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Student entrepreneurs give HUBspot a lively opening

Confetti cannons announced the opening of HUBspot, the new venue for innovation and entrepreneurship at the Langegracht in Leiden, on 31 October. But all attention was on the young student entrepreneurs who presented their businesses.

Where do you start?

HUBspot is where Leiden University, the Hogeschool Leiden, Leiden Council and entrepreneurs combine forces to drive innovation in the region. There is already a lot going on at the Leiden Bio Science Park, but it's not the only place for entrepreneurs.  Where can students go for advice if they have an idea for a business? And where should they go if they don't have a specific idea, but they do want to set up a business? Where can they get information, and business training? The answer:  at HUBspot.

The building may be low budget but the atmosphere is good.

Meeting place, knowledge and training centre

There are already a lot of facilities for new entrepreneurs. At Leiden University, Luris valorisation institute is there to give support. Students can also go to LUGUS, specially for new starters. Both Luris and LUGUS have now moved to HUBspot at Langegracht 70. The first and second floors have been converted into a meeting place and a knowledge and learning centre. Workshops are given on networking and basic business skills, and there are meeting and lecture rooms. Young entrepreneurs who are just setting up a business can rent office space there. And there's lots of space for student entrepreneurs to get together and exchange ideas.

Visitors to the opening could follow workshops. For those who were not present, check out HUBspot's programme.

A lot to learn

There was a lot to learn at the opening. For instance, that there are a lot of good business ideas at the interface between different disciplines. That you shouldn't try to keep your business idea a secret, but that you should talk openly about it: more people than you might think are willing and able to help you. That a failed idea is also a good learning experience. That there are also business ideas that are looking for an entrepreneur. Nationally, between 5 and 10 % of students start up a business. Leiden is lagging somewhat behind, but the interest is growing. The average time that people in Leiden stay here is around thirteen years, but in the city centre the average time is only five years. The municipality of Leiden would like to see these times increase.

The Van Stein and Groentjes stand

Van Stein & Groentjes

The fair with enormously enthusiastic new student entrepreneurs was inspiring. Van Stein & Groentjes BV, the company run by Bas van Stein and Tom Groentjes was one of the new companies with a stand.  Both Leiden alumni, Van Stein is now also a PhD candidate at the Leiden Institute for Computer Science. The two young entrepreneurs  - together with a whole team of colleagues - make websites and apps, mainly for third parties, but if they come up with a good idea for an app, they make it themselves. They've had the university and Ahold as clients. 

Buxenus and Flexlab

There's also Maximillian Green and Jan Zender with their company Buxenus.  They developed a simple device for photographing DNA. DNA is only visible once it has been passed through a gel and illuminated. Then it can be photographed. Professionale apparatus costs around 20 to 30 thousand euros because it contains a complete spectrum of light. If someone needs only one light colour from the spectrum, they can use the much cheaper Buxenus equipment. But Buxenus offers another service too, in cooperation with Biopartner 4 on the Leiden Bio Science Park. It's difficult for students (and starters) to buy lab time; they barely get a look-in with their minor jobs. Now a small lab has been built on the Leiden Bio Science Park specially for smaller users who can make use of it at low cost: Flexlab.

EntryOne

Coen Breedveld

Coen Breedveld, former chairman of LUGUS - Student Entrepreneurs, has almost graduated. He runs EntryOne, a student consultancy that links students with consultants in the pharmaceutical industry for a period of a maximum of ten weeks. The students can formulate an advice for a client, and the consultant will indicate the key themes of the advice. That's ideal for students, says Breedveld. ‘It's actually a job, because students can earn money from it, and it helps students move forward in their particular field. And the consultant can take on more assignments.' He does mention that he is in the process of transferring his company: a client asked him to implement the advice that he helped write for them, and he's keen to take them up on their offer. 'In a month I'll have graduated, and I'm ready for the next challenge.' The business ideas that he's still working on are included in the business assets. 

Landscape

Leiden alumnus Lucas van der Meer also presented his business.  Big data is hot. Landscape, of which Van der Meer is co-founder, focuses on medium and smaller organisations that have not-such-big data and want to get the maximum use out of it. 'Sometimes they have a mad question, and at other times they want to know that they can do with that data.' Landscape helps them work it out. It could mean storing the data differently, organising it differently, or gathering just a little more data or different data. His clients include Artis, a care institution, a bank and a publishing house.   

There was a lot of interest in the bitterbal test. Which is best? Letting your bitterbal fall into the mustard from a good height, or politely dipping? This might fall inthe category of useless but fun research, not to mention tasty.

(CH/Photos 1, 3 4 and 5: buro jp)

Tips for starters

Five tips from Jochem Vroom's personal experience with Imbull.com that developed on the back of discount sites, like Kortingscode.nl. Active in 23 countries and market leader in Indonesia and New Zealand, Inbull.com has been taken over by Global Savings Group. Vroom now also invests in starts and takes an active role in helping develop their business.

  • Make sure you keep on learning, whether it's small or big things. Definitely once you take on staff, you'll learn quickly.
  • Start putting your idea into practice as soon as possible, even if it's just small steps. And if it doesn't work out, that's also a learning opportunity. 
  • The path you choose will determine your future. Don't be be persuaded to deviate from your chosen. 
  • Don't keep your idea secret; you need to put it into action and persevere.
  • If you remain true to your passion, you have an amazing advantage.