How students and startup founders from Generation Y think about making a difference



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Around 130 young people gathered together at the HvA’s Amstelcampus (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences) Wednesday evening, where speakers with different backgrounds talked about how Generation Y, the (student) startup founders of today and tomorrow, can make a difference in the world.

Student Talks defines Generation Y

An enthusiastic Daniel Breitwieser, the lecturer of the Co-Creative Entrepreneurship Project at HvA and Fypster’s co-founder, presented the evening. How can generation Y impact the world? That was the central question of the evening. He explained: “Those who are born between the early 80’s and the mid 90’s, are considered generation Y. This generation grew up in a time of enormous technological developments, which has made us more connected than ever before. Globalization gives us many possibilities to make a difference to the world, but at the same time, we are confronted with new challenges, such as climate change, and the current political changes.”

Creating identity

However diverse the speakers were, nearly all of them spoke about the importance of defining who we are. UvA-student Can Gerlach emphasized the importance of self-reflection and explained the way he thinks society is built by our values. Talitha Muusse, social entrepreneur as well as a climate activist, urged the audience to determine their values and to take a stand on challenging matters such as climate change. Muusse: “It is not our education that differentiates us, but our values, the things we stand for.”

Knowing oneself

Wilbert Bekendam, a master student of Business Administration at the UvA, stresses the importance of getting to know ourselves: “We might be the most connected people of all times, but did we connect to ourselves as well?” He created an ‘entrepreneurial State of Mind’ model, in which the three characteristics Purpose, Discipline, and Action are accompanied by a specific attitude and mindset that an entrepreneur needs.

 width= Taking a stand

So, in order to make an impact, we must know where we stand and who we are. Saga Norrby explained how she believes we can contribute to a better environment. “We can contribute to a sustainable world with our purchases, but there is much more than this bottom-up approach. We are not just consumers, we are also citizens who can influence the people around us, or even politics.” Talitha Muuse believes that our generation should take leadership, as soon as possible. She gave the audience a second to think about what position in society they would like to take over. Muuse: “Go for that position, it is yours. And do it within 100 days. A dream without a date is nothing but a wish.”

We are all insecure

After the speakers round, there was the “inspiring & ice-breaking networking” discussion panel. There was an open atmosphere, in which people were not afraid to discuss insecurities. “How can I change the world if I lack confidence?” was a question from the audience. “Of course you can make a change! All of us are insecure”, said Zita Schellekes, who is Director of Corporate Affairs at Heineken. Ivana Zakova, online marketeer at, added: “We are all unconfident and nervous at times, it is normal. But you could work on your body language to look more confident.” BIT Students founder Marco van der Werf: “Dare to ask questions to people that know more than you. Find the right people, and get the information you need.” width=

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Volunteering as a habit

Boudewijn Wijnands, founder of the startup DeedMob believes we can make volunteering a common habit. “Many people would like to volunteer, but they do not always have the time to commit themselves for a fixed period.” To lower the threshold for volunteering, he created the online platform DeedMob, through which people can do ‘good deeds’ in their spare time. He has been a volunteer himself for a long time, and now he wants to inspire others to do the same. Wijnands: “We want to impact the world, but impact is often very difficult to measure. How do you know you really made a change? Sometimes a small deed, such as helping an elderly person, can be a big impact in someone’s personal life”.

Lost in freedom

The focus on values is perhaps exactly what distinguishes Generation Y from previous generations. It is a generation in search for identity in this globally connected world. It attempts to redefine traditional values, in order to understand its position in this prosperous and privileged Western world. The more freedom we have, the more decisions we will have to make. Therefore you should know who you are and what you stand for, although it is not always easy.

The event was hosted by Student Talks, a nonprofit initiative that started in Denmark. The main sponsor of the event was WeWork, other sponsors were Stuvia, Worldpackers, Albert Heijn, and the HvA.


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Laura Vrijsen

Discourse and argumentation studies graduate who loves to meditate. Reporter at Silicon Canals.

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