From Borgesius Groep from Stadskanaal to BOTS from Haarlem, from fats to a crypto company, from small business to a unicorn, from regional events to a national television program. This is in a nutshell the development of almost ten years of Young Business Award (YBA), which in those same ten years has become the largest scale-up competition in the Netherlands. It is therefore high time for a review with a 'YBA All-Stars' edition: on January 18 during MXT (Eurosonic Noorderslag) in Groningen.
Niels Palmers (30) has been involved with the Young Business Award (YBA) from the very beginning. Together with Thomas Nauw, he pulls the cart each year to new formats, better candidates and bigger cash prizes. At the last edition, the television program revolved around an investment pot of 1 million euros. ,,We have been playing ourselves in the spotlight for several years and in collaboration with Max Papo of MXT the idea arose to jointly shape a special program about startups and scale-ups during the MXT Conference at Eurosonic,'' he says, ,,We started sending a few WhatsApp messages to old acquaintances in the evening about the idea and the reactions were very positive.''
Constantine of Orange presenter
One thing led to another and in no time there was an idea to let the best startups and scale-ups from the ten years of YBA tell their story again at a kind of reunion event. A strong program rolled out with a few representative scale-ups from the past decade, with interesting keynotes and with Constantijn van Oranje and Lusanne Tehupuring as presenters.
Four representative scale-ups from the past decade are once again on the Young Business Award stage. These are the scale-ups Chordify, CodeSandbox, Amberscript and Greener. Groningen-based Chordify (converts music into chords), for example, may be the emperor of organic growth, having built a global company in the past decade with just a quarter of a million in investment. And CodeSandbox (remote collaborative work on code), on the other hand, needs a lot of money to build market share as quickly as possible. ,,The finalists, you may also call them YBA legends, are completely different companies if you look at the go-to-market strategy they used years ago and the growth strategy they are using today. That's fine, too. There are also different roads that lead to Rome in the tech scene. The All-Stars edition is just about how they are doing now, what lessons they have learned and how the new generation of startups in the room can learn from this.''
Thijs Verheul (United Wardrobe) and Rutger Theunissen (24Sessions) are the keynote speakers at the All-Stars event. Verheul and Theunissen are former participants of the scale-up competition, have successfully sold their companies and embarked on a new adventure. Palmers: ,,The speakers talk about their development. Very valuable for the tech scene.''
The same trajectory went through the YBA. It all started sweetly in 2014: three young blushing dudes from Emmen started an entrepreneurial competition for young companies that was to produce the main sponsor of FC Emmen by 2020. Almost a decade on, the romance is gone, as the YBA, as a television program, is a nail-biting weigh-in of companies that could be worth billions. It's all about big, bigger, biggest.
Diversity and sustainability important
Niels Palmers: ,,This scene is changing rapidly and constantly. The situation ten years ago is incomparable to today. There is now much more diversity among founders starting a tech company, many more women are starting a company today. With that, aspects such as sustainability and a positive impact on the world also play an important role today. And until the beginning of this year, investors' money was sloshing against the skirting boards.''
He talks about the time when "the money was no longer there for the taking," and the period "when you were whistling money at a favorable business valuation" is not so long ago. Palmers: ,,It's hard to predict what's happening right now. Less money is available, interest rates are higher and the market is relatively unpredictable. The level of investment went down in recent months. You see this especially with investment rounds in growth companies, because they often raised an investment at a relatively high valuation -in the good times- and for that reason want to postpone a follow-up investment as long as possible, because company valuations today are a lot less than they were then. Now, in December, it will become clearer how the market is doing, because normally this is the deal month par excellence.''
Chordify makes world more beautiful
There have been 1,370 companies weighed in at the YBA over the past decade. Palmers says that as an organizer he always keeps an appropriate distance from the participants, but there are companies he personally values highly. He mentions Chordify, Hardt (hyperloop), Floryn (business finance) and Media Distillery (video marketing). ''In retrospect, I do personally regret that it wasn't Chordify that won the last edition of the YBA,'' he says. ,,Because it is a beautiful company that, moreover, makes the world more beautiful with music. For us, this is also something that we are very concerned about as an organization. The YBA's judging criteria also need to change with the times and tech scene. By extension, I can also imagine that the extent to which a company has positive impact on the world will play a more important role than pure money in the coming years.''
YBA All-Stars event
The YBA All-Stars edition will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 18, in conjunction with MXT. Palmers himself sees the All-Stars edition as something of a "benefit event. Palmers: ,,It is unique and beautiful that we can organize this event. As an organization we are helped a lot by MXT and Founded in Groningen who make the practical organization of the All-Stars event possible. The credits that we can again organize such a big startup event in the north of the Netherlands really go to key people like Max Papo, Lusanne Tehupuring, Bjorn Boes, Tjarda Polderman and many more who make this event possible. This is from the YBA especially a unique opportunity to do something extra for former participants, judges and partners. ''
Hosting another live event does become a one-off for the Young Business Award Foundation, which said goodbye to live events a few years ago to move to a television show on RTL-Z and Videoland.