Smart-Ship: Control levers that help you make informed decisions in real-time

Ships experience a lot of forces sailing through head waves on the open sea. Information systems onboard monitor those forces and notify the crew about changes in their surroundings, yet there seems to be a problem. “The information from the automation systems is transferred in such a way that the human operator doesn’t understand what to act upon,” says Brent Kok, co-founder of Delft-based startup Smart-Ship. To ensure that vessels operate as best as possible, the company is developing a smart solution that can feed the captain real-time data on the performance and state of the ship so they can make informed decisions in the moment. 


It was a couple of years back when Brent’s brother Roy came up with the idea for Smart-Ship and decided to turn it into a business. He had just graduated from his studies in Biomechanical Engineering and Maritime Technology at the TU Delft and had built a throttle lever for small fast ships that could warn the captain if he was sailing too fast through head waves. 

Roy saw potential in the product and was looking to join YES!Delft and take his first step to becoming an entrepreneur. “Roy called me one day and said that he wanted to start a company, but YES!Delft had advised him to find a co-founder,” Brent remembers. “He wanted to know if I could recommend someone in my network, which would be mostly fellow finance professionals. I had a person in mind straight away. Me.” 

And so their journey began. 

It all started with the two of them trying to make it easier for captains to keep track of what’s going on with their ship at all times and respond quickly to any unexpected developments. 

“Currently, a lot of information from the ship is being transmitted to the captain through audio and visuals, which can become overwhelming next to everything else he is doing,” Brent says. “Vessels have a lot of systems that provide useful information, but if the captain cannot process it at the right time, it doesn’t really work.” 

To tackle this challenge, Smart-Ship has so far developed several haptic levers that send valuable real-time data to the captain and warn him in case he needs to change course or adjust speed. The levers have both a hardware and a software element to them, so they can analyze the performance of the ship and send the captain a physical signal – in the form of a vibration, for example – if he needs to take action. They can also be used to make sure that the vessel is sailing as environmentally-friendly as possible.


Starting their company with the YES!Delft community around them has been of great value for Roy and Brent. “We first entered the Validation Lab and looking back, it has been the most useful program so far. It forced us to go out there. We learned that it’s not just about having nice technology but that you need to find the people willing to pay for it.” 

In just over two years, the two brothers have brought a third co-founder onboard, Jelle Tiemensma, and have built a small team around them. They also took part in the YES!Delft Accelerator program, which is when Brent says “things really kicked off.” 

With their technology validated, it was only a matter of time for them to find the right clients. 


When they first started out, Roy and Brent were focused on getting the attention of the small fast ship market. They knew there was potential there, but they also knew it wasn’t big enough to build an entire company on it. 

“The small fast ship market is very specific so, soon enough, we had to start exploring the needs of other stakeholders in the industry,” Brent remembers. They got interest from tug boat and dredging companies, and today they have pilot projects with clients such as the Royal Netherlands Navy, DEME Group and VSTEP Simulation.

Alongside the four levers that the team has developed, they are also working on a haptic joystick to be used by crane operators. The key to Smart-Ship’s products is that they can be used to control a ship, crane or other asset, while at the same as a medium to transfer information. “The maritime sector is quite conservative so we are offering a product that looks traditional, but the tech underneath it is revolutionary,” Brent says. 

With several pilots already on the way and a first investment round from early-stage innovation fund UNIIQ, Smart-Ship is looking forward to its next milestones. 

“Our goal for 2021 is to get on the water,” Brent says. “All of our projects so far have been in simulation and we feel it’s time to test our technology on an actual vessel.” And with that, they are getting ready to take the next step of their entrepreneurial journey. 

  • Installing Smart-Ship tech on several vessels (tug boat, small fast ship, inland ship and dredger) – Q4 2021
  • Setting up partnerships with renowned maritime integrators and shipyards – Q2 2021
  • Successful implementation of new haptic joystick – Q3 2021
  • Successful implementation of most recent product, maritime dashboard logging all user data providing useful insights for operators, fleet managers and insurance companies – Q3 4 2021


Villari develops wireless sensors to monitor aging infrastructure

Aging infrastructure is a growing concern for authorities across Europe, requiring them to look for more innovative monitoring tools as time goes by. Moving steel structures, in particular, ask for regular inspections and, increasingly so, maintenance. Monitoring those manually can be a challenge, so Olivier Baas and Hugo Romer, co-founders of Villari, took it upon themselves to create a solution that automates at least part of the process. 


Villari’s mission is rather straightforward – develop sensors and wireless monitoring systems that provide users with a 24/7 view of their assets and notify them of any possible structural problems.

“We build sensor systems that are able to monitor steel structures,” Olivier says. “If you have a steel structure that moves even a little bit – a bridge, ship, or an offshore platform, at one point it starts to crack and it becomes a problem. We can apply our systems to critical locations on such structures and monitor their state.” 

As a result, operators gain a clear overview and insights into the state of their structures and are able to easily plan (and foresee) maintenance work. 

Olivier and Hugo’s entrepreneurial journey started in late 2018 and goes back to their days at the TU Delft. They both did Offshore Engineering as a Master’s degree and graduated under the same professor. It was their professor, in fact, who had come up with the idea for the wireless monitoring sensors and as soon as all the academic research around it was finished, Olivier thought it might be a good idea to try and turn it into a business. 

He reached out to Hugo, who was then in China for work, and the two quickly agreed to do this together. “I called Hugo and he immediately said we should do it. He just needed a bit of time to figure a few things out first,” Olivier says. “Of the two of us, Hugo has always been the one to think things through. I usually tend to dive in headfirst,” he laughs and Hugo agrees with a nod. 

So, in early 2019 and with Hugo back from his project abroad, the two started thinking on how to turn an idea into a business success. 


With both of them coming from a technical background, Olivier and Hugo were looking to learn more about what it’s like to run a company. In May 2019, they joined the YES!Delft Validation Lab and it all started rolling from there. 

“The Validation Lab was a real pressure-cooker,” Hugo remembers. “It’s a ten-week program of identifying your potential clients and finding your product-market fit. We went in Olivier’s little car, driving around and doing interviews all around the Netherlands. It was intense but it was a great way to validate the potential of our idea.” 

They often had as many as six interviews in a day, which left them with a lot of information to process day in and day out. Soon after finishing the Validation Lab, the two co-founders applied and were accepted into the YES!Delft Accelerator Program, which has helped them gain valuable connections and introduce their technology to the market. 


If they need to point out one challenge that they have struggled with along the way, Olivier and Hugo would have to say it was the decision which market segment to focus on. They have come to learn that there are simply a lot of applications for their solution. For a startup, that is a good problem to have but it can also make it difficult to stay on track. 

“For now, we’ve decided to focus on bridges,” Olivier says. “They are easily accessible – especially compared to offshore platforms, have a lot of cracks, and need constant monitoring.” It is a good market for them to enter and test their solution in.  

“Most of our (potential) clients there are public companies and with our sensors, we are looking to make their work more time- and cost-efficient.” 

The startup is currently working with Rijkswaterstaat and is setting up more pilot projects. Expanding their portfolio is essentially what they want to achieve in the months to come. “By the end of the year, we will have a second prototype of our wireless sensor,” Hugo says. “We want to set up 4-5 new pilot projects next year with different clients and convert those into commercial projects. We are looking forward to getting our first bit of revenue with our technology.”

Olivier and Hugo have set themselves clear goals for 2021 and they seem to be on the right track to reach them. They’ve found their product-market fit and are ready to roll up their sleeves and go further into the market. 


July 2019: Completed the YES!Delft Validation Lab

Dec 2019: Received €40.000 grant by NWO

Dec 2019: Company established

Mar 2020: Started the YES!Delft Accelerator Program 

Apr 2020: Raised € 350.000 funding by the Dutch Enterprise Agency (RvO)

Jun 2020: Received first sensor prototypes

Jul 2020: Successful laboratory trials showing above-expectation results 

Oct 2020: First field trials on a Rijkswaterstaat-owned bridge, successful

Dec 2020: Received the second series of prototypes to be deployed in several pilot projects throughout 2021

Warp VR YES!Delft success story

Warp VR: Learning by experience, with the help of virtual reality

For large organizations, carrying out safety and procedural trainings for their staff can often be time-consuming and costly. Just think of a fire drill: You need to plan for it, book a designated time slot and make sure that everyone has evacuated the premises according to the established evacuation plan. This is certainly a crucial training, but one that takes a lot of resources, too. 

Now, what if there was another way? Thijs de Vries and fellow co-founders, Adriaan Rijkens , Danny de Bruijn and Guido Helmerhorst, started Warp VR to help organizations create immersive training scenarios using Virtual Reality (VR). And with clients such as KLM, Tata Steel, ErsteBank and others, they seem to be on the right track.


For Thijs, laying the foundation of Warp was a logical step in his professional career. While studying Industrial Design at the TU Delft, he became interested in the psychology of product design. “There’s a lot of psychology going into video games, for example,” he says. “People get hooked, playing for hours, and I was interested in why that happens.”

Gradually, he went on to advising companies on how to use gaming techniques to influence behavior – anything from increasing employee motivation to improving customer experience. After all, influencing behavior for the better has been, and still is, one of his main professional drivers. 

When Thijs, Adriaan, Danny and Guido met in early 2016, they immediately clicked and decided to join forces in the mission to advance learning by using VR. As the core team behind Warp, they create training scenarios for their customers, and by building those with the help of gaming techniques, achieve engaging and immersive experiences. 

Almost immediately after their launch, they signed Dutch airline KLM as their first customer, and that was exactly what they needed to kick-start their business. 


For team Warp, gaming techniques is what makes experiences both realistic and memorable. “The way games work is by assuming people don’t know anything about the topic,” Thijs says. “They throw them into the deep but create a safe environment for them to learn and make mistakes. That’s how you learn best – by doing and by experiencing.”

Because the training scenarios are so immersive – think a VR-powered fire drill that doesn’t save you the loud blaring of the fire alarm – users are likely to remember the do’s and don’ts of a safety procedure rather quickly. After all, with VR, you are in the situation both physically and emotionally, and that is bound to leave long-lasting memories.

For the team, getting to where they are now hasn’t been without the help of YES!Delft and their team of experts. Warp joined the Incubation Program in February 2017 with the aim to grow their company and make their technology available on a larger scale. 

“YES!Delft has been a great source of a lot of new knowledge in a very short amount of time,” Thijs says. “The program itself has also given us credibility in the eyes of potential customers.”


Creating immersive training scenarios is what got the team of four started. Today, they operate a web-based platform where customers can drag and drop their own scenarios and with the help of 360˚ video, completely create their own training programs. What’s more, the platform provides the analytics behind the trainings, enabling companies to gain insights into how their employees – and their organization as a whole – are performing.

Warp has also partnered up with creative companies who can assist customers in creating highly-effective scenarios. “We call these partners Warp Experts and they can help customers with writing scenarios, but also with the media production,” Thijs says. 

Since their early days, the team has not stopped doing customer development. Today, they have several more clients in their portfolio, including CSU, Patyna, the Ministry of Security and Justice and the Dutch Fire Department. For the last of them, they have developed an app training people on what to do if their house is on fire – the app is available here (for iOS) and here (for Android).

“The use of Virtual Reality for training has gained a lot of traction over the last years. In these years, we have learned a lot from working with some of the biggest customers. We have been able to improve our product and we keep on improving going forward. Virtual Reality training is here to stay and we are confident to play a major part in it,” Thijs says.


January 2016 – Company founded; – First client signed

September 2016 – Research by the Academic Medical Center (AMC) validated VR learning works better than e-learning

February 2017 – Admission into YES!Delft’s Incubation Program

November 2017 – First major deal, signed contract with KLM

May 2018 – Winner of the VR Rising Star Award

February 2019 – Winner Get in the Ring Award

March 2019 – Winner Learning Innovation Award

Keeping birds away from commercial exploitations

Birds flying high, it can be a real danger – and costly hassle – around airports or on oil platforms, for example. Well, it’s a new dawn in bird control. An animal and ‘hertz’ friendly solution, that makes birds and humans feel good. Bird Control Group has developed a laser that keeps birds away from commercial exploitations, saving major companies millions in damage each year.


Founder Steinar Henskes is more entrepreneur than an academic. In 2010, after dropping out of university, he started selling ready-made laser technology. With an interest in lasers and technology, this smart golden boy started developing his own products. He experimented with one of his lasers in a field and noticed that birds flew away. After that, Steinar perfected the technology and took it to market: each year there is over 25 million euro worth of damage done by geese in the agricultural field.

Bird Control Group started selling handheld lasers to farmers.

Yet, Steinar has always had a wish for developing a technology that could serve the aviation industry. So he just wrote an e-mail to someone he thought was important at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, got himself a deal with one of the biggest airports in Europe, and perfected his technology once again.


Steinar is not a bird watcher, nor is he an environmental activist. He wants to do something good for the world with his technology. So he applied to YES!Delft in 2013, because he wanted his company and small team of engineers to grow and serve more industries. The tech incubator was, according to Steinar, an obvious choice being a high-tech company serving the B2B market.

Without YES!Delft’s network, partners and reputation, Bird Control Group would not have the authority they do now within their market. But, “you are responsible for your own success”, Steinar underlines. At YES!Delft he felt challenged by the other startups – his peers – to just get his company to a higher altitude.


Bird Control Group is now the market leader in developing and manufacturing automated laser bird repellents. There are conventional methods, but these are noisy, unfriendly to birds and only ‘treat the symptoms’. The challenge for Bird Control Group is to make companies aware of their alternatives. Their ambition is to solve more issues in bird control that could not be solved before.

And that’s also Steinar’s personal ambition as an entrepreneur.

Bird Control Group still resides happily in the YES!Delft building. Steinar describes their workplace as “somewhere where you can actually get some work done”; he likes the functionality of the YES! offices and space. It’s a melting pot of (cultural) backgrounds with English as a common language.

What’s more, Bird Control Group opened their North American office a few years ago. The company solves bird issues all over the world at farms, industrial warehouses, refineries, feedlots, airports, and many more applications.


Apply to the Complex Tech Validation Lab



  • July 2013 – laser installation at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
  • September 2014 – contract with Total E&P Nederland
  • November 2014 – the launch of Agrilaser Autonomic
  • December 2015 – adaption of a resolution by the Dutch Parliament to stimulate the use of Bird Control Group lasers
  • March 2016 – take-over of U.S. based distributor

Startup Story: Scoozy

Imagine you have difficulty walking and you need to get from A to B in a fast, safe and convenient way. No problem. You can do that, and you can do it in style, too. Dutch startup Scoozy is developing a mobility scooter that is easy to use, has intuitive steering and braking and is good-looking, and caters to people – old and young alike – with a walking difficulty.


Job van de Kieft, founder of Scoozy, had known for years that one day he would start his own company in the field of electric driving. Yet it wasn’t until 2014 that he refined his focus: “There’s one group that’s been driving electrically for over 40 years, and those are people with difficulty walking,” he says. They’ve been doing so with mobility scooters.

Yet, mobility scooters nowadays are far from being flawless. On the one hand, people perceive mobility scooters as very stigmatizing because they are designed as an helping aid instead of a way of transport. On the other, they are often quite unsafe: “There were 28 deaths in the Netherlands last year, and 75% of the accidents are one-sided, caused by the people driving the scooters.”

Job and co-founder Jan Willem van Gent are on a mission to change that. With their team, they are working to develop a mobility scooter that serves as a way of transport, and not as a crutch. They see it as the “Tesla of mobility scooters”, and want to make it “so cool that anyone would drive one – even if they don’t have any difficulty walking.” To do so, the startup is focusing on a design that is nice and slick, as well as on creating a vehicle that is intelligent, connected and safe, with a low point of gravity and intuitive steering.


Thus far, the startup has a preproduction model of the product and the is now working on production of the first series, expected to be revealed in January 2019. With a busy schedule ahead of them, the team is happy to have YES!Delft guiding them along the way.

“[The Incubation Program] is about not making the same mistakes that other startups have made before you,” Job says. “It is so important not to have the simple things go wrong at the start of your company, and that is what’s great about YES!Delft: You know that, [with their help] the base of your startup will be fine.”

In addition, due to the competitive selection process, being part of the Incubation Program gives the startup a “quality stamp”, which Job is sure will be important in the months to come.

Apply to the Complex Tech Validation Lab


Today, Scoozy has a core team of 5 people. Together with strategic partners for development and production they are working hard towards their next set of milestones. With a demo already out there, the startup is about to launch a marketing campaign to highlight market introduction at early 2019.

Now that the first series is almost ready, the team’s focus is shifting to the scaling phase. The team has already received  1.3M funding and sold out the first series. They are now working towards a  second round of funding for growth. Securing a B2B partnership is another main priority, which will help the startup create a distribution channel.

There’s certainly a lot coming up for team Scoozy, with the Tesla of mobility scooters awaiting at the end of the road.


March 2016 – Company founded

September 2016 – First loan secured

September 2016 – Admission to YES!Delft’s Incubation Program

September 2017 – First round of investment secured

November 2016 – Demo finalized

November 2018 – Start of production first series

Early 2019 – Launch first series

Apply to the Accelerator Program


The sky is not the limit

Sending a rocket into space is no easy task – and understandably so. It becomes even more complicated, though, when that rocket is supposed to reach an area above the Earth’s surface that has, so far, been only poorly studied. The ‘ignorosphere’ – often jokingly called so by scientists – is at an altitude of about 120km and is particularly difficult to access, as it is too high for balloons and too low for orbital satellites. Delft-based startup T-minus, however, has a solution. With the DART, their sounding rocket now almost complete, they are soon to make this area more accessible to scientists and researchers.



For founders Mark Uitendaal, Roel Eerkens, Hein Olthof and Eric Smit, it all started in 2009 when they were members of the student rocketry society DARE at the TU Delft. In their time there, Mark came up with the idea to break the European altitude record for student-built rockets, and soon took the lead on the project. Needless to say, they did break the record.

Yet, that was only part of their initial success. “After breaking the record, we discovered that the sounding rocket — a rocket used for scientific research — we had designed was kind of state-of-the-art,” Roel remembers. In many respects, it was better than what was commercially available at the time, which led the team to the idea of starting their own company.

Ever since, the four engineers have been working long hours to develop their signature rocket, the T-minus DART, which customers can use for doing research in the upper layers of the atmosphere. It is specifically designed to reach the area of around 120km above the Earth, and help research institutes and organizations conduct their explorations. “We do full-service from design and manufacturing to launch, and also assist our customers with preparing their scientific payload,” Roel explains.



The T-minus team has been developing the DART for several years now, and in order to finance their own R&D, they have had to work on the side as engineering consultants on multiple projects. Those include the NASA Insight project, in collaboration with the German Aerospace Institute, for the development of a scientific mole that would sample the Marsian soil. The project recently officially launched (on May 5th 2018), and the rocket is currently making its way through space.

“YES!Delft has been a major player in the team’s growth over the years,” Roel says. “The connections, workshops and events at YES!Delft has taught us a lot about the business side of entrepreneurship. The best way to learn is by talking to fellow entrepreneurs, who can advise you on how to avoid the mistakes they have made in the past.”

Learn more about YES!Delft’s startup programs hereb


With a strong support system behind them, the four co-founders have completed the DART. They’ve also already signed a contract with the European Space Agency to perform a number of demonstration flights. This means that the DART is currently commercially available. Moreover, the team is close to setting up a manufacturing plant in Deventer, in the near future. Lastly, the two big players DLR MORABA and Andoya Space Center have both expressed interest in placing the first order.

While the team has secured several grants to support their R&D, most of their capital has been coming from their consultancy projects with NASA, ESA and the TU Delft, among others. The
company is currently owned by the four co-founders, but they do not exclude the possibility of taking an investor onboard in the near future.

Team T-minus may be busy juggling various tasks, yet, they are well on their way to success. The NASA Insight rocket is expected to land on Mars in November, which means that T-minus will have hardware on Mars by the end of the year!

All there’s left to say is: May the countdown begin.

How to validate your tech startup idea

validating your tech startup idea do’s and don’ts


  • Find (potential) customers with a pain
  • Understand the context around that pain
  • Assess if your technology can ease that pain
  • Find out what the costs related to the pain
  • Assess if your technology has benefits for the potential customer
  • Create quick build-measure-learn cycles and go through them often


  • Push your tech startup onto your customers
  • Ask them what they would like to pay for it
  • Spend all your time and money on product development
  • Create slow build-measure-learn cycles and go through them only twice per year


Apply for our Validation Lab
to validate your business idea

Apply now


You’re a team of engineers and you’ve developed this great technology. It’s so great, in fact, that you’ve decided to turn it into a tech startup. But before anything, you need to make sure that there is indeed a market for it. You need to validate your business.

So, how do you validate a business? What processes are there to follow, and what pitfalls are there to avoid? As Program Manager at YES!Delft, Robert Jan van Vugt is the person to go to, if you want to know everything about finding your market-product fit. For this Expert Interview, he shared his thoughts and some much sought-after advice.


Finding a market for your technology

Finding a market for a tech idea or product is not nearly the same as finding a technology to solve a customers’ problem. Non-technology businesses often start by solving a problem for the customer.

“Tech ideas, on the other hand, start with the technology. Most entrepreneurs choose the technology based on their own interests and background [mostly engineering], and not on its business feasibility,” Robert Jan says.

The number-one reason for tech startups to fail is their inability to find a market for their technology. So nailing that product-market fit early on is crucial.

Say, you’ve developed a blockchain-related technology whose goal is to solve money transfer problems in Africa. Now, as noble as that may be, it may simply be too ambitious to start with. “Start easier,” Robert Jan advises. “Instead of focusing on Africa right away, start with a market that you have direct access to, and where the pain is just as high. Test your technology, make some sales, and then think of the next step. The number-two reason why startups fail is a lack of cash, so sales are key!


For more info about Validation Lab,
email our Startup Scout

Contact Emma

This smaller market may be your neighborhood, your town or your country. It may not be what you had imagined originally. But with an easy access to this market, you’ll be quick to find out the real business potential of your startup idea. Who is it for, how well does it solve a specific problem, and what are customers willing to pay for it? Go out and talk about it, to find out the answers. Get that down, so you can move on to your next step.

“In that sense, it’s not so much about finding a product-market fit, but rather about finding a market-product fit,” Robert Jan says. Look for a market until you have found one that fits the possible application(s) of your technology – instead of trying to change your product to fit a certain market.


Build, measure, and learn

Hanging on to this previous thought, your fastest way to market is by following a three-step process: build, measure, learn. As a tech company, you are tempted to start with a technology, build on it, measure the response, learn from it, and build again.

However, building hightech prototypes takes both time and money. It’s much more efficient if you build your market instead: work on assumptions, experiments, landing pages – everything to test, measure and learn from. Start building real prototypes only when you are sure about the market-product fit.

“The first step is to find the people with a pain, and talk to them,” Robert Jan says. “Why is this pain there, and (how) can your technology ease it?”

The key to identifying your future customers is to really understand their situation. Grasp the context around it. To what extent are their pains influencing their daily lives? What are they costing them, and what are they willing to spend to minimize them? Be able to match those pains with the gains your product can provide.


Test, measure, learn. Then repeat.

Gathering insights continuously will not only help you learn more about your target audience, but also find out if there is a real need for your technology. In the end, it will also help you understand if your startup idea is indeed scalable towards your dream market.


Apply for our Validation Lab
to validate your business idea

Apply now

(The nuance of) focus is essential for all startups

One of the main challenges for startups is the need to keep several balls in the air at the same time.

From obtaining customer insights and building a product, to hiring people and designing a legal structure. I see lots of entrepreneurs juggling. And consequently spending precious time on the wrong things. That’s why I advise them to focus.

Eh, but Arthur, weren’t you the guy who recently told us that ‘Focus is bad for early stage startups’? I did! And I did not change my mind about that previous blog. I however want to show the nuance of focus. And thereby the nuance and difficulty of every piece of advice that startups get.

During my (former) career as a startup entrepreneur, I often asked three different experts to advise me on the same matter. All three would give different answers and leave me puzzled. Years later and wiser I realized that all of them were both right and wrong in different ways. As a startup you should try to listen to the nuance in every advice. And figure out how to combine all of those nuances.

Focus your activities

So for example, when I advised that focus is bad for early stage startups, the nuance is that the focus should be on your activities. For startups it’s often logical to work on customer validation, technology, raising money, hiring people, fixing legal stuff and determining your market strategy all at once. And then they get an email from a potential investor and drop everything.

BAD decision. If you have decided that validation is your most important activity (or building, or whatever you chose) don’t get distracted. It will ruin your effectivity. In this case focus on your most important activities is exactly what you need.

Then again (early stage) startups should not focus on their market strategies too early, because they will miss out on important market opportunities, as I stated in my previous post. Many startups told me they really liked this statement. One startup shared that they chose the wrong market themselves, and only realized this a year after the launch of their product. They would have loved to make that pivot much earlier and could have done so by losing some of their focus.

‘funding mode’

Should you ignore that email from the VC then? Definitely not! It’s good to build relationships with investors. But don’t make a fuss. Reply that you can meet, but preferably at your office, since you’re in validation (or another) mode. Have a meeting of one hour max, tell them that you will call back when you are in ‘funding mode’. Put them on your list of investors and get back to your focus activity.

Focus is always your main point of attention. It’s not the only point, but the main. It’s 80% of your activities. Sometimes 95%. Sounds easy, but it’s really easy to get distracted, also by all the advice that is given to you by advisors like me.

One experienced entrepreneur told me he liked my previous article, mainly because he’s fed up with all those one-sentence-mantras that are advised to startups. I fully agree. Oneliners sound great, but they mostly miss the nuance of reality.

Arthur Tolsma is a (freelance) startup coach, contact him via


The SMART, electrical caravan providing you with real-time information

Whereas 10 years back towing a caravan wasn’t much of a hassle, things are quite different today. Cars are smaller, lighter, and more sustainable than ever before. Great news, without a doubt, except for the fact that many of them are unable to tow a proper caravan.

To solve that problem, the team behind E-Trailer is on a mission: to create an electrical caravan that helps the car in pulling it. On the road to making that a reality, they have found ways to roll out other innovative solutions, too.

Founders Boy Trip and Rick Lenssen met over a year ago to find out that they had very similar entrepreneurial ambitions: “We both wanted to start a company, and we both had the same vision,” Boy remembers. While he had been gaining business experience as part of YES!Delft’s students board, among others, Rick was working on his (electrical) engineering skills as a member of the Nuon Solar Team. When they put their heads together, they saw the appeal of assisting cars and their owners by developing an electrically propelled caravan.

A course on the basics of starting up helped them identify a potential target market and develop a business plan. Yet, that was only the beginning. The duo soon found out that developing the technology, and even more so implementing, is nothing short of a challenge. “Developing an electric trailer is very difficult and comes with certain restraints. According to the law, a caravan is a towed, non-propelled vehicle. We need to create a new regulation to get the electrically propelled trailer road legal. This will take a while, so building a full-fledged electric trailer is a goal of the distant future.”

In the meantime Boy, Rick and their team have channelled their energy towards developing individual components of the potential electric trailer into marketable products.

They already have a working prototype of, what they call, the SMART Trailer – a system that connects the users’ smartphone or tablet to their caravan and provides real-time information about the condition of the caravan, including levelling, tyre pressure and brake temperature. To date, they have pre-sold 550 pieces of the system, and are planning to start delivering them in March 2017.

Coming this far in the little time since founding their company in November 2015, hasn’t been without the help of YES!Delft, they say. “The main reason we joined the incubator is because of its coaching program: you get a coach who is experienced in starting companies and [all things] entrepreneurial”. The knowledge that they can derive from the program is, thus, considered invaluable. In addition, Boy emphasizes the benefit of working alongside other entrepreneurs as they can all learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.

In the months to come, the team of E-Trailer has a lot to look forward to. Their number one priority is to deliver the 550 presold pieces of the SMART Trailer system: “It’s the biggest thing we’re working on.” In addition, they have also finalized a proof of concept for their E-Brake product, which will aim to replace the mechanical braking systems of caravans, bringing advantages such as shorter braking distance and reduced swaying motion, among others. And last but certainly not least, E-Trailer will be seeking new funding opportunities to add to their existing portfolio of subsidies and awards.

From the looks of it, things are only going to speed up for team E-Trailer in the year to come.

November 2015 – Company founded
September 2016
– SMART Trailer proof of concept ready
– Admission to YES!Delft’s Incubation Program
October 2016 – E-Brake proof of concept ready
March 2017 – SMART Trailer prototype ready

Ans Exam

Innovating, creating and simplifying online learning

Benjamin Wols and Kerim Haccou started their entrepreneurial quest a few years back when they both worked as teaching assistants for programming courses at the TU Delft.

With almost 800 students who had to submit an assignment every week, reviewing all of them was virtually impossible for the one teacher and four teaching assistants involved. Because of that, all submitted assignments received a ‘pass’ by default, with only the final one being reviewed and graded. As a result, the students got no feedback along the way, yet they thought “they were on the right track, because they got a pass every week”, Benjamin explains.


Benjamin and Kerim had an idea of how to do this differently: “We have developed a program that automatically takes a look at your codes and gives you some feedback.” The two founders knew they had a good case as more and more teachers started requesting it for their own classes. “That’s when we thought,” Benjamin recalls, “why not start a company and license [our platform] to the university.”

In August 2014, the duo founded Ans Exam and focused on broadening the functionalities of their platform to become attractive to a wider range of universities and high schools. They came up with the idea to automate the administrative tasks that come with grading exams, because after all, “every school has exams.”


Since their first pilot project in May 2015, their platform has been used by around 30 teachers from a number of different faculties at the TU Delft, resulting in the digitizing of more than 7,000 exams and the automatic grading of 25,000 coding assignments.

They are now part of YES!Delft’s Incubation Program, working hard to further improve their product, expanding their market and finding new clients. “At YES!Delft, they try to push you” Benjamin says “and that is very good.” In addition, the incubator’s events have led them to meet a number of prominent experts, as well as get free working hours with (legal) advisors, and in general “people that you don’t get in touch with very easily.”

Today, Ans Exam is a team of seven: the two co-founders working full time, and five part-time students.


While there are currently about 30 teachers using their platform, the team makes sure that they increase that number every semester. Perhaps what is even more important is that “we haven’t had any teacher leaving the system, so we have a retention rate of 100%.”

While they started at their very own TU Delft, the team is now talking with multiple universities and high schools in the Netherlands to launch a pilot project. And that is precisely what is ahead of them in the months to come – more negotiations, more interest in their product and more sales. And more satisfied students and teachers.

August 2014 – Founded Ans Exam
May 2016 – Joined YES!Delft’s Incubation Program
October 2016 – Processed 7,000 exams and automatically graded 25,000 programming assignments

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get in touch