Start-up standout – Rockstart

Start-up standout - Rockstart
Start-up standout - Rockstart

Rockstart is a Dutch company that gives start-ups support for the first 1,000 days of their ventures. The company offers accelerator programmes, pitching events and offers co-working space too. Founder Oscar Kneppers explains how it works

How does Rockstart support new entrepreneurs?

They don't call us the global start-up machine for nothing. Rockstart is interested in every point of a start-up's lifecycle and provides mentoring, support and resources through our global accelerator programs, local workspaces and regional events.

How does Rockstart incubate businesses?

Rockstart currently hosts three accelerators: Smart Energy, Web-Mobile and Digital Health. These are 180-day programs for start-ups that include mentorship, business modelling, workshops and much more and each culminates in a Demo Day with investors and the press. At the moment, Digital Health is underway in Nijmegen with participants from all over Europe, Smart Energy has just opened applications and will start in February 2016 and Web-Mobile will be opening up applications by the end of this year. Web-Mobile also runs in Singapore and Bogota, Columbia.

Since 2012, Rockstart has graduated 58 startups and over 70 per cent of them have received follow-on funding. Together the companies have raised more than €24 million (around £16.8 million) and created more than 340 full-time jobs.

What other benefits do businesses aligned with you get?

Rockstart also runs Rockstart Spaces, a co-working and event space in the heart of Amsterdam. Many of our accelerator alumni choose to stay in the building on Herengracht 182 and other start-ups have joined to take advantage of the network, inspiration and mindshare.

Today there are 50 startups in four adjacent buildings on the Herengracht in industries covering 3D printing, sharing economy, cyber security, FMCG, travel, music, big data, fashion, crowdsourcing, renewable energy and digital health. Spaces also hosts 150 events annually drawing up to 10,000 visitors; some recent events have included the Pioneers Festival, Pirates on Shore, Slush and Start-up Weekend.

Can you tell me a little bit about Rockstart Answers?

Rockstart Answers is an event series that takes place all over Europe. This year we've been to 18 cities and are about to host our first Rockstart Answers Summit. Rockstart Answers is locally organised and is an opportunity for local start-ups to ask and receive critical feedback from an audience of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and other startups. This has been a great way for Rockstart to give back to our community.

Are there any other businesses like Rockstart around the world?

While there are lots of programmes for start-ups throughout the world that are primarily accelerator or workspace-oriented, I'm not aware of any that integrates on a global level accelerators, local workspaces and regional Answers-like event series the way we do. We're trying to reach start-ups wherever they are in their lifecycle and offer a global community of experts to help them reach the next stage.

What is the most exciting thing for you about the startup community in Holland right now?

We're really excited about The Things Network, a first-of-its-kind system that uses low-power, low bandwidth LoRaWAN technology to cover the city with a wireless signal that allows objects like boats, trash cans and street lights to become tools for developers.

Unlike other ‘smart city’projects, this one is opensource, crowdsourced by citizens and put together in just six weeks. Founder Wienke Giezeman has launched a €150,000 kickstarter campaign to introduce the initiative to the rest of the world. The campaign has raised $116,000 (around £76,000) to date.

Rockstart's upcoming Smart Energy Accelerator participants will have access to the Amsterdam metropolitan area as an urban lab, with the ability to test ideas within the Smart City ecosystem including The Things Network. It doesn't hurt that Wienke also has an office in our building on the Herengracht.