Amsterdam Capital Week is coming up soon: in the week of 23 to 26 September, 20 events will bring 500+ investors to Amsterdam looking to connect to and invest in startups. Amsterdam Capital Week advisory board member Bas Lemmens knows both sides, being a startup founder and an investor himself. StartupAmsterdam asked Bas to impart some of his lessons and what he believes will make this epic week into a success.
Who is Bas Lemmens?
Bas Lemmens’ entry into the world of startups happened many years ago. While studying in Enschede, Bas’ housemate Geert-Jan Bruinsma founded the famous website Booking.com, and asked Bas to come on board the company. As Bas unfolds the story of where and what he has done professionally, it becomes clear that he is an energetic man. “What I love the most is to maximize a team’s potential, get things done with inexhaustible energy and help people reach unexpected heights.” Bas has recently started a new company: Roomlr, a worldwide locator of holiday homes and apartments for every budget. StartupAmsterdam visits Bas in his Roomlr office to pick the brain of this multiple startup founder, investor and member of the advisory board of Amsterdam Capital Week.
It’s all about the 4 T’s
Bas Lemmens knows the tricks of the trade when it comes to founding a successful startup. It’s all about the four T’s: Team, Technology, Traction and Timing. “If you don’t have your four T’s set and accounted for, you might as well call it quits. Timing is most important: make your product too soon (or too late, for that matter) and there will be no demand for it. Timing does not happen in Excel sheets, it happens out in the world: consider global events and deals that are made at the right time. If you latch on to timing your startup can take flight.” The importance of timing is closely followed by that of team: “Startups are the work of man. The best advice I can give a startup is to recruit and retain the best people. It is people that make your product. Now that the financial crisis is settling down it becomes easier for startups –unsteady employers after all– to get access to talent.”
How to approach VCs
Having these four pillars in order enables your startup to present well before a VC. “All that VCs want to see is that you have the best team, high-standard technology and traction to prove that there’s a market for your product.” Don’t lose yourself in endless business plans, but make sure to have the actual business in order. Last but not least, Bas emphasizes the need for vehemence and perseverance: “Getting funding from a VC is right up there with making an exit. It is difficult.” Bas mentions Airbnb, and how its founder Brian Chesky posted a blog on the rejections by prominent investors. “You need to pick yourself up and go at it full-force each time. Believe in your story, incorporate feedback and get it across with confidence. A VC is not interested in the challenges you face, but cares whether you have a winner’s mentality.”
When attending Amsterdam Capital Week
How should attendees prepare for this intensive Capital Week? “Research similar companies in other countries. What markets do they operate in? How much funding did they ask for and receive? Make sure you have a convincing pitch during Amsterdam Capital Week: failure is not an option. Lastly, startups should not be afraid to profess that they need funding; name a figure.” What about VCs and investors attending Amsterdam Capital Week? “They should make sure not to miss any more opportunities, look at the amazing list of Dutch and international startups that already flourish here. Think of FocusCura, TravelBird, StudentHotel, Booking.com, Elastic Search, Shapeways. Amsterdam Capital Week is the time to grab your chance! And enjoy Amsterdam while you’re here.” Once the deal is done Bas urges VCs “..to give young companies time: let them make mistakes while they continue to receive your support.”
5 requirements for success
The importance of Amsterdam Capital Week lies in demonstrating just how much talent the Netherlands houses. “Both the Dutch public and politics should be aware that the Netherlands brought forth a multitude of innovative companies that changed the world in about every industry. Historically we set ourselves the mission to conquer the world, we could do with nurturing this mind-set in the present.” There are five things Bas wants to see happen for Amsterdam Capital Week to be a success. “One: all events truly connect startups to venture capitalists. Two: deals will be closed during the week. Three: people realize how many great Dutch startups there are and conclude that the Netherlands is the place to invest. Four: Dutch politicians realize that they need to optimize the Dutch entrepreneurial climate. Five: after this year’s Capital Week all startups and VCs get out a red marker and encircle the 3rd week of September in their 2016 calendar, because it’s a week not to be missed.” Bas pauses, then adds: “..and that my company Roomlr receives funding, of course.”