Student life

This incubator in Delft gives student entrepreneurs a kick-start

Student entrepreneurs can learn about running a business in an accessible way at the Kickstart Lab. “I feel like I can do ‘real work’ here instead of just messing around.”

Workspace in the Kickstart Lab. (Photo: Thijs van Reeuwijk)

Young entrepreneurs can make their first forays into the business world in one of the factory halls of the old Nederlandse Kabelfabriek (Dutch cable factory) on the Schieweg. The Kickstart Lab (in Dutch) offers starting entrepreneurs free access to work and production space, and coaching.

Out of the bedroom

The idea for the Kickstart Lab started more than a year ago at the New Future Lab (in Dutch) Delft entrepreneurs collective. “We saw that there were a lot of young people with good ideas, but who found it hard to turn them into reality,” explains Marijn van Steen, the Kickstart Community Manager.

Entrepreneurial young people can receive support and coaching from an expert and can use the working and production space free of charge. “We want to get the entrepreneurs out of the bedroom. This location is a lot more professional to work in and to receive clients.”

Een paar mensen staan in een ruimte tegen een gele achtergrond.
A few of the current Kickstart Lab students. With Daan Rijpkema (far left), communitymanager Marijn van Steen (second from left) and Ricardo Boon (far right). (Photo: Thijs van Reeuwijk)

There is no balloting committee for entrance. “Everyone is welcome here, from secondary school students with good ideas to successful student entrepreneurs.”

Safe place for entrepreneurs

Daan Rijpkema was one of the first members of the Kickstart Lab. He describes it as ‘working in a safe bubble’. “There are no closed offices so you have a lot of contact with each other. This is good as you learn a lot from each other.”

Along with two fellow students, Rijpkema is part of Enshape Design Studio, a creative design bureau where they turn ideas into product concepts and visualisations. “I feel like I can do ‘real work’ here instead of just messing around.”

‘We are now running full steam ahead’

The Lab is also exactly what Ricardo Boon of De Social Hub (in Dutch) was looking for. “Over the last two-and-a-half years, we did not have a fixed place to work and we went from campus to one study location after another. Our idea, a foundation that aims to increase the societal involvement of students, did not get off the ground. We are now running full steam ahead.”

Twaalf clipboards hangen tegen een gele wand. Op de clipboards zijn logo's van studentondernemingen te zien.
Every student venture will have a clipboard with its company logo on the wall (Photo: Thijs van Reeuwijk)
Dream scenario

While the first group of young entrepreneurs has only just started, Community Manager Van Steen is already looking to the future. “The dream scenario is that everyone here becomes so successful that they do not need us anymore and eventually return as mentors. But this is for the future. For now I tell everyone that comes here that they just have to get started.”

To her mind, the idea that a business succeeds in one go is utopia. “It may still be a taboo subject, but many starting entrepreneurs fail a few times. You do not need to do it right in one go. It’s ok to fail. You learn a lot more then.”

Rijpkema says that the young entrepreneurs are trying to normalise the culture of failure. “Even though we all work here on our businesses, we are still colleagues. Everyone experiences the same problems, and this means a shared recognition so that you dare be open about it. It is not about not making mistakes, as these are the best learning opportunities for entrepreneurs. It is better to fail in the Kickstart Lab than not be able to put bread on the table anymore.”

  • The Kickstart Lab now has nine initiatives. There is still space for new student entrepreneurs. Click here for more information (in Dutch).
News editor Marjolein van der Veldt

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