BlockChange #2

With this incubator, the city of Heerlen wants to become the blockchain capital of Europe (Or even the world)

By Tom Janssen

In the Fall of 2016, the Brightlands Smart Services Campus opened its doors. The campus is situated in the Dutch city of Heerlen, located near the centre. It is the basecamp of a growing number of startups and small businesses, all focussed on delivering smart services in the field of data, blockchain, life sciences and climate change. In the near future, the Campus has the ambition to become a big blockchain player in Europe. Manager Entrepreneurial Development Vince Meens tells us all about it.

Vince’s enthusiasm is nearly unlimitied when it comes to blockchain. As a former startup founder — Meens founded an private airplane startup called Jet Wise — he is eating, sleeping and drinking entrepreneurship. Blockchain has caught his attention some years ago. Recently he and some friends organized a spontaneous meetup about blockchain. “In two days we managed to gather nearly 100 blockchain fanatics”, he says. “And there were startups who pitched their user cases about blockchain. That was so cool. For the first time we could let people talk about what they are actually doing with blockchain, instead of what they eventually want to do.”

Growing interest

The growing interest for blockchain in the region and internationally, has urged the Brightlands Smart Services Campus (SSC) to make blockhain a focus point. Vince leads this development in his management role.

“Not only Heerlen will benefit from this”, he stresses. “The SSC is linked with three other campuses in Limburg, all operating under the flag of Brightlands. In Maastricht there’s a Health Campus, in Venlo a Food and Nutrition Campus and in Sittard-Geleen there is a Campus that focuses on High End Materials. Within all these campuses, the regional government, educational institutes and corporates are closely working together on innovation in these three fields of expertise.”

The first step is the launch of an incubator program, called ‘Techruption’, that will help talented blockchain entrepreneurs build a business around their innovative ideas. Techruption offers a two year incubation program, consisting of a eight week Venture Essentials phase and a two year Venture Boost phase. Application has already opened. The program will start in September of this year.

Scalable model

“Often blockchain startups are founded by skilled and talented developers, who know all about blockchain, but know less about building a scalable business”, as Meens points out the urgency of the incubator program. “By offering a them a program, with workshops, masterclasses, meetups and workspace, we want to help them build a scalable model, that could be interesting for VC’s, for example.”

And building such a scalable model is something that often is missing in the mindset of a lot of startup founders, Meens feels: “Many founders focus only on product. What we say is: Focus on your model. That’s what is interesting to VC’s. Investors are interested in a business model that can be developed by iteration and valorization. That is something they want to invest in.”

Not only regional or local entrepeneurs are welcome; Vince even scouts for international startups. “Heerlen has the potential to become a international capital for blockchain development”, Meens feels. “But to get there, we have to work on volume. With only startups from this region, we are not going to cut it. Heerlen and the Campus have to expand their horizon, by bringing in international entrepreneurs, that will provide their unique take on the business and add something to the regional DNA.”

More information on Brightlands Techruption, go to: https://brightlandsinnovationfactory.com/