Hans de Penning is the Founder and CEO of Neople, providing the world’s most helpful and intelligent digital co-workers for customer support teams. With the help of a Neople, your customer support team can handle incoming tickets with the speed of light. Neoples help answer all incoming questions, and they’re trained in your tone of voice. Find out more about Hans’ company, and check out the advice for founders he shared with us.
1. Hi, Hans. Thank you very much for agreeing to do the interview. Could you tell us about your background and connection to the startup world?
I studied Software and Electrical Engineering in Eindhoven. During my studies, I started my first company, which wasn’t a startup. But after that, I started Amber, an electric car-sharing startup, with some fellow students, and that’s how I got connected to the startup world. We also raised funding through Leapfunder. Amber was sold last year, and that’s when I started my new company, Neople, together with great people I’ve met along the way.
2. Neople is providing the world’s most helpful and intelligent co-workers for customer support teams. Tell us more about your mission.
We employ digital humans. We wanted to help companies that are not very tech-savvy to follow along in this digitalization trend. We don’t sell technology or software; we give a companion to employees who feels like a real colleague. We ensure it’s the best colleague – it can learn tasks from you and take them over, and you can also learn from it.
We now have a team of around 20 people, and we just raised an investment round of €1.5M. We acquired another company, and we’re selling to multiple companies around the Netherlands and Europe. All of this happened this year, a big year for us.
3. What is it about entrepreneurship that particularly attracts you? How do you feel you’re contributing to the ecosystem in the Netherlands?
My father was also an entrepreneur, so taking that route feels natural. I love the feeling of building something from the ground up.
In the Netherlands, there’s an unspoken rule of founders helping other founders. I feel the need to support other founders, share advice, and connect them to relevant people. I don’t do that to get something in return; that doesn’t matter. It’s always the right thing to do; great things happen when you support others in the ecosystem.
4. Could you share the top three lessons for founders you’ve learned over the years?
I think it’s essential to spend time with your investors and ensure you’re strategically aligned with them. I spend a lot of time with our investors.
Another piece of advice I would share is to hire only great people. It’s challenging to spot great people, especially if you’re a young founder and everyone has more experience than you. But it’s better to spend more money on one great employee than two or three okayish employees.
Lastly, make sure you’re entirely focused on the things you can do best and on your perfect customer. That’s the only way you can succeed.
5. What’s your view on the Dutch startup ecosystem?
As a nation, we have an issue of not believing. We all think we have to have evidence that the company will succeed before starting it. We’re always on the lookout for sufficient proof. And that makes it challenging to launch a company, leading to less great companies emerging in this country. On the positive side, how founders in the Netherlands help other founders and give back is one of the things that makes our ecosystem so strong.
Thank you for sharing your insights and story with us, Hans. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
Join our network of startups & investors!