We started a series of interviews with global tech professionals who drive the tech ecosystems of countries and cities, develop startup communities, and push cutting-edge innovations forward across the globe.
We are happy to present our interview with well-known international changemaker Ruben Nieuwenhuis, the Managing Director of TechConnect and the Managing Partner of TechGrounds. He is a mentor for global tech ecosystems and works towards diversity & equality in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Region. In addition, he is the co-author of the book StartupCity. Strategic adviser of TechUkraine.
TechUkraine: You are the star of the country’s and city’ startup ecosystem building. Could you tell us a bit about your first projects and current projects and how you entered the startup world?
Ruben: Okay, this is a big question. I entered the startup world obviously with FellowForce – one of the first crowdsourcing platforms in the world. This was prior to Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but I think timewise, we were a bit too early. Then we swapped from being a B2C platform to B2B, and we helped a lot of companies in open innovation. That was my first experience with startup life and tech life. This was the second company where I was the founder.
After this experience, I said okay, I want to give something back to the ecosystem and do something good. So I started DutchBasecamp. DutchBasecamp (DBC) is a platform to grow startups internationally. I had some good connections with Silicon Valley. DBC was a not-for-profit NGO, and then we did a lot of bootcamps and a lot of networking for startups around 12 years ago or so. DutchBasecamp connected me with all kinds of efforts privately but also with public partners to grow the ecosystem. We really wanted to start a program in the Netherlands to strengthen the ecosystem on a national level. That ended up as StartupDelta, with the local level as StartupAmsterdam.
I was being invited and involved to help bring my insights. Then, after bringing the insights, I was invited to become an entrepreneur in residence to run the program with Bas Beekman, public lead at StartupAmsterdam. I was the private lead, and he was from the government side. After two years or so, we wrote a book, Startup City, about our approach, and it’s being translated into English.
We were sharing insights as ecosystems, sharing networks, sharing learning and sharing clients or partners. Then we started collaborating with all kinds of cities, and then they were inviting us to help them out. They were asking: “Can you do a bit of mentoring? Can you help launch projects?” So I’m mentoring and advising cities and countries around the world: in Cologne, Montreal, Ukraine, Tirana, Trentino and so many more. So that’s a bit how I ended up there.
And now I’m in the Dutch ecosystem. I’m working on bringing diversity and equality because tech is beautiful, [but] with that said, it can lead to inequality, and it can lead to a lack of diversity, so my work here in the Netherlands is 100% focused on becoming the most diverse tech ecosystem… So, yeah, that’s a bit of my story.