In recent years the Dutch government has been attempting to stimulate young entrepreneurship. For instance, the Chamber of Commerce often gives free seminars to starting business owners and there are special tax regulations for start-up companies. Nevertheless, only 3% of students have a registered company. Several universities, including the UvA, have initiated organisations, events and gatherings in order to raise these numbers.
The UvA has a special facility located at the Amsterdam Science Park that helps new entrepreneurs deal with the problems they face when starting a business. Besides tips and instructions, this facility can provide students with a team of individuals from other schools whose field of study would be an asset to realising the aspiring entrepreneurs’ proposed business plan.
I had a discussion with Mrs. Mirjam LeLoux, one of the people who runs the department at the UvA that facilitates student entrepreneurship. She explained to me the steps and requirements one needs follow if they have a business idea and wish to realise it. Mrs. Leloux works as the director for the IXA bureau of Kennistransfer (knowledge transfer) and is a senior lecturer at the university of Wittenborg, lecturing in innovation and entrepreneurship.
She explained that a business plan needs to be innovative and unique if one would like any assistance from the IXA (Innovation Exchange Amsterdam) and UvA. Once the plan has been considered and approved the aspirant will be matched with a team of people who are considered necessary for the success of the project (marketers, financial students, creatives, analysts, etc.).
The IXA often organises events to help start-ups gain crowdfunding and advice. For instance, the Ondernemerscafe and Venture Lab host a few of these events where people with business ideas come together in order to get advice or even a bit of funding.
But what really constitutes an innovative idea? Many would say it would have to be some kind of new invention or complex programme. However, Mrs. Leloux explains that it could simply be a clever way to make something easier. It’s not necessary to invent a time-traveling hover-board or the new NASDAQ, but if you can take something that already exists, like a website that helps people get funding for their research or a cool popsicle design shop, you could gain the interest of the IXA. Those two examples also happen to be the winner and a finalist of the ASOP (Amsterdam Student Ondernemersprijs).
Even if you are not skilled in web or app design, the UvA and IXA could set you up with someone who is. What’s required of you is business instinct and the development of a good strategy. After that, the sky is the limit and the potential for creativity is boundless as the UvA and IXA are connected to a number of organisations that can help you reach the finish line. Even prototype design of complex devices is possible, as there are places where one can rent a high-tech laboratory for a modest price per hour.
In the end all one really needs is to spot an opportunity and have enough drive to take the first step in seeing it trough. Countless entrepreneurs have done so in the past and it is very possible. Especially if one takes full advantage of the facilities at the university.