In the age before StartupDelta was putting The Netherlands on the map, just two dudes from Utrecht already did the same with Founded in Holland – startup style. Tim Gouw and Maarten van den Heuvel quickly became the go-to guys when it comes to innovation and startup-thinking. We talked to them about their experiences, vision and tons of side projects, exactly one year after the launch.
In this new section called The Founder, we highlight the most influential and vibrant Dutch startup persona.
The Founded in Holland page, with its iconic orange background and white logos, at first glance looks like a simple wall of fame. But looks can be deceiving. From the beginning Tim Gouw (right on the photo) and Maarten van den Heuvel (left) had an idea – to showcase the most innovative companies The Netherlands have to offer.
“When we started for our own, we were seeking a place to profile us with innovation. But couldn’t find a good way to do so. So we made a place where you can find the most innovative companies from The Netherlands. We made a shortlist of about 30 startups and just went with it”, said Van den Heuvel.
“We emailed the companies and asked if they were interested in being showcased. All were interested. From day 1 of Founded in Holland we immediately got a lot of attention. Then the startups came to us, hundreds of them.”
When the Founded in Holland brand was established (it is said some media are using the website to find new startups to interview), both immediately thought of other things to profile those companies better – for and by startups.
The two founders 3d printed their logo, a Dutch tulip, (a collaboration with 3DHubs and 3 other startups) and sent it to all listed on the Founded in Holland site. “The response was crazy. At that point we really saw that there was more to our platform. We realized we could work with startups and bring them together.”
And they did. Under the flag of the Founded in Holland brand, last year they organized Bunk’d with accelerator Holland Startup, in which founders could freely get stuff off their chest (what happens in the bunker, stays in the bunker). They created a Founders Toolkit, organized a network event on a boat with boat sharing startup Barqo, published research done with Roamler, made a Founded in Holland year report, highlighting every milestone of the Dutch startup scene and their bi-weekly newsletter is one of the best about the Dutch startup scene. Just to name a few things.
All those efforts to put The Netherlands on the map reached other countries as well. The first countries to report themselves were South Africa, Romania, Norway and Bangladesh. “From the beginning we made Founded in Holland in English, because we didn’t want it to be for the Dutch incrowd only. We really wanted to show what our country was capable of. That payed of”, Gouw said. “The other countries wanted to use a similar setup as Founded in Holland. We said that’s okay, as long as you share your cases so we can learn from each other. That was the only requirement.”
For instance: Founded in Banglasdesh did their own version of Bunk’d on a roof. Under the brand Founded X all those startup loving countries have their own portal. Right now there are about 40 of them.
The duo laughs when I asked to describe each other’s style of entrepreneurship, compared to their own. Van den Heuvel: “Tim’s agenda is really messy, where I’m more of a planning guy. But he quickly makes connections I haven’t thought about.” Gouw reacts: “Maarten just does stuff very creatively. He’s thinking big, I like details.”
Their styles seem to contradict, but that what’s making them “a perfect fit”. On one thing they have a clear mutual understanding: “We don’t look for solutions, because most of the time that leads to new problems. We come up with new things.”
Passion for innovation
Their passion for innovation was born out of frustration when they noticed the “clumsy way” big companies handle innovation and marketing. Gouw and Van den Heuvel met at their work at a digital strategies agency, and started to send each other messages with photos of ads and billboards, including comments, arrows and jokes – like an onboarding flow. “We can do this better”, they thought, and started Ideation Kings, an “experiment machine”.
Out of Ideation Kings sprung Weekly Innovation, an one week bootcamp for corporates to give a boost to creative strategies. But also Founded in Holland. Realizing it’s just one of the many projects under the umbrella of their company makes its impact only the more impressive.
Startup 2 Startup
Having been in the center of the Dutch startup scene for a year, Van den Heuvel knows what’s going on and what’s needed for the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Key to that is trying to think from a foreigner’s point of view, he said, like they learned with Founded X. “The Netherlands as a startup hub is really small and concentrated, but on the other hand it isn’t. A lot of hubs don’t talk to each other and it’s hard to find one another – especially for such a tiny country. When someone from outside The Netherlands wants to go to one place to get a nice summary of the scene, there simply isn’t one”.
Van den Heuvel obviously references to the StartupDelta plan, to get more attention worldwide for the Dutch startup ecosystem. “But I must say, they also did a great job putting our country on the map. Startups have become mainstream. A year ago that was not the case.”
Also, both sense that Dutch startups not necessarily need corporate services, but other startups’ services. “That’s why we use as much services from startups ourselves instead of hulky, unwieldy corporate ones. We like to work meta and promote S2S – startup 2 startup. For instance we don’t use Mailchimp, but Revue (from Dutch entrepreneur Martijn de Kuijper, red.) instead.”
When looking back to the beginnings of Founded in Holland, Gouw said: “Nobody knew us. Right now we’ve become a likeable brand and people are proud to be part of Founded in Holland. If they say it helped them, that’s enough satisfaction for us. It’s just so cool to see startups work together.”
So far the Founded in Holland story has been about a lot of upsides. But not everything the two touch turns into gold – there were some downsides as well. Van den Heuvel: “We really liked how it scaled quickly. But we also made a misjudgment about a startup job board. We worked on that for a long time, but it didn’t got any traction. We expected more from that.”
Besides a little misstep, Founded in Holland is still rising, and the two entrepreneurs are looking for people to expand the team. Gouw: “We really need them, but we don’t know in what way yet. We’re thinking about multiple options. One is we hire extra people to help us out. The other one is to give it to worthy hands and letting it go. We think Founded in Holland is so strong right now, it can also grow without us.”
During the interview I quickly realized there was more to Tim and Maarten than just Founded in Holland. Their crazy side projects (check the Shit Umbrella!), their constant way of creating new things, their energetic, passionate way of talking about it all: these founders are clearly jacks of all trades.
Cover photo by StartupJuncture
This photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.