Dutch Startup Changemakers: Bas van Rens (Founder of TrueKinetix)

Bas van Rens is the Founder and CEO of TrueKinetix, a company that offers a smart bike that makes indoor cycling as smooth as outside. While combining opportunities and technology give Bas energy, his entrepreneurial mind makes him look for shortcuts that solve problems and make people’s lives easier. TrueKinetix recently reached €2.5 million through crowdfunding and direct investments. One of the investors is Olympic and world champion Anna van der Breggen, who also uses the bike. Check out the top three lessons for founders Bas shared with us, and find out what’s the growth potential of his company.
A man with grey hair and glasses, wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans, standing next to an indoor bike
1. Hi Bas, thank you for agreeing to do the interview. Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you entered the startup world?

My first connection to the startup world was when I was 14 and I made a distance meter for my bike out of a magnet, sensor and a calculator. I sold around ten of them to the local bike shops. I’ve always liked electronics and coming up with solutions to problems.

After studying mechanical engineering and doing a PhD in numerical mechanics, I started working for Philips Research and within a half year there, my boss said I should use my business interests alongside my research background to look at new business development. So I started an internal startup inside Philipps to produce rollable displays. We manufactured the first roll up display in 2002. Right now there are folding phones and roll up screens, based to a certain degree on that technology.

In 2019, I founded TrueKinetix, a company that offers a smart bike that makes your indoor ride as smooth as outside. All of my youth, I’ve been very sportive and 10 years ago I started to do triathlons. I got so fed up with cycling indoors that I thought there has to be a better solution. That was the start of TrueKinetix. 

2. Could you tell us more about the idea that got TrueKinetix started and the growth potential of the company?

When I got fed up with cycling indoors I did a lot of my workouts on a loop around the airport (60km). I started analyzing what the problem was and basically, the forces that you feel while cycling outdoors are very different from what you feel when cycling indoors. The reason for that is that when you cycle indoors you have a flywheel that’s there to mimic your body weight but it doesn’t give you the accurate forces that you need. Therefore, you cannot really get rid of your energy. You get tired but you don’t get better at cycling.

I wanted to make a decent indoor cycle for myself. I calculated that I needed a flywheel of 450 kg, which wasn’t going to work. So one day, when I was driving my hybrid car and I was breaking, a light lit up saying – you’re regenerating energy and storing it in your battery. Then I thought I could use a motor to generate the braking force and that way I can control resistance very accurately and quickly. It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, but that was the start of TrueKinetix. In 2019 the company was officially founded.

In 2020, we grew by 300%. We’re 30 people now. The feedback from customers is really amazing. More than 75% of the people that tried the bike actually bought it. That proves to us that we’re game-changing indoor cycling by making it feel much more realistic. 

3. What is it about entrepreneurship that particularly attracts you? How do you feel you’re contributing to the startup ecosystem in the Netherlands?

What gives me energy is combining opportunities and technology. And looking for shortcuts that solve problems for the end consumer. I also like the thrill of risk-taking. As an entrepreneur, you have to have unwavering faith in your own ability to solve the problems you’ll find along the way. Entrepreneurs have to make these problems as small as possible and chip away at them one little step at a time. You have to focus on what you can fix today, keeping the long-term goal in perspective.

The startup ecosystem in the Netherlands is quite difficult due to the rules and regulations. The way we contribute is by giving people an awesome job in very cool new technology. Younger people that stayed with us for several years got jobs in bigger companies, and one of the reasons is because we’ve taught them to work in a structured way. I really believe it pays off to invest in people and their growth. 

4. Could you share the top three lessons for founders you’ve learned through your own experience?

  • Don’t sell your beta product with a discount – we took a very different approach than other companies would have when we first had working bikes. We sold them at full price, with no discounts. But we gave everybody a tiny stock option in the company. That did two things – people really wanted the success of the product and it gave us cash flow.
  • Keep showing up – you’re not going to solve everything today, but keep at it.
  • Find a problem you’re really passionate about – in our company we’re really passionate about showing the world how much more fun indoor cycling can be.  

5. What’s the next big thing in the startup world? What do you predict for the ecosystem in the Netherlands in the near future?​

Robotics is going to be more and more important. Physical human-robot interaction in the sense that people really train with robots and have a forceful interaction with the robot. 

The next big challenge for the Dutch startup ecosystem is figuring out a way of getting people who are technically skilled. Just because we need more people, doesn’t mean that people are going to get smarter, so we’re going to have to figure out a way how to put people to work in their own area of expertise and their own level of capability. 

Thanks a lot for sharing your story with us, Bas. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.

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