Meet the Startup in Residence
Sabine Eijlander Msc. (Architecture)
The Hague University of Applied Sciences
I work as a project manager at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Here I link the business community to education, organise networking events, manage the programming of the faculty of Technology, Innovation and Society for external events and contribute to various research agendas.
“Following my Higher Professional Education studies in Architecture, I did a master’s degree in architecture at Delft University of Technology. I graduated a few years ago with research into temporary initiatives for the Delft Railway Zone. Through this research, I arrived at The Hague University of Applied Sciences and got involved with ‘New Ways of Development” [‘Nieuw Anders Ontwikkelen’] by Delft Design. Besides my work, I share ideas with a number of people from Delft Design about the ‘New Ways of Development’. Here we think about ways of helping land/building owners to develop their plot. For example, we organise brainstorm and theme evenings at Delft Design where we can discuss the question with different people. This resulted from the initiative ‘use empty space’ (Gebruik de lege ruimte). The group includes architects and urban planners, who make work of their hobby. We very often see empty buildings (in Delft, but also in The Hague and other big cities) which spoil the look of the city. During a cycle tour, we identified possible projects and contacted property owners. We ask them questions like: ‘What are you planning for this building? Can we help you?’ Then we invite people from Delft Design, and also interested citizens. We ask them: ‘What opportunities do you see?’ Then we make an initial selection and consider what functions might be suitable for the building. Sometimes really nice ideas emerge. We always hope to leave the property owner inspired.”
Why does the owner leave the building empty?
Most of the time because they don’t have another program for it or there’s no new buyer for the plot. Due to the economic crisis opportunities to develop in the way they were used to don’t work anymore. .
What is your personal experience with the developments of startups in the urban sector?
In my experience, they do not always have an easy time. Besides the money problems facing many startups, there are also all the laws and regulations in the public domain that make life difficult for them. Sometimes they have very good ideas, but they don’t get off the ground because they have to fulfil so many requirements.
While I was finishing my studies, I came into contact with initiatives for which there was demand. Great plans were developed. But then nothing happened. For example, because the municipality doesn’t know when a plot is vacant, or they weren’t feasible due to regulations. Sometimes it’s a funding problem, there were no investors, or the number of funding budget was limited. Then there’s a critical selection and only two initiatives can be implemented.
What is your advice to Startup in Residence?
Follow your own good ideas. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Sometimes more flexibility is required from organisations like provinces, municipality and property owners. That’s why I like the fact that the municipality is asking this Startup in Residence questions. The angle is also nice: these are the problems. Who’s got a solution? I really hope that there are enough entrepreneurs who see something in it!“
In what sense can the startup climate in The Hague grow further?
In most university cities, you have accelerator programmes like Yes! Delft, Erasmus centre for Entrepreneurship in Rotterdam, often linked to the university. And there’s nothing like that in The Hague. So where does it come from? For example, I do see initiatives originating at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. And I know that they can go a step further. But afterwards they often fall in a hole. They can’t rely on the students. That’s where there’s a gap. You see that in the success of Yes! Delft, also Erasmus centre for Entrepreneurship Rotterdam. Often bigger companies are interested too.
Of course Bink36 is full of creative young businesses. But they are all doing it alone. That’s why it’s so good that we now have SIR, making the link between businesses and people with good ideas.
Entrepreneurship is something that’s in your blood and most of the people haven’t studied for it. That’s why starters often don’t get a place in the market. How do you promote yourself? How do you conduct your campaign? Funding? How do you approach big companies to sponsor you? Investment? Plan. Not every young professional has these skills. Engineers are often obsessed with their own specialist field.
How is innovation intertwined with your daily life?
I work at the Faculty of Technology, Innovation and Society.
Here lots of projects are implemented in which innovation plays an important role. From self-driving wheelchairs, autonomous urban vehicles to drones which whizz past your ears.
I see and hear it all every day in projects the students are working on. There’s lots of activity, both in research, business and industry.
What experience do you have with innovation? What makes innovation more or less successful?
Innovation is successful if there’s a good solution for a problem. And not just any solution, but a solution which can grow, which is scalable, but also flexible enough to adapt to things. The pitfalls mainly lie in those last aspects.
What do you think of the business/innovation climate in The Hague?
I feel a bit ambiguous about it. On the one hand, there’s a lot going on. On the other hand, it’s not always visible. You know, for example, that lots is going on around universities and in incubators, but The Hague doesn’t have an incubator. So where does it all happen in The Hague?
I think it’s good that the New World campus and buildings like Bink 26 and the CabFab, for example, can accommodate it.
What do you think about the Startup in Residence programme?
I like seeing urban issues being part of a startup campaign. The questions are reasonably specific and I’m curious to see what original answers are produced. And it’s good that it’s not just the question, but that there’s also a follow up. A whole programme to promote the ideas further.
What is your motivation for taking part in this jury?
I’m naturally interested in innovations and ideas which come from a surprising angle. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what we have in our region. It’s also nice to see what issues are important, partly with a view to education, which is my daily work.
What will you focus on during the judging?
I’m mainly going to focus on whether an idea has a future perspective. Is it something which could grow? And I’m particularly interested in ideas that are just a bit different. From the different niches you get the best ideas. A startup can only be successful if it can grow. Otherwise it’s the answer to a question and that’s it. You must see that potential reflected somewhere. In enthusiasm, in vision, in an elaborated plan.
An example of a successful startup is the Ocean Cleanup. Started as 1 idea. But, it should be able to address very big problems. Start small. Is there a vision behind it? Without that vision, it stays small. You want to look for something which has potential for development.
What are you most interested in/do you hope to see/read?
I hope to see a lot of creativity, not a reinvention of the wheel, but something more. Ideas which immediately make us enthusiastic. Creativity and thinking outside the box are important to me, not always taking the first obvious option, but be creative with it. Often this produces the better ideas.