There is actually something special going on at the Drenthe Startup. The 2017 winner, Bakschik Martirosian of BMTEC, is on the jury of this year's provincial startup competition. The youngster has thus become a veteran in a short time, it seems. Niels Palmers: ,,It is a sign that we are growing toward a mature Drenthe ecosystem.''
Palmers is the organizer of both the Young Business Award (YBA) and the Drenthe Startup. Both events have been dormant for a year and are not really getting going this year due to the "corona," but they are now returning in a modified version. Drenthe startups can apply to try to succeed the previous award winners (BMTEC and Arvick).
'Drenthe ecosystem comes of age'
All those startups and the contest thus contribute to the Drenthe ecosystem. YBA and Drentse Startup are pivotal in keeping that system running smoothly. ,,Things are actually going quite well in that respect," Palmers believes. ,,Because in the accompanying video, Deputy Henk Brink mentions Code Sandbox as one of the newcomers. But both founders have gained experience at Catawiki. And the founders of Catawiki, Rene Schoenmakers and Marco Jansen, helped those guys but also help other startups. Also by investing in them, for example. That's how a system matures.''
Deputy Henk Brink sees the same thing. ''With Ik ben Drents Ondernemer and Ondernemersfabrieken, we have a broad network that helps ambitious startups get started,'' he points out. ''It is the Drenthe model: customization and an interlocking of local ecosystems of startups and entrepreneurs.''
Bakschik Martirosian is ambassador for Drenthe
Henk Brink also looks with joy at Bakschik Martirosian's move from participant to jury member at Drenthe Startup. ,,He is an ambitious entrepreneur who takes advantage of opportunities and networks,'' says the deputy, "but a driven entrepreneur himself is also willing to share his knowledge and experiences. He is an ambassador, he is an example of what we like to see in Drenthe.''
Bakschik Martirosian fondly remembers being a participant. After all, it was only a short time ago. And winning helps with name recognition, he now knows. ''You actually want national exposure and then this is a nice stepping stone. People call you, people want to know more about you,'' he says. It helped him. Martirosian only had one employee at the time; now he has fifteen. Moreover, he has now invested a good million euros in laser cutting machines.
'Everyone slams on brakes, right then you have to accelerate'
But what matters most is his customer base. Siemens, VDL, Friesland Campina and yacht builders, among others, buy parts from him. ''I have 700 active customers,'' he says with appropriate pride. And then the entrepreneur in Bakschik Martirosian chimes in: ''But we're not there yet, not by a long shot. I see so much potential. We are just beginning. Yes, at the moment I see everyone putting on the brakes, but that's exactly when you have to accelerate. If someone else takes it easy, it gives us a chance to grow.''
Bakschik Martirosian has long since ceased to be a rookie. He knows what he is doing and the knowledge he has accumulated over the past seven years he is only too happy to share as a judge. Already he throws one experience on the table: ,,At first I always thought I was very lucky, but when I see how much commitment I have and at the same time see what others do, it has nothing to do with luck. I go for it more than other startups. I create a lot more opportunities because of that.''
'Stages like Drenthe Startup are more relevant just now'
Another tip: realize what you can and cannot do well. Bakschik Martirosian knows by now that he is not so great at managing. Ideas and strategy are his bag. He is looking forward to his role as a judge: ''I feel honored.''
It's a strange time for a contest like Drenthe Startup. ''Corona'' appears to be 'disrupting' even startups; it's the world upside down. ''Markets have changed significantly in recent months,'' Palmers observes. ''Right now, meetings like Drenthe Startup are more relevant than ever. These kinds of venues bring entrepreneurs into contact with parties that can help him or her further. Moreover, they are springboards to talent and investors.''
'Where markets shrink, new ones re-emerge'
Market, talent and capital, according to Palmers, are the crucial elements for a company to adapt to changing conditions. He notes that society has stalled on a number of issues. There are not only losers, there are winners in this age dominated by health and measures. Owning a car has become less obvious, gel and makeup sales have hiked backwards. All have to do with working from home. Also consider coffee consumption in the office and at home. At the same time, a lot of money is suddenly being spent on the home. Palmers: ,,It presents opportunities for startups. Where markets shrink, new markets emerge. Startups are very good at capitalizing on that.''
Henk Brink is pleased with the relaunch of Drenthe Startup. He praises the organization: ''One adapts to the changed circumstances. Especially in these exciting times, that deserves kudos.''
'To live like here you have to earn ten times as much in Amsterdam'
Oh yes, Bakschik Martirosian also has a vision of the Drenthe ecosystem that we should not withhold from anyone. It's all smaller here, it sounds, Drenthe is behind the Randstad in terms of ecosystem. ''But that's not such a bad thing,'' he believes, ''we need to take a good look at what we are good at here. We are more hospitable, more sincere, and it's easier to get support here. And we have space and quiet. It is good to live here. Amsterdam is immensely overrated. You also have to earn ten times as much to live there as you do here.''