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Humans of TU Delft: Jan-Willem Manenschijn
Jan-Willem Manenschijn: “I didn’t find that I could use my creativity in my studies.” (Photo: Heather Montague)

Jan-Willem Manenschijn found a way to combine his technical background with his love of solving puzzles. By starting Popup-Escape, he created his own dream job.

“I love escape rooms. I played my first one about six or seven years ago and it was amazing. It’s the combination of technology, being immersed in an experience, creative puzzles and a lot of things behind it. I fell in love with the concept of working with a team and trying to solve these puzzles under a time limit. I was thinking if I ever had the time, I would want to work for a company like that. It always lingered a little bit in my mind.

Then we had a family weekend and my whole family loves puzzling. So I thought, why not get some chests and locks and try to create some puzzles around a family story and make something fun for the family to do. That was my first pop-up escape room and they loved it. I thought if they like it, why not let my friends play it and they also really liked it. From there I created a website saying I could make personalised pop-up escape rooms on location and I got myself a high ranking on Google search. All of a sudden, I got an email from someone at a company saying they were planning a goodbye party for someone who loves escape rooms and they asked if I could make one for their team. It started rolling from there and three years ago, I started the business.

‘Quitting the master’s programme is the best decision I ever made’

This is my full-time job now and I even have two partners and people working for the company. I love that it combines creativity, technology and some business skills. What I like most is that you can go deep into the content, while on the other hand being really practical. We’re creating these puzzles ourselves, like sawing some wood and putting it together. It’s the whole spectrum from idea to the complete concept.

I had been working on my master’s but then I chose to stop. I didn’t find that I could use my creativity in my studies and I felt like I wasn’t learning new things that I wanted to use in practice. And I found that I was studying to get work, but I was already working. It took me like half a year to take the decision to stop. That immediately freed me of this heavy burden and I’ve never looked back. It’s the best decision I ever made.

We are currently creating more serious games, using escape room techniques, by creating experiences that will last and will let the players learn and improve in their daily work. In addition, we are starting more ‘no-nonsense’ businesses together with people who want to become entrepreneurs. Not the businesses that need 10 million in funding and many years to become profitable, but using existing technologies to make something that can create value today, just like Popup-Escape started out.

Want to be featured in Humans of TU Delft? Or do you know someone with a good story to tell? Send us an e-mail at humansoftudelft@gmail.com


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