On Thursday 15th of November the Dutch business plan competition NewVenture kicked off with a well attended and lively award ceremony. One of the highlights of the program, besides the 12 awards, the story about the New York marathon and the presentation by Dirk Loots, was the story of Taco Carlier, founder of the trending Dutch bicycle brand VANMOOF. He talked about the 11 first years in the bicycle business and award half of the 10 first round prizes.
VANMOOF started 11 years ago when Taco and his brother decided they wanted to make functional city bikes for every day use by commuters. They designed their bikes to be very practical. As part of the design and test phase, they handed out 100 bikes to friends to try out and collected their feedback. They simplified the design as much as possible and integrated the light in the frame so nothing can go wrong. This led to their radically new and recognizable design, featured in magazines all over the world from the Dutch Playboy to the Japanese Elle. “It is funny that we won design prizes with our bikes, because no designer was involved in making this bike. It was just simplification”. The name VANMOOF came about when they could not use their first choice “Move” since it was already owned by someone else.
VANMOOF was created without external investors. “This worked well for us, but it was our second business so we had some money. You might have to do this differently”.
Lessons from the sports world
Former hockey international Dirk Loots also had a story to tell about the links between entrepreneurship and sport athletes, starting with the HBR article “the making of a corporate athlete”. He also interviewed the finalists, collected questions from the audience and talked to the two entrepreneurial scientists who went to New York to run the marathon on behalf of NewVenture (photo).
Dirk also allowed people from the audience to ask questions, for instance about the magnetic bicycle lights, or how the makers of the Tab app are going to make money from the app.
Dirk closed had three pieces of advice for all would-be entrepreneurs:
- Think big, but start not so big
- Don’t do things that do not feel right
- Watch your cash flow
NewVenture round one winners
The NewVenture business plan competition has three rounds with different criteria and number of prizes. In the first round, the jury looks at ideas and awards the ten best ones a € 500 prize. The ten winners were an interesting collection of medical, technical and other inventions:
- Innofuse (medical technology)
- Sqeeze IT (search technology)
- Minus 9 (satellite heat dissipation)
- MOCS (composite materials)
- Tab app (mobile payment reminders)
- Rog (underwater repairs)
- Doctec inc (better light for surgery)
- Personalitee (story-telling shirts)
- Proov unplugged (electric buses)
Proov Unplugged also received a special mobility prize for their idea to load up bus batteries with in-road induction chargers, from ANWB representative Tijs Lagerweij. Personalitee received a price for gathering the most facebook votes from all finalists.
The event closed with a talk by Floris Croon, chairman of NewVenture who also had some advice for all startups: “Sell your product not on it’s technical features, but with emotion”.
About the author: Sieuwert van Otterloo (twitter: @entreprenl) is a management consultant with a focus on IT-enabled business. He gives software related advice via the Software Improvement Group, startup and innovation advice via Inbys and manages his own venture fund Otterloo Ventures. He writes for Startupjuncture and Frankwatching.