Startup Weekend Groningen— Photo credit: Joost Nuijten

How it all started

In 2011 Nick Stevens and Ralph Steenbergen met whilst organising the first Startup Weekend in Groningen. Over the next few years they worked together building the Startup Weekend community and other projects, until sometime in 2014 when they started to wonder “what’s the one thing we can do to really help the local entrepreneurial ecosystem?”. One thing was for sure, whatever is was, it needed to continue building on the community that already existed.

Using the model of The Entrepreneur’s Journey and inspired by the Google Campus in London they decided to combine their strengths to create space, both literally and figuratively for (mostly) early stage entrepreneurs.

The Entrepreneur’s Journey — originally developed by Startup Weekend

The idea was simple enough, could they create a place where people could be inspired to learn, start and grow a business. Naturally, there are other spaces where this happens, but there was a hypothesis to be tested: that starting companies spend far too much money on infrastructure such as offices, and in the process tie themselves into long, inflexible contracts — something that doesn’t really fit the way of building a new business today.

Being the sort of people that (usually) practice what they preach, the first thing that they did was discuss the idea with some local entrepreneurs that fitted the profile. The community-in-a-building concept was received extremely well. More than half a dozen companies from different industries agreed that if a suitable location was found, and the costs were appropriate, they would be the launching customers. Pretty good customer validation that gave confidence to continue with the concept.

Having done some calculations on the back of a napkin, it was decided that the only way to make the concept succeed a certain economy of scale was needed as well as a well situated location. Therefore the decision was to go big, or not at all. Ralph had a hunch that the distribution centre and office of PostNL, situated at the train station would be a possibility. After discussing and negotiating a contract with PostNL, the deal was done. 5000 square meters with the possibility to extend to 15,000 sqm.

Although the official opening was schedule for September, the first companies started to move in during the summer of 2015. Figuring out how the building works, which walls should be removed, where things should be built and how to be a community were the first points of order. Oh and of course, for each company to continue running their business in this new dynamic. Glamorous it wasn’t, but certainly fun, sometimes tiring but always motivating.

As more and more companies and entrepreneurs signed up to join the community, the rest, as they say, is history.

Ralph and Nick’s desk on day one. Quite a lot of space!
Demolishing walls is a great way to build community
Learning new dynamics is a team sport
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