Irene Rompa looks back at 2017
Words by Irene Rompa
Photos by Maarten Nauw
As I write this article, I’m munching on a left-over treat from the New Year’s Lunch which we organised earlier this week. It was really nice to see so many familiar faces from within our ever-growing community; startups from the current Incubation Programme, alumni startups, entrepreneurs that either joined our 6 Day Bootcamp or Unconference at the beginning of November, colleagues from Royal FloraHolland and various business relations from within the floriculture sector. Having this lunch made me realise how much has happened since we organised the same lunch at the beginning of 2017.
First off, the startups which participated in the first Incubation Programme ‘graduated’ at the beginning of April ‘17 and have since gone on to raise 500k Euro (Healthy Workers), raise 150k Euro (Sprinklr), partly from investors within the floriculture sector, get nominated for a Dutch Design Award and win the Border Sessions Award (Living Light), develop their own product line for plant pots, now available in stores (Wildernis), win the award for Best Idea at Plantarium (ConnectedGreen), sell 2000 ‘living pavement tiles’ to Royal FloraHolland (Gewildgroei), win the product-award for Good Design and even exhibit it in the Cube Design Museum (Grown). All of these amazing results have made us really proud.
We ourselves have also had a big 2017. After the New Year’s Lunch at the beginning of the year, our team started the production of the first ‘Let it Grow Greenhouse Festival’, a two-day event that was to take place at the beginning of April 2017 in a space that would look like a green jungle and showcase the latest innovations in the field of greening cities with flowers and plants. We often refer to the festival as the ‘demo festival’. Rather than organising a one day DemoDay to mark the end of the first Incubation Programme, during which startups pitch to investors and a business audience, we strived to connect them with actual consumers as well.
After 6 weeks of intense production, we welcomed 4000 consumers on our first day, the so-called ‘Consumer Day’, where regular visitors could come and experience the effects of plants and flowers through a packed event programme, retail, entertainment and talks from the participating businesses and stores. It was a full-on sensory experience. We were incredibly surprised (and in all honesty, relieved) that the efforts resulted in a turnout which surpassed all of our expectations. On Monday, during the ‘Business Day’, over 300 professionals from the floriculture sector were invited to join us as the startups pitched on stage about the progress they’d made in the past 5 months.
Fast-forward a few months; we moved offices, said goodbye to the seven teams of Class 1 that are now officially ‘Let it Grow alumni’ and the Let it Grow Entrepreneurs-team started its preparations for the campaign to attract new startups for our second Incubation Programme over the summer. At the same time, colleagues worked around the clock to be able to open the Let it Grow Concept Store at Amsterdam Central Station, at which we would sell our own product line and inspire as many locals and tourists as possible to learn about the scientifically proven effects of flowers and plants on levels of hope, trust and focus.
In September, these two things finally came together: The Let it Grow Concept Store opened its doors on 7 September; we met most of the applications for the second Incubation Programme during another edition of ROEF festival on 8 September; the application closed on 10 September and twenty teams were invited to pitch and present themselves at the Selection Day on 29 September. After careful contemplation, eight startup teams were selected. (Tip: You can read about the teams that form Class 2 here)
"The entrepreneurs shared what they had learned and how good it felt to be in this community. It was really amazing for the Let it Grow team to witness"
October was used to prepare ourselves for three big events: The start of the Incubation Programme; the Six Day Bootcamp and the Unconference, all happening in the first two weeks of November. And it was, in one word, amazing. The eight selected startups bonded in an introduction weekend in late October, got to their new office on Wednesday 1 November and met six other teams (amongst them entrepreneurs from the US, England and Mexico) which participated in the six day Bootcamp. During the Bootcamp, an extra 40 entrepreneurs and people from the floriculture sector joined for the Unconference, a full day of peer-to-peer learning. More than twenty short workshops, high energy and a continuous exchange of knowledge led to an emotional closing, during which the entrepreneurs shared what they had learned and how good it felt to be in this community and meet each other. It was really amazing for the Let it Grow team to witness. And as the cherry on the cake, Royal FloraHolland and Let it Grow won a Dutch Design Award during the Dutch Design Week!
After months of continuous excitement, our 2017 ended at a quieter pace and offered some time off to reflect on all that’s happened in a year. We just got back to the office and are looking forward to the months ahead; with the Incubation Programme continuing until the beginning of March. We’ve started preparing for our next big event: the Demo Day combined with a second edition of the Unconference, to take place in Amsterdam on 22 March. Please mark your calendars! We really hope to see you there.