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In the Bunker with Carl van Heijst

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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?

Carl: Experience

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.

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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.

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