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Improving Drenthe’s startup climate with the Young Business Award

Three young startup enthusiasts founded the Young Business Award competition in order to improve the startup climate in the northern Netherlands and to “break the taboo on pitching”.

Pitching ideas

Niels Palmers wanted to do something to improve the startup climate in Drenthe, so together with two business partners he started the Young Business Award in 2014. In the football stadium of FC Emmen they awarded the best local startup with price money, office space and coaching services. Reactions were very positive and the three men decided to continue with their endeavour. For the sake of more professionalism, they set up The Young Business Award Foundation.

Although the competition for the Young Business Award is now open for all Dutch startups, the main goal of the competition is still to stimulate the startup climate in the northern Netherlands. Niels Palmers: “Pitching an idea in front of investors is a key aspect for the success of a startup.” Still, the threshold to pitch for an investment is quite high in The Netherlands, especially in the northern provinces. Palmers: “With the Young Business Awards we want to break the taboo and provide startups with a podium to kick-start their business.”

To further improve the local startup climate, The Young Business Award Foundation has partnered up with the Ondernemersfabriek Drenthe, a startup platform which provides budding entrepreneurs with coaching, workshops, access to useful networks, as well as office space in several cities in the province of Drenthe.
Other partners of the Young Business Award are the Dutch oil and gas company (NAM), the municipality of Emmen, the chamber of commerce and the Rabobank.

Young Business Award 2016

In 2015, the Young Business Award ceremony attracted an audience of three hundred people. They watched how six startups pitched their ideas in the finals and how 5.000 euro prize money and 15.000 euro worth of benefits was awarded to the winners. The overal winner was Bioboxx, who developed a cardboard container for corporate organic waste collection.

For the 2016 edition, the prize money has beeen increased to 12.500 euro, making the Young Business Award the biggest startup competition in the northern Netherlands. In April and May there will be three pre-selection rounds in Drenthe: in Emmen, Assen and Hoogeveen, where a total of eighteen startups will be able to pitch their ideas. On June 14 six selected startups will compete in the big finale in Emmen’s brand new Atlas theatre. With a capacity of over 800 people, the Atlas theatre is the perfect venue to accommodate the 2016 edition of the Young Business Award. Palmers: “We now have an A-list location, substantial prize money and high quality investors. Our ambition is for the Young Business Award one to become one of the top-three startup competitions in The Netherlands.”
Drenthe-based InCrowdz will implement their live crowdfunding system, so people in the audience can invest in startups right on the spot.
Startups who want to pitch the Young Business Award 2016 can apply now.

Atlas Theatre Emmen


Although online auction startup Catawiki, the fastest growing European tech startup of 2015 according to Deloite, is from Drenthe, this might not seem the most obvious place to choose as a location for your startup. Known for its history and peaceful rural landscapes, but there is more to this province. Sensor technology is the main industry in Drenthe. The capital city of Assen has initiated the Sensor City project, which serves as an innovation platform for sensor technology. Also, agriculture always has been important in Drenthe, with agricultural exports playing a large role in the local economy. Agro-businesses also produce materials for the chemical industry which is located here, and which is focussing more and more on the production and development of bio-composites and biobased fibres. Recently The European Commission chose the region of Groningen-Drenthe as one of the six example regions for biobased economy in Europe.

Pictures provided by Eric Eilering

Joffrey Mandersloot
Joffrey is a freelance writer and editor for startupjuncture, with a background in biology and environmental studies.

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