Katherina Martin Abello was CEO at Jamzone: an innovation lab in Leeuwarden that is part of Maarsingh & Van Steijn. The innovation lab specializes in the combination of technology, psychology and innovation.
From this lab, the virtual reality game Stressjam was launched. Those who play this game imagine themselves on an exotic island where various assignments have to be carried out. The goal is to gain more insight into and control over the regulation of stress and a new mindset regarding stress. Because: stress can also be reinforcing! The game was already awarded a Computable Innovation of the Year Award shortly after its launch in 2017. Martin Abello and her team were all set for the next step and preferred an investment from the Northern Netherlands. But that turned out differently.
"Partly because of the award, we got off to a flying start. We got a lot of media attention, also internationally. Stressjam is highly innovative and can really make a difference for a lot of people in the Netherlands and abroad, because it teaches people to turn the thermostat of their stress system and to switch more effectively between stress and relaxation. Stress can be reinforcing, the challenge is just to use the stress system in a good way. That makes one healthier, more productive and happier. Stressjam helps with that explains Martin Abello. "Everything suddenly went so fast, we wanted to exploit that momentum to grow the company further and preferably with an investor from the Northern Netherlands. That was also the moment we got in touch with Flinc."
It takes boldness to really give innovation a chanceto give
The cooperation went well, the Frisian company's business plan was sharpened and prepared for potential investors. Flinc made a long list and short list of interested parties from their network. Flinc then put us in contact with, among others, the NOM Aanjaagfonds and provincial investment fund FOM (the Frisian Development Company). Martin Abello: "It was an intensive collaboration with Flinc, because we had to move fast.
What happens at a start-up in a week doesn't even happen at some companies in a quarter. On the one hand, perhaps we wanted to move too fast; on the other hand, potential investors were asking a lot.
They wanted a complete, round story, on paper. Right in itself, but sometimes I have thought that something more pragmatic might have been more convenient. For example, you cannot ask a start-up for quarterly figures; they have only just come into existence and banks are often the first to ask for them. Sometimes it also just takes courage to really give innovation a chance." We had a number of good discussions with FOM, but parallel to the process with FOM we also called on our own network.
Reward the pearls that stick their necks out
The team's ambition to grow further with money from the North has never disappeared, but when a national party came into the picture, an important choice had to be made from Stressjam and that choice what not so difficult, because the investor brought a lot, in addition to capital, including a large distribution network, a marketing tool of huge by tying FC Utrecht to Stressjam, a national campaign and access to additional opportunities to borrow money. And so they find growth money for their Stressjam. "Maybe it was also in the industry we operate in, eHealth is still difficult and elusive for many parties, or too good to be true. We started talking to interesting partners through Flinc, but had to explain more, were perhaps less well understood. When an opportunity came up, we seized it. Not too cautious would be my message to investors: reward the pearls that stick their necks out by putting their money where their mouth is."
Stressjam as training and treatment
Martin Abello is no longer CEO, she now works for another company : "My dream for Stressjam is that it will be used by many parties and organizations to address stress complaints, but also as part of programs for the most common psychological complaints such as anxiety and depression. Many people, in all walks of life, struggle with these types of problems, and by using virtual reality in this way, we are making the interventions more accessible. From an early age, by the way. I would really like to see young people soon learn at school how to recognize and direct certain emotions or systems. That is valuable for a lifetime and, moreover, brought in this way very playfully, even fun. Employers who want to invest in amplification, stress-management and contribute to the well-being of their people in a positive way should really consider this as well."
Martin Abello: "What I would like to pass on to the current start-ups in the Northern Netherlands: think big. Think far. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Online technology blurs all boundaries. Anything is possible. Go for it."