Back in 2015, the Dutch Student Investment Fund was launched by the University of Twente and the Saxion University of Applied Sciences. The initiative not only invests exclusively in student startups, but it’s also run by students as well – the first of its kind in Europe. Now it’s time for Amsterdam, where DSIF will work on getting enough capital to launch in September. The goal: invest one million €uro in local startups run by young minds.
When asked about the advantage of a venture capital fund run completely by students, spokesperson Wilbert Bekendam is clear: it’s a great way to really be on top of new ideas, initiatives from students who are just starting out. “Higher education focused on student entrepreneurship and getting your startup of the ground quickly and effectively is a hot topic in Amsterdam, but it has never been properly executed,” says Bekendam. “With the DSIF, we want to make a big impact in stimulating every student from Amsterdam to become a better entrepreneur.”
World of students and business
Bekendam is clear however that next to the four student board members, three senior experiences investors will also take place on the board. “The yield of the fund is really important. You need responsible and capable people for that; qualities we search for in both students and experienced investors. This way, we bring the world of students and the world of business together.”
Attracting new capital
Bekendam explains that although DSIF Twente and DSIF Amsterdam are separate organizations, they will still work together on multiple issues: “Both organizations have the goal to attract, select and grow student startups. DSIF Amsterdam is now working on attracting new capital to become fully operational this September. Our first goal is to collect half a million in April. Currently we’re looking for investors like corporates, angels and universities.” That search is going quite well, says Bekendam, mostly because of getting the right help from StartupAmsterdam and Ace Venture Lab. “Via our small network in Amsterdam we were quickly introduced to the right people.”
As DSIF is talking about rather substantial amounts of money, the question arises how they will support students after the provide them with funding. Bekendam has this planned out already: “We have a big and strong network where we can connect students to experienced investors and entrepreneurs who have made these big steps before. They will get proper advise about how they can efficiently spend their funds, but also about building a team and product development”. The DSIF spokesperson also explains what they mainly look for in an investment application: “DSIF Amsterdam works together with experienced partners who are specialized in recognizing potential. For us, the entrepreneur is the most important factor, especially in an early stage of product development. An idea or product will be developed quite quickly to ensure that future investments are worth it.”
Motivating students to become entrepreneurs
Starting a business at a young age is popular. How important does Bekendam think it is to motivate students to start a business sooner rather than later? Very important obviously: “There is a tremendous business potential in all the work that is being done in our universities, let alone the talent of the 100.000 students in Amsterdam. We notice the trend and recognize that more assistance is necessary in order to realize this potential. We think we can fill the gap where students can really become successful entrepreneurs in Amsterdam.”
You often hear a lot of buzz words and promises from minor programs, incubators and accelerators about coaching, mentors and access to valuable networks. But how do you truly learn students to transform an idea into a marketable product, to actually run a business? “To create a network what every founder have wished for”, Bekendam assures us: “Only successful entrepreneurs and investors are welcome in our network, who have already done the job. Of course, we focus on students who became a million-dollar entrepreneur. Besides that, we create collaborations with companies to assure market access for our startups”.