Q&A with Mazdak Zareei

YES!Delft’s ‘house doctor’

One of the main goals of an incubator is to provide entrepreneurs with an ecosystem that helps them grow. An incubator as YES!Delft wouldn’t be able to exist without the help of partners, among which is one of the biggest banks in the Netherlands: Rabobank. Mazdak Zareei is an Iranian-born, Dutch-raised financial specialist who has made it his top priority to help innovative entrepreneurs run sustainable businesses. As Account Manager at Rabobank and part of the bank’s Innovation Team at YES!Delft, he says his days are never boring: from giving financial advice to connecting founders to potential new customers and partners.

In the following Q&A, Mazdak talks about his role as an Innovation Adviser, the potential – and successes – of YES!Delft entrepreneurs, and the need for people to work together to bring the Dutch startup scene to the next level.

Q: Being a part of Rabobank’s Innovation Team, what is a work day at YES!Delft like for you?
A: Think of me as the house doctor. I’m in YES!Delft at least once a week, and on those days I make two to three appointments with entrepreneurs who want to speak with me. But the truth is, you never know how your day is going to be. You always get to know new people of meet familiar people with new ideas – whether it’s by the coffee machine or as you walk by the offices. There are no boundaries to who you can and will meet.

Q: In what ways do you support the entrepreneurs in the YES!Delft community?
A: The first thing we do is help identify the entrepreneurs with the most potential. We are part of the selection committee [for YES!Delft’s programs] and it’s our job to see if a team has what it takes. We are able to do that due to our experience with innovative companies, like Ampelmann, Bird Control Group, Eternal Sun and Senz umbrella’s.

Of course, we also offer all the services that you can expect from a bank – from opening an account to insurance and pension schemes. But that’s not all.

One other thing that get’s more and more important is to open our network for the startups and scale-ups in this community. In practice that means we advise our clients in both the local context and international context. So if we know, for example, that a foreign market player is looking for a specific solution and a YES!Delft company is working on something similar, we try to get them in touch.

Our services are all customized. It’s not possible to do the same for everyone, because things are changing every day. It’s very exciting and that’s why Rabobank is here.

Q: What do you like most about the community at YES!Delft?
A: What I like most is the positive energy. You get addicted to what’s going on here. People are trying to change the world; they’re looking for new ways of solving problems. It’s a very stimulating environment.

There’s a common goal in here – to make it a success. And you can only do so if you work together with other people. The world is small, everybody knows each other, and you have to collaborate to do things well.

Q: How has the startup scene in the Netherlands developed over the past years?
A: One thing I’ve noticed is that YES!Delft has grown, and the companies in the programs are becoming bigger and more professional as well. They all understand that if you want to keep up with the competition internationally, you have to have your standards up high.That’s a very positive development.

Another great trend is that more and more entrepreneurs come from different places. We have French founders, English, American, Indian, among many others. The environment is becoming more international and that’s important for all of us to act globally. Of course, it’s good to have Dutch connections and clients, but the Netherlands is small and you have to think big. You have to go out and see things from different perspectives.

The most successful companies here are the ones made up of different cultures.

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