These first few weeks have been spent organizing our recruitment processes, trying to get a feel for the social enterprise landscape, and networking with as many people as possible. Overall, Holland appears to already have a robust infrastructure designed to support entrepreneurship. For example, the country has multiple entrepreneur accelerator programs in different cities; numerous Universities have “Centers for Entrepreneurship”; individuals are organizing regular entrepreneur meet-ups, and other institutions are promoting large weekend events, all in an attempt to promote entrepreneurship. However, it appears only a small percentage of the groups and organizations are specifically targeting social entrepreneurs.
On July 7th, I had the chance to attend the Startup Weekend Amsterdam. In 54-hours, individuals introduced an idea for a product or service, formed teams, made a plan, designed a prototype, and pitched their new business. I was blown away by what people were able to produce in such a short period of time, several teams created working apps and websites in only a matter of hours. It was a great introduction to the passion behind entrepreneurship in Holland.
Soon, Village Capital Scouts will begin hosting VilCap Mondays every Monday evening, around the world, as a way to promote entrepreneurship and Village Capital. On July 15th, we hosted the first VilCap Monday in The Netherlands. We had a great turnout with about twenty people joining us at the offices of enviu to learn about the program. Enviu is a social enterprise incubator in Rotterdam that starts world changing companies designed to solve social and ecological issues. Check out their website, enviu, they have some great stuff going on!
Later in the week, I returned to Rotterdam to attend the Rotterdam Startups Meetup. Leon Pals is the founder of the Meetup and Evolv, an organization and weekend event designed to support entrepreneurs. The meetup was a mix of entrepreneurs, edupreneurs developers, friends, and people just interested in knowing more about the start-up scene. The meetup was at an old house near Rotterdam Central Station that is being developed into a co-working space for education related startups (edupreneurs) and casually referring to itself as EduVilla.
In addition to attending these events, I’ve had the chance to continue to meet with numerous inspiring entrepreneurs. Some of the highlights include:
- Hajo van Bielen, from Text to Change, who has figured out a way to disseminate critical, lifesaving information to millions of people in Africa and South America via text message.
- Shailindra Goerdial, has over 20 years of experience owning and operating car washes throughout The Netherlands, is trying to bring a new waterless car washing technology to market with Ecocarwash Mobile. He has the potential to save millions of liters of water everyday.
- Stan de Ridder, from SolarSwing, who is working with a team of experts who have designed a transparent solar panel that can both produce energy and allow light to pass through it, making solar panels much more versatile.
I’m exited to continue biking, thinking, learning, getting inspired, and trying to find more social entrepreneurs in The Netherlands! If you were wondering, I did in fact ride my bike to most of these events and meetings.