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Engie Algae in Singapore

Together with 4 other students and ENGIE, Hein Laterveer, a Public Administration student, won the Rotterdam100, a talent contest for young entrepreneurs with ideas for the ‘Next Economy’. The Dutch winners travelled to Singapore for the international final. Hein talks about this special trip and educational experience.

Following a stopover in Dubai, we finally arrived in Singapore after a 22-hour trip. After checking in, we decided to first take a dip in the hotel’s swimming pool. We had a stunning view of the city from the roof.

On the first day of the ‘Global Final’, we were expected in a former cinema on the other side of Singapore. The event was opened by the chair of the organiser ‘Get in the Ring’ and then last year’s winner returned to tell us how the win had grown his business astronomically. His company Dot makes watches for blind and partially sighted individuals and now has 140,000 orders to deliver. We then attended workshops dispersed throughout the city, given by all kinds of startups, companies and venture capitalists on pitching, scaling and corporate startup ventures. The day ended with dinner and an open bar. Because alcohol is prohibitively expensive in Singapore, this was a pleasant surprise for our student team.

On the second day, all the startups were allowed to pitch for the jury, which gave us the chance to further explore the city. Singapore is an extremely beautiful, green, clean and safe city with a lot of modern architecture and plenty of vegetation. Some members of our team also attended ‘Tech in Asia’, a large tech conference that was underway in the middle of the city. In the evening, the exciting moment came for all the attendants, when the six finalists were announced for the final the next day. Of course, there was an open bar at the end once again.

On the last day, there was the big show, with six finalists in three categories, three jury members and a real boxing ring where they attacked each other verbally. The winners ranged from a medical startup with a product for combating incontinence to a grasshopper farmer with great ambitions.

The best thing about Get in the Ring was the energetic and innovative atmosphere that surrounds the collection of startups. It was a large group of young people who came from all over the world hoping to win, but also to make strong contacts and reel in potential investors. As a team, we also met many cool startups and interesting venture capitalists.

From a public administration perspective, it’s great to see how Singapore is striving to promote itself as a startup paradise. Fifty years ago, the city grew explosively thanks to successful government policies to attract large companies such as banks to establish in Singapore, coupled with the rapid growth of Singapore's port. It’s like putting the Zuidas next to the Port of Rotterdam and making that into a country.

I found it very exciting to make contact with the world outside the public sector. It helps to broaden your viewpoint and orient you on all the opportunities available in the private sector and what it takes to be a successful enterprise.

As a team, we are now seriously looking at whether we can turn our concept into a real business. The cherry on the cake was that, as the team captain, I was interviewed last Monday by Harm Edens for BNR Duurzaam about our concept and everything surrounding it. If you’d like to listen, this is the link (in Dutch). 

- Hein Laterveer

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