I have come to meet Oscar Kneppers at Rockstart Spaces on the Herengracht in the historic centre of Amsterdam.
I met Oscar in the glory days of the internet, when he set up the magazine and news site Emerce and later the publication Bright for cool up-and-coming techies. After a period of silence and a career break in Spain, Oscar is back with Rockstart, a startup machine that accelerates, coaches, helps and invests in startups.
Behind the 17th-century façade the building is a hive of activity: in the open-plan areas there is space for meetings and shared workspaces, while on the upper floors startups can set up shop and get their business on the road. And of course, Rockstart itself also has its offices here. Oscar and I sit down in the 17th-century ballroom, the heart of Rockstart HQ.
“Long time no see,” I say as we grab a coffee and sit down in the huge sofa that is set up in the middle of the room.
“Yeah,” says Oscar with a smile, “but now I’m back. And we’re in business! And what’s more, we’re helping others to get there too!”
“Tell me more,” I say. “What’s the concept behind Rockstart? By the way I love this combination of a 17th-century house and a startup hub!”
“Rockstart is based on the idea that startups are fuelling the engine of the economy, both here in the Netherlands and globally. And we want to support that. We provide coaching, advice and workspace but we also set startups up with our network of investors and experts here, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. That way they can hit the ground running when they grow their business.”
“Cool! So who qualifies? I imagine not just any startup gets your support?”
“Yes and no,” says Oscar. “Our programme caters to all startups, in any industry, with any product or service. In technology, food, entertainment, health or fashion… You name it. The condition is that they need to
fit with our keywords: tech oriented, innovation driven and globally scalable. But also, the people behind it need to have stamina and staying power and believe in their idea 150%.”
“Ok, so what happens then? Say I and my idea are all of those things.”
“You could get enrolled in one of the Rockstart Accelerators, our seed investment, mentorship-based programme that runs for an intensive 100 days, followed by a 3-month summer programme focused on funding and bridging Amsterdam with Silicon Valley. The programme helps 10 promising startups to launch their products worldwide, get ready for growth investment or bootstrap into profitability. During the programme they get coaching and advice from a group of over 100 mentors, who are themselves entrepreneurs, CEOs or sector experts.”
“And what happens at the end of the 100 days?”
“Then there’s Demo Day! That’s where the startups present their businesses to over 400 investors, CEOs, their mentors and press.” “Wow, that must be so cool!”
“It is and there are some great results already,” says Oscar. “One of our alumni startups just raised $4.5 million in a Series-A investment round. These guys had regular jobs until last year… amazing!”
“And so where does it go from here?” I ask. “What’s next?”
“We’re continuing to expand!” says Oscar. “Plenty of exciting new plans… In the coming years, we’ll be launching a series of new formats, including the Rockstart Academy, intensive action-learning courses
from the best trainers in the world… and expect to see new Rockstart extensions and licenses abroad….”
“In other words, watch this space,” I say. “We definitely will!”
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