Incubation Programme: November
Words by Irene Rompa
Photos by Maarten Nauw
Every month of the Incubation Programme, Let it Grow Lab Lead Irene Rompa will share her insights, findings and Class 1’s progress in growing their green businesses.
It’s been a month since the Let it Grow team and the Class 1 startups were showered by rose petals at the official opening of the Lab at B.2 Amsterdam. Constantijn van Oranje, the special envoy for Dutch startups and Royal FloraHolland CEO Lucas Vos inaugurated the Incubation Programme along with floriculture insiders, growers and innovators, who had all gathered to celebrate the world’s first incubator for plants and flowers. The next day the teams and I were back at the Lab to dive head-first into the programme.
Class 1 began the programme bright and early at B.2 Amsterdam with a with a ‘lean startup’ session led by Edouard Dopper and Douwe Wester from LeanUp, a Product Development Agency which helps startups quickly break into the market. LeanUp would go on to coach the teams for the second and third weeks, teaching them about designing the right experiments, crafting questions to interview (potential) customers and incorporating agile working into their companies.
The first of our weekly ‘Brain Trust’ sessions took place that same afternoon, in which one founder from each team has eight minutes to present a challenge that he or she faces and receives feedback from other teams.
Each startup has their own unique challenges and goals, but the value of ‘the team’ is a universal priority. We teamed up (pun intended) with Fortify, a training service set up by two former professional athletes, Paul Musters and Robbert van Ede, who use the team building skills from their sporting careers to help ‘build winning startups’. Fortify met with the teams to go over the outcomes of their personality and startup skills scans and discussed how they could optimise the success of each team. Definitely something to be continued in the next month.
Let it Grow has three startup experts which mentor the teams, Robbert van Geldrop, Bart Doorneweert, Toon Branbergen as well as Director of StartupAmsterdam, Ruben Nieuwenhuis, who mentors me personally. The results of Fortify’s personality assessments also helped us in matching each of the teams with the three mentors. But in our first week we also set up ‘mentor speed dates’ in which each team and mentor met for around 20 minutes and decided who would work best with who. A pretty smooth process!
Mentorship takes place every two weeks. All the Class 1 businesses are in very different phases, so I requested the mentors define the Incubation Programme’s specific goals so we know what ‘success’ means as we work towards Demo Day on March 21st.
Each startup has their own unique challenges and goals, but the value of ‘the team’ is a universal priority.
In the first week we received a room-length, plant filled conference table designed by Meetingreen. It’s now a perfect space for our teams to work on their green businesses, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Lab really comes to life.
On Thursdays, two initiatives outside the Incubation Programme, Flower ePower and SolidWater, also come into the Lab to work and receive support from from Let it Grow. They bring a lot of positive energy to the space so we’re really glad to have them around.
Let it Grow’s Lab Producer, Ilona, and our Community Builder, Shari, are working on filling up the walls of the Lab with visual reminders of each of the teams’ goals to keep them motivated. Since I craft the programme based on the needs of the teams, this is really helpful to me too!
I’ve been extremely involved with the teams, but I try to find the right balance between working with them directly and letting them work independently. Originally I had planned that I only moderate the first ‘Brain Trust’ session and let the teams conduct the following sessions themselves, but we discovered that this was really a great way for me to keep track of everyone’s progress.
One of the challenges I see is that many team members don’t have sufficient cash flow to be able to dedicate themselves to their project full time. This isn’t a major issue yet but it does slow progress down of course. I debated whether we should require teams to work on their companies full time in the next class, but I realise it’s hard for people to fully commit in the early stages of their businesses. I do advise each of the Class 1 founders, not to take on any jobs that would occupy them mentally, since they need to be able to focus on building their startup as much as possible.