Annemarie van Gaal & Thierry Maasdam

For 15 years now, IQONIC, the incubator of Tilburg University, has been guiding starting entrepreneurs to the top. With advice, coaching, a workplace and funding, they have helped many success stories become reality. In this series of short articles, we let entrepreneurs from the incubator react to famous statements by well-known entrepreneurs: do they think the same, what drives them, and where do the entrepreneurs stand in direct opposition to each other? You can read it here!

Annemarie van Gaal (Independent Media) & Thierry Maasdam (Vallonic)


Annemarie who?

Dutch entrepreneur, investor, author and television personality. Van Gaal grew up in Heerlen and moved to Amsterdam after graduation. In 1985 she became an executive secretary and later a project manager at VNU publishers. In Russia she started her company Independent Media, which grew into the largest independent publishing company in Russia. In 2000, she sold her stake in Independent Media (700 employees, 20+ magazines) and moved back to the Netherlands where she started several companies in the media, retail and real estate sectors, among others. She also invested in a number of companies in the Netherlands and abroad. She is a supervisory director of a number of companies, a member of the Advisory Board of DUO and a board member of Start Foundation, a foundation that wants to make the job market suitable for people with a distance to the job market. She has advised various corporate finance advisors such as CVC and BC Capital Partners on acquisitions and has been a member of the Supervisory Board of the AFM (Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets). She is also known from television programs such as Dragons Den, Een Dubbeltje Op Zijn Kant and Crisis in de Tent and is often asked as a table guest at talk shows such as Op1, Goedemorgen Nederland or Jinek.

Why she is successful:

She is an entrepreneur at heart, sees and seizes opportunities, thinks in terms of possibilities, prefers to make decisions quickly. As she herself describes it, "In Russia, I had to come up with unconventional solutions every day to the many challenges I faced."

Famous quote:

‘Wavering joy is more exhausting than fixed suffering'

Who is Thierry?

Thierry is at the helm of internet agency Vallonic as "end boss". They create websites, online stores, and online software with an impact in business and education. At the age of sixteen, he founded the web agency Vallonic. Since then, his entrepreneurial journey has been amazing as he describes himself. "I have had the opportunity to work for quite a few interesting Dutch brands, mainly B2C. With Vallonic we are responsible for the code, hosting and maintenance of fully customized e-commerce and "regular" web solutions, built on Laravel or WordPress (with WooCommerce)."

Local clients include SB Supply, Maton Group, Naber Plastics, and Onderwijsgroep Tilburg. "Eventually, even Defense will come into contact with our programming, and that's very cool to be able to do that from the IQONIC Incubator!"

More Thierry? Visit:


Thierry, do you identify yourself with the quote of Annemarie?

Yes, definitely! Wavering joy comes and goes. You don't know where you stand; only that it doesn't appeal to you. Then you can't pivot on it, because you can't place it. Fixed distress, on the other hand, or "fixed bad luck and discontentment" as I read it, is something you get to know and thus can effectively defeat. After all, it is easier to locate. And thus easier to convert to established success. The latter is what I focus on.

How do you use the quote or your interpretation of it in your entrepreneurship?

In my business, systems are very important. In this way I create my own fixed success. In fact, by delineating our way of working, I create freedom. Freedom, to give Vallonic's creativity free rein and thereby launch new features quickly and effectively for our customers and end-users. On top of that, if one part of the way we work has failed in project X and we then improve it, this ensures that all subsequent projects benefit from the same improvements.

What success did that bring?

"Don't fall in love with your product." Many entrepreneurs think they see a gap in the market and start building, building, and building again. But during that building - with their hearing protection, safety glasses and construction helmet on - they don't even see or hear their intended customer. All they see is their "solution," based on assumptions. Only to find out that the product doesn't fit the need nearly as seamlessly, or at all. There you go, with all your delivered energy.

Now Vallonic engages in much more discussion with its customer, we ask questions, instead of saying to ourselves that we already understand the case and know the solution. We make diagrams and proposals to find out from the customer whether we have understood the processes and problems correctly and, more importantly, whether our solution will actually improve them. Then we haven't designed a block yet and haven't typed a line of code. Then we come up with a basic product, which we can expand in different directions in smaller trajectories. That takes a while, but is 1000x more effective, because the endpoint is closer to the final solution. 

Name one thing that has always stuck with you from your time at IQONIC.

IQONIC – represents and supports all aspects of entrepreneurship within Tilburg University. They help students, alumni, academics and employees of Tilburg University to further develop their entrepreneurial mindset, so that they can make a difference in society. IQONIC does this by stimulating and supporting creativity and innovation.

Did you know: The Entrepreneurship Center of Tilburg University was founded in 2006? Would you like entrepreneurial support? Contact us and make an appointment with Karen or Dirk