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Meet jury member Johnno Wesseling

Startup in residence Startups Technology

Meet the Startup in Residence jury
drs. Johnno Wesseling
Siemens Nederland

Who are you and what is your daily work and background?

“Johnno Wesseling, Siemens Nederland, responsible for corporate communication, government relations and sustainability. Prior to that, I worked in the telecom sector and water technology sector, at Siemens and other companies. I’ve had this job since October 2012. Before, I was always active in a commercial capacity, partly in the Dutch part of the Caribbean, then several years in Europe where I was responsible for marketing and sales of  Siemens Water Technologies.”

Innovation

How is innovation intertwined in your daily life?

Innovation is the basis of the company I work for: Siemens.

Our founder, Werner von Siemens, was an inventor/entrepreneur who held patents for telegraphy. The current Siemens owes its existence to innovation too. This year we are investing 5 billion euros worldwide in R&D, and around 30,000 employees in the company are involved in innovation. We will soon be launching the next47 programme for innovation with hubs in Munich, Berkeley and Shanghai. The first project is a joint venture with Airbus, in which we plan to demonstrate the technical feasibility of hybrid/electrical drive systems for small and medium-sized passenger aircraft. With next47, we want to become faster, more manoeuvrable and simpler, a new approach in the field of innovation and an expansion of our cooperation with startups.”

What experience do you have with innovation? What makes innovation more or less successful?

“As a company, we have lots of experience with innovation. Given this, the “German” approach sometimes differs from the “Dutch”. For our neighbours to the east, technology itself is often central. In the Netherlands, it’s also often about the application, the social acceptance and the use of the technology. In that respect, I feel that we can learn a lot from each other. With regard to innovation, at Siemens it’s obviously about innovative technology, which to be successful must also be accepted and applied. S = Q * A, to stay in engineering terms: the Success of an innovation is a result of the product of the (technical) Quality and the Acceptance.

For successful innovations, I think it’s very important to think in terms of the client, so demand-driven.

Furthermore, innovation is not always a linear process, in which A automatically leads to B. Creativity and always being open to the unexpected is important.”

What do you think of the business/innovation climate in The Hague?

“I feel that The Hague has made real progress in recent years. Traditionally, The Hague was an administrative city, although the telecommunications sector and ICT were always well represented. Recently, the city has been facing a shrinking government and there has been increased attention for business and innovation. With initiatives like The Hague Security Delta, but also the city’s participation in a metropolis context with the Roadmap Next Economy programme,

The Hague is doing well in attracting business and innovation to the city.

The government as ‘launching customer’ offers starting entrepreneurs the opportunity to really get their startup going. The true value for the city in terms of employment is obviously only achieved when the startup also becomes a scale up.”

What do you think about the Startup in Residence programme? 

“An excellent initiative. I can see huge enthusiasm among young people for starting up their own company. Whereas in the past, a job with a big corporate was the main goal of a school leaver from Higher Professional/Pre-University education, now it’s starting your own company. Entrepreneurship must be stimulated. Two notes to startups:

–        Firstly, startups must also be able to fail. Not all starting companies are immediately successful. Compare the situation in the United States, where you don’t count as an entrepreneur until you’ve been declared bankrupt once. It’s very different in the Netherlands. I wonder how that will be addressed in the Startup in Residence programme.

–        Secondly: there is huge attention for startups worldwide. Every self-respecting city has a startup/innovation or incubation centre. However, it’s important that as a city you stay close to your profile. That’s why I’m very interested in the idea of focusing on the social challenges of the city itself.”

What will you focus on during the judging, do you have any advice for them?

“In particular, the extent to which there is attention for sustainability and communication: from the plan to the end user. How is this implemented? How do they bring this to the market? How are the innovations communicated?

Take Tesla, for example. On the one hand, they build a fantastic brand, on the other hand they take sustainable technology as a starting point.”

What is your motivation for taking part in this jury?

“I always enjoy coming into contact with new/innovative/inspiring ideas. They are often driven by people with passion. It’s not only great to see what’s the most appealing idea. I also feel it’s valuable to use the combined strengths of the jury to help startups embark on the next step. So who knows, perhaps we can join forces at the end of the journey. The meeting between the judged and the jury can produce a springboard for the future.”

What are you most interested in/do you hope to see/read?

“I expect passion and drive to push the idea to the next phase: how is that displayed? You always need people to communicate a good idea.

I look forward to seeing passion and drive.

And how these startups think about things in alternative ways, not routinely moving from idea to plan to execution: having exciting ideas that are going to enrich me. I hope to learn something. Ideas or passionate people.”