m already multiple steps ahead of the people around me. This causes communication problems and it makes it hard for me to focus on the current tasks at hand. Often I don’t have the peace of mind to store these ideas somewhere and work on them when the people around me are ready for them.
What’s next for you?
I want to keep making an impact on the problems that I feel are most dangerous to our society and the world. Making sure that that impact keeps growing is a big point of focus for me. I do this through my company and I hope to start more of those in the coming years. Maybe parallel to the things I’m working on now or as separate ventures. In the future I would like to expand my impact by empowering others to make a difference in areas I find important. Impact and empowerment of others are what I will be working on the coming years.