Marc Wesselink is a motivator, a business coach and a critical optimist who was involved as a co-founder in 12 startups. He has an in-depth knowledge in many fields which can help entrepreneurs maintain a 360-degree view of their business. He is currently in charge of selecting startups for the accelerator programs in Amsterdam and helping the alumni from Startupbootcamp Amsterdam with the execution of their business. Find out more about his role in the Dutch startup scene, the lessons he shares with founders & what he predicts for Dutch startup ecosystem in the near future.
1. Hi Marc, thank you for agreeing to do the interview. Could you tell us a bit about your background and your role in the Dutch Startup scene?
I have started companies since my college years and I like the initial phase of a company. Searching for a repeatable and scalable model based on customer’s problem and not a founder’s solution. I am part of Startupbootcamp since the early days and saw the ecosystem literally improving as we were busy doing our own stuff. We need to be careful so it doesn’t become a hype because building companies is one of the hardest things to do. I like to see my role as a trusted advisor who has been through the same journey as the founder. Someone even named me the Startup Whisperer….
2. You have started 12 companies, failed 4 times and invested in startups 18 times. You’re currently in charge of selecting startups for the accelerator programs in Amsterdam and helping the alumni of Startupbootcamp Amsterdam with the execution of their business. What is the thing you’re most proud of in shaping the Dutch startup ecosystem?
That is a question better answered by someone else but I really hope I have contributed by connecting the dots, sharing my knowledge without expecting something in return and inspired people to become an entrepreneur.
3. You’re a motivator and a business coach who shares his knowledge with the new generation of entrepreneurs. Please share your top 3 lessons for founders you learned over the years of working with startups.
Here are the three lessons: 1) All entrepreneurs have the same disease: falling in love with their own solution. They need to keep talking to their customers to check whether they are really solving their problem instead of solving their own. 2) Check the status of your founder team regularly. It is easy to lose each other on the way to the top. 3) Focus on a very small customer segment and make the customers really enthusiastic about your product. Compare it to a small but intense flame that will create a big fire in the future.
4. You have extensive experience mentoring the founder teams. What is it about the startup world that particularly attracts you? What’s your advice for those new to investing in startups?
I love the creative process of making something out of nothing. To funnel this process is one of the hardest things to do. I have done it multiple times and can, therefore, guide founders through this difficult process. I can also encourage them to get going because giving up is not an issue as long as you are open to feedback from your customers.
5. What do you predict for the Dutch startup ecosystem in the near future? What are your plans, what will you focus on?
I see the Brexit as an opportunity. London is now #1 on the European Startup List (out of which >50% of startups come from Eastern & Southern Europe). But Amsterdam needs to take its place! In order to achieve that we need to do three things in the Netherlands: 1. Establish a special startup BV without a notary involved (like in the UK); 2. We need tax incentive for informal investors to invest in startups; and 3. We need more institutional money invested in seed capital because now everyone is investing in post-revenue companies.
Thank you for the interview and sharing your insights Marc. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!