The Auditorium of the TU Aula was almost packed for this event, for which around 500 students and professors got a ticket. The schedule was filled with four speakers and a pitch battle, in which three students pitched their start-ups to a jury, to win €1,000. In the first hour, visitors could look at several prototypes from YES!Delft start-ups, including the Somnox sleep robot, Atmos’ new drone for aerial data collection and the Exobuddy, a military exoskeleton from Intespring. Then the Auditorium opened for the symposium, hosted by Josh Rachford, a writer and actor at Boom Chicago, an improvisation comedy group based in Amsterdam.
The symposium was kicked off by Lotte Leufkens, co-founder of the start-up Cloud Cuddle. Leufkens was studying mechanical engineering at TU Delft when she met the father of a severely disabled child. His child could not sleep in normal beds because of his epilepsy, so Lotte vowed to design a bed that was safe and portable, to give parents of severely disabled children more freedom. The ball started rolling, and now Cloud Cuddle is a successful start-up, the product is officially on the market and Lotte won the TEDx Women Startup Award. Her message to the audience is that if you have a good idea that you believe in, you can do it, even if you are a student with little money. And she realised something else: investors do not primarily invest in the idea itself, but they invest in you! If you can show them you have the determination and the belief in your idea, you are a long way there.
Julian Jagtenberg was an industrial design student when he did a minor in robotics. He became inspired by soft robotics and with his team, developed the first design of Somnox: a soft robot that helps people sleep longer and better by simulating breathing, relaxing audio and affection. His advice to the audience was to just do it and be persistent. It is not easy being an entrepreneur, and there are times when you are close to giving up. But if your idea is good enough and you stand your ground, you may end up with a successful start-up, just like Julian.
Marnix Broer also studied in Delft and is co-founder of StudeerSnel. On this website, university and college students can share their notes of lectures and summaries of books. In this way, students do not have to summarise books that have already been summarised many times, but they can just find the summary on the site. Marnix advises students who want to start a start-up to do it now, while they are still studying. If you wait a couple of years, you might have a house or a family, and it will be far more difficult to take the leap. He also told students to make sure they have a team around them that they can have fun with and discuss important decisions.
Michiel Muller is a classic example of a serial entrepreneur. Among other companies, he co-founded the Tango unmanned gas stations in the Netherlands and Route Mobiel, a service that helps people with car breakdowns. Currently, he is co-founder of Picnic, a company that delivers groceries to people’s doorsteps with a very short waiting time and no delivery charge. He told the audience that with all of his successful start-ups, people told him that it was impossible, but he proved them all wrong. How? He believed in his idea and he persisted. Another piece of advice he gave was to not think too much about what might go wrong: “even if you think of 100 problems that might occur, you can never really predict what is going to happen and, in my experience, it is often the 101st problem that you did not think of that actually does happen.”