Incubation Programme: Selection Day
Words by Kristina Foster
Photos by Sanja Marusic
The selection day for Let it Grow Lab’s Incubation Programme finally arrived on September 23rd, bringing together 21 teams with a shared goal of landing a place in the world’s first incubator for plants and flowers. The beautifully designed Zoku Amsterdam proved to be fertile ground for the many creative ideas that would be pitched that afternoon with its plant-filled spaces and green rooftop garden.
Teams had been pre-selected out of a list of candidates who had applied to the Open Innovation Call, which sent out a call for innovative projects and businesses using plants and flowers that would help create greener cities. The event was the final hurdle in achieving five months of invaluable training by startup experts and 10,000 euros in seed funding.
The atmosphere was one of excitement as Let it Grow Lab Lead Irene Rompa opened up the conference and welcomed the jury panel, an impressive mixture of floriculture insiders such as Servaas van der Ven, Chief Commercial Officer of Royal FloraHolland, entrepreneurial experts like Robbert van Geldrop, founder of the Dutch Lean Startup Circle, as well as professionals who would measure the investment and exposure potential of the projects.
Ruben Nieuwenhuis, director of StartupAmsterdam asserted the importance of the entire Let it Grow platform saying that “Let it Grow is a big asset to startups in this field. It’s an enabler and a driving force but you can also see it as network force, knowledge force and capital force. I think it’s amazing that it will not only help startups grow but, in turn, bring more green into the city”.
As the pitches were rolled out, we saw a diverse collection of green businesses ranging from sophisticated growing systems to flowery delivery apps. Many initiatives were dedicated to making growing greenery at home easier such as IVY, an app from Spanish company Grow & Help. Technology expert Javier Juárez Montojo wowed the audience as he asked IVY live questions about how much water to give his hypothetical carrots, to which it responded with detailed information in a Siri-like interaction. Juárez Montojo saw Amsterdam as the obvious location for expanding the IVY app: “I’ve already been developing my business in the Netherlands for six months. For us it made sense for to be in the home of the plant and flower industry”.
After the pitches, the teams were able to take turns in having in-depth discussions with the jury. In the meantime, Let it Grow founder, Silke Tijkotte took to the stage to get the audience to vote for their favourite pitch. In the end, Ermi van Oers came out victorious with her project Living Light, a lamp which harvests its own energy through electrons released by bacteria in the soil, a shining example of the possibilities of green technology.
Harry Van Dorenmalen, Chairman of IBM Europe closed the day with some words of advice for the teams: “Everyone should see this as a positive experience whether they get selected or not. In the future, I advise everyone to make sure that their project’s story is clear; we need to know from the onset what you are selling. Work on your stakeholders; you cannot do this alone. Finally, always try to set the next level of ambition”.
Class 1 will be announced by 1 October whereby successful teams will begin their journey in growing their businesses as they receive weekly training in everything from business model prototyping, growth hacking and pitching – all in the newly-built coworking space of B2 Amsterdam. Many of the teams maintained that the day was a learning experience, a chance to share ideas and to celebrate the possibilities of plants and flowers as all these green innovations were brought under one roof. Jury member Mariska Foppen, Managing Director of Waterdrinker Aalsmeer BV, echoed this: “I think there was a super energy here this afternoon. Let’s keep up this positivity and create fantastic new businesses with plants and flowers. That seed was planted here today”.
Watch this video of the selection day (in Dutch).