For 15 years now, Tilburg University's incubator, IQONIC, has been guiding start-up 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 they stand diametrically opposed to each other? You can read it here!
Jeff Bezos (Amazon) & Erik de Bruijn (Stekker.app)
Yes, but also tycoon, media owner and investor. Bezos is the founder and CEO of the multinational technology company Amazon. With a net worth of more than $200 billion by June 2021, he is the richest person in the world according to both Forbes and Bloomberg's Billionaires Index.
Why he is succesful:
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos shared four key pieces of advice that have helped make his company a success. At a 2019 conference, Bezos encouraged entrepreneurs to take risks, be passionate, be customer-centric and be willing to fail. Bezos founded Amazon in 1995 with just 10 employees.
"One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out."
So who’s Erik?
Erik de Bruijn is co-founder of Ultimaker, the market leader in creating powerful, professional and accessible desktop 3D printers. With offices in the Netherlands, New York and Boston, plus manufacturing facilities in both Europe and the US, Ultimaker's team of over 250 employees continually strives to offer the highest quality 3D printers, software and materials on the market. In addition, Erik is co-founder and managing director of Stekker.app. Stekker.app develops smart charging apps and algorithms so that electric vehicles and other energy buffers are a solution for the transition to a sustainable energy system.
More Erik? Check it out here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/edebruijn/
Erik, can you agree with the quote from Jeff Bezos?
Yes, I can relate to this. What Jeff Bezos did is turn limitations into advantages. If your constraint is that you have thin margins, which you have to be economical with, you have to be inventive to do it right. This is also the strength of a startup and why it gives me energy to be an entrepreneur. I find the phase in which you still have to find out what works and what doesn't the most exciting. You don't have infinite time to get validation from the market, because if plan A doesn't work you have to start a new plan.
How do you use the quote or your interpretation of it in your entrepreneurship?
It does have topicality for us. There are often multiple sides to it though. With my latest startup, Stekker.app, we can raise money and "buy" market share through promotional campaigns and thus build critical mass. Yet you would rather achieve organic growth by making your product very good. This is where we tend to go. We all know that the best product does not always win, so here we will have to make a timely decision. Also, you want to make an impact and your product is not automatically known to potential customers. So sometimes the traditional way, promoting your product instead of just focusing on quality, makes sense. In practice, the combination is especially strong: a good product that becomes known because campaigns have a good conversion (people who know about it then also want it).
What success did that bring?
With Ultimaker, of which I am one of the founders, we were very frugal at the beginning. That allowed us to bootstrap the whole company (startup, in this context extending the startup phase ed.) until many years later. We were still independent when we already had annual sales of many millions. That's about more than money, it means that Ultimaker was able to chart its own course, without the interference of investors. So, you don't have to convince anyone of why you let a social enterprise do something instead of getting it from Asia, or why you share so many of your products open source. In the end, we did attract investment, but then you are also in control, because the company already has enough "body" and you have several candidates who want to invest. Ultimaker has now also opened an office in Singapore.
Again, with Stekker.app, we are paying close attention to our financial resources. You want to be efficient with your income and be creative. Money can actually get in the way of that creativity. If we can bootstrap a large part of our own income again, I think that is a great thing, you can then focus on the business and are less concerned with the shareholder table. Moreover, it forces you to really validate your business model and turn it into a real company. Nevertheless, we have noticed that there are already a lot of requests from parties who want to invest in our company. Perhaps we will now be charmed by an investor who can also support us in making it a success, we shall see!
Name 1 thing that has always stuck with you from your time at IQONIC
It is very nice that my path crosses again with another entrepreneur, Remko ten Barge. It's an extra nice start of a cooperation when you come from the same nest. I also think that the incubator has helped me not only to think about technology, which comes more naturally to me, but also all the other aspects that come with a business.
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: There are several study associations that deal with entrepreneurship? Get to know or join ABC, Asset S&L and Enactus. Want to learn more about these study associations? Visit https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/nl/campus/ondernemerschap/ondersteuning#netwerk