Category Archives: Blogs

How to let regions prosper


Yesterday I was speaking at the 13th Annual OECD LEED Forum in Prague on ‘Resilient and Diversified Local Economies’, or in more old fashioned academic terms: structural economic change and productivity.

It was good to be in the country of Vaclav Havel and Joseph Schumpeter (yes, he was born in Triesch – Moravia, current day Czech Republic). Both great thinkers and proponents of open societies. Today I largely stood on the shoulders of Joseph Schumpeter, the inventor of the concept of “creative destruction”: productive innovations making old firms and industries redundant.

One of the questions today was whether regions grow faster if they are more specialized or more diversified. In academic research you can find almost as much evidence pro as contra both options. So, well, it depends…, is the unsatisfactory answer. In general for the economy to evolve and prosper you need experiments and successful experiments to be scaled up and diffused. A diversified economy is generally better at enabling experiments, but for scaling up you need to develop a critical mass, sometimes leading to a specialized economy. So a specialized economy may be more the outcome of successful development than the cause. The latter phenomenon is good for growth, but along the lifecycle of an industry, it’s not good to be stuck with a dying industry in your (specialized) region. Check Detroit! So best is a diversified region to experiment, but with possibilities to specialize in emerging and growing industries, and step out of low productivity industries. Here’s where the related variety discussion enters: if you want to step into new industries, they better be related to your existing competence bases. Regions tend to diversify in new activities related to their existing activities from which they draw and combine local competences, unrelated diversification is the exception. Computer hardware production is unlikely to emerge in a region that specializes in growing bananas, while software production is likely to emerge in regions with computer hardware production capabilities, and in a more radical way, Fintech is more likely to emerge in regions with capabilities in the IT industry and banking than regions without these capabilities.

Another question was how can an entrepreneurial ecosystem approach supports new growth sectors. And, what is an example of a region where an ecosystem has been developed to support industrial diversification? An entrepreneurial ecosystem approach takes into account both agency (entrepreneurs, firms) and structures (system) to stimulate economic development. A key element of economic development is structural change: the creation of new industries and the destruction of old industries. For this process of creative destruction to take place, policy needs to stimulate the entrepreneurs and businesses that have the potential to create new sectors. Targeted industrial policy has many problems. An effective option may be to create the best context for productive entrepreneurship: a flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Examples around the globe are places like Boulder-Colorado, Cambridgeshire-UK, and in my home country: Amsterdam and Eindhoven. These places have not had explicit ecosystem strategies to start with, these largely emerged with a mixture of public and private involvement. They were certainly not a top down exercise, although places like Singapore and the United Arab Emirates might provide exceptions here.

Entrepreneurship: Skill or Capability?

Sometimes language poses substantial limitations. These weeks, the pressure to get policy on the agenda for the new cabinet formation reaches the boiling temperature – a Dutch saying with a too limited number of Google returns to be internationally valid. On top of the stack is a new human capital agenda for the Netherlands, in which education takes prime position. To break down this broad agenda, there is broad consensus that we have to move to the better inclusion of so called 21st century skills, which on the hard side include ‘coding’ and on the soft side an emphasis on ‘communication’. In my part-time role as ‘lobbyist’ for entrepreneurship education, it is key to get ‘entrepreneurial skills’ included in these 21st century skills, which is not very easy and successful so far, I must admit. Entrepreneurship education itself is too narrow for support, at least, that is the opinion of influential decision makers.

As said, language is a big limitation here. Thinking about entrepreneurship, many would argue that it is the ability to do something with 21st century skills. But this is not a skill in itself, it is what business scholars call a capability. But then it starts to become difficult, because Dutch language has no proper word for capability. Close is capaciteit, but this also has the non-personal generic feeling, the same as capacity. Closer is competency, however, competency driven teaching is completely discredited after big failure in vocational education, so lobby-suicide. We need a good word to capture what we mean when arguing that 21st skills alone will not save you if you do not know what to do with them.

So, let’s for the moment stick to entrepreneurship as a capability in English, and then return to the business school literature inspired by the great David Teece. In the resource based view of the firm, its is well understood that people in the firm (should) have skills and that these skills have to be a bit ‘vrio’, which means unique in creating a competitive advantage. In the early literature, key of creating vrio capabilities at the firm level lies in the combination of skills that may be unique. However, over time, there has come more emphasis on creating so called dynamic capabilities that are on a higher level than skills, as these skills will become a commodity in the end, starting probably by the treasured with coding approach – I start to bite a bit here….Hence, it is more useful to think of capabilities as existing on the organization level, not at the individual level. We can think of firm level entrepreneurial culture, learning abilities, and orchestration capabilities as skills at the organization level that make a competitive difference.

In the modern literature, this distinction between skills and capabilities may serve as an inspiration for framing future investments in entrepreneurship education. If we conclude that entrepreneurship is both an individual skill as an organizational capability, it may well be that the skills component is close to those already in the 21st century skills, so need no further mentioning. We can then focus on entrepreneurship education as a capability at the organizational level to facilitate the entrepreneurial use of 21st century skills. This then opens up the discussion to the large literature on organizational learning that moves from awareness and sensing, to exploration and ends in exploitation and execution. In this, primary education, secondary education and vocational and academic higher education as supply chain can find a proper role: The start of a entrepreneurship strategy to improve competitiveness of the Dutch economy through the human capital agenda.

Institutional Effectuation

Last week, I attended a conference in Dar es Salaam on institutional design for economic development. The conference was organized by REPOA, one of the leading think tanks of Sub Sahara Africa. Since John Magufuli rules Tanzania with a bombardement of institutional reforms, the effects of institutional reform has become very actual in the streets of Dar and beyond. Most ‘development’ partners  are very worried that the process of change will end in a nightmare. The big stars at conference were Lant Pritchett of Harvard, John Sutton of LSE and Francois Bourguignon of PSE, all associated economists with the World Bank. My own paper, by the way, was on connecting institutional reform to the emergence of entrepreneurial ecosystems.
During the conference, across sessions an angry discussion gained traction, to culminate in the last plenary session. African policy makers and academics ‘accused’ the knowledgeable white men of that ‘we know all this’. We know what good institutions are, in what way ‘our’ institutions are bad, and what the effects are of these malfunctioning institutions. We have the right policies for years, however, these have not generated the right institutions let alone the positive effects on economic development. It is implementation and execution stupid!
One young Nigerian economist working at the International Growth Center took up the challenge in his session. His argument was that policy advice should not focus on what institutions should be, but instead focus what they are and start improving what is there. This sounds simple, but actually is a revolutionary idea. in my comments, I called it Institutional Effectuation, after the effectuation method in entrepreneurship. Start with the bird in the hand, leverage what you have, be the pilot in the cockpit and fly your current resources. Clearly it can be useful to know where you are heading, but sometimes you spend a bit too much time and especially donor money to figure that out. And, it is a big difference whether you build capacity for future jobs, or focus to do your current job better.
It reminded me of a discussion some weeks ago at Makarere University in Kampala. I noticed that my modern problem centered entrepreneurship train-the-trainer approach using the Business Model Canvas and Lean Launchpad methods was not catching on as I was expecting. In the discussion, it was quietly mentioned ‘we know all that’…..What we do, we focus on success stories and the ask why they are successful. In Africa there are so many problems to which there are so many obvious but wickedly difficult theoretical solutions, starting from there is useless. What can we learn and scale from the few best practices is a more efficient strategy. Reading Lant’s book Building State Capacity in the plane back home, I was struck by an Albert Einstein quote. ‘Theory is we know everything and nothing works. Practice is everything works but we do not know why. In theory and practice means nothing works and we do not know why.’ Maybe we indeed should build theory a bit more on practice.
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Terugblik Crossover Challenge 2016


Afgelopen 2 juni was de finale van Crossover Challenge, een initiatief van Entrepreneurship @HU. De Crossover Challenge is een businesscasewedstrijd waarbij het niet alleen draait om geld verdienen, wat te besteden is aan de realisering van het opgezette bedrijf, maar ook het creëren van maatschappelijke impact. Tijdens deze wedstrijd hebben de teams bijna een half jaar gewerkt aan het ontwikkelen van hun bedrijf en zijn zij door verschillende rondes heen gekomen. Vijf teams streden in de finale nog een keer om de titel voor het publiek en voor de jury door een pitch te geven. De teams maakten daarmee kans op geldbedragen en de publieks prijs.unnamed (3)


BEP, een app die de zorg aan de allochtone zorgvrager verbetert, won de hoofdprijs van €10.000. De tweede plek ging naar Carto, een app voor communicatie tussen inwoners en inwoners met de gemeente, met een bedrag van €6500. De derde plek ging naar Kartent, een (festival)tent van karton, met een bedrag van €3500. De publieksprijs is gewonnen door Movemat, videogames met fysieke beweging samengebracht in een mat gericht op immobilisatie.

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Voor meer informatie over de Crossover Challenge en de winnaars, check de website.


UtrechtInc opent Garage: pre-incubator

Opening UtrechtInc Garage.jpg

Afgelopen week opende incubator UtrechtInc haar Garage, een pre-incubator plek voor startups, onderzoekers, bedrijven en studenten waar zij kunnen experimenteren met innovatieve startup concepten. Zodoende wil UtrechtInc bijdragen aan een gezonde samenleving. Alle partijen profiteren: ondernemers kunnen in hun beginfase kijken naar de haalbaarheid van hun concept, onderzoekers kunnen ontdekken of ondernemerschap hun volgende stap is, corporates bieden steun vanuit hun werkveld en studenten kunnen deelnemen aan ondernemerschapsprojecten of werken hier als stagiair of als (bij)baan.

De pre-incubator kent een unieke locatie, namelijk een oude glasblazerij in de vleugel naast UtrechtInc. De naam “Garage” is een knipoog naar de startlocaties van succesvolle bedrijven waaronder Apple en HP.

De Garage wordt gefinancierd door een subsidie van het Lokaal Economisch Fonds Utrecht. Ook zijn er partners zoals Climate-KIC en docenten van de Utrechtse kennisinstellingen betrokken bij dit concept. Ze zullen hier hun ondernemerschapsprogramma’s draaien.

Verder biedt het werkplekken en ruimtes die bedoeld zijn voor events, hackathons, trainingen, workshops en vergaderingen. Matchmaking en experimenten worden gefaciliteerd en startup expertise geboden.

Zie de Garage website voor meer informatie en om je aan te melden voor gratis toegang in de zomermaanden juli en augustus.

Face Entrepreneurship

The portal for European entrepreneurs | FACE Entrepreneurship

Face Entrepreneurship is an European startup community for entrepreneurs that want to collaborate and help each other out on their road to entrepreneurship. If you join their community, you are able to share experiences, ask and answer questions and build and build an entrepreneurship network around you.

Curious to see what types of startups are involved with FACE? Check out all the FACE startups around Europe here.

If you have a good idea and want to start up your own ICT project, then definitely visit the FACE Entrepreneurship website. Also make sure to check out the FACE calender for offline events around you (including Utrecht!).


Summary of Entrepreneurship Week: Spring edition 2016


Entrepreneurship Spring School was very succesful!

Approximately 30 students joined in to learn all about entrepreneurship including customer validation, marketing, finance and pitching.

In addition, a lot of lecturers from the Utrecht School of Economics and organizations joined in to elaborate on their entrepreneurial activities. For example, Enactus Utrecht did a case and presentation on social
entrepreneurship. Also, the attendees had lunch at StudentsInc and had the chance to meet startup entrepreneurs.

On Friday, the teams had to 13061923_10154077525176866_1082388099700014454_npitch their final business idea to three dragons in the Dragon’s Den. Eventually, a winner was chosen. A pitch on a sustainable water bottle based on bamboo won the competition.




Various organisations offer students interested in entrepreneurship opportunities. Check them out below!


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The start ups at UtrechtInc are always looking for interns. Are you interested in working at one of their start ups? Check out their vacancies here.



enactusAre you a student and interested in social entrepreneurship? Then check out the vacancies of Enactus Utrecht as they are looking for a new board.




Frisse Blikken offers internships during the summer months. Do you have time off during the summer and do you want to gain experience in field of consultancy and entrepreneurship? Check out the Frisse Blikken summer internships (by clicking on ‘student’ at the top)!



During the week, students had the chance to meet and learn from HollandStartup. As an incubator, they offer coaching and much more to start-ups. Interested in what they do? Check out Opportunities for Grads or get in touch!


Have you missed this edition of Entrepreneurship Week / Season school but are you eager to learn more about entrepreneurship? Stay up to date by liking our Facebook page and learn about new events in the future.

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Energiestopper competitie

Doen Energie[s]topper

Stichting DOEN en New Venture hebben in samenwerking de DOEN Energie(s)topper competitie gelanceerd.

Dit is een nationale competitie voor ondernemers en bestaande bedrijven met innovatieve oplossingen op het gebied van energiebesparing.

Aanleiding voor de competitie is een recent onderzoek naar de impact van duurzame energie initiatieven die DOEN ondersteunt, waaruit duidelijk wordt dat innovaties op het gebied van energiebesparing ver achter lopen. Er is dus nog veel winst te behalen!

Door het houden van deze competitie, willen Stichting DOEN en New Venture “de doelgroep inspireren en innovatie in de energiebesparingssector stimuleren”, aldus Marjolijn van Bilderbeek, Marketing Manager van New Venture.

Geïnteresseerd in deze competitie?
Ben jij een zero hero? Meld je dan voor 7 januari 2016 aan!

Uit de ingeleverde business concepten worden direct vijf finalisten geselecteerd. Via New Venture krijgen zij coaching op maat en worden ze voorbereid op de finale. Daar zullen zij hun plan pitchen voor de vakkundige jury.

Deelnemers strijden om een bedrag van 100.000 euro waarmee ze hun product of dienst verder kunnen ontwikkelen. De winnaar wordt bekendgemaakt tijdens de finale op 10 maart 2016.

Meer weten over Energie(s)topper?
Bekijk hier de website en volg de competitie via Twitter en Facebook.



In contact komen met grote bedrijven om samen innovatieve oplossingen aan te dragen voor het Rotterdamse business ecosysteem? Dan is de Rotterdam100 zeker iets voor jou!

Rotterdam100 is een talentencompetitie voor (internationale) studenten en young professionals van beide HBO- en WO-opleidingen. Talenten van alle disciplines zijn welkom. Je maakt kans op mee te doen aan de Rotterdam100 als je leergierig bent, je graag ontwikkelt en wil excelleren.

100 geselecteerden gaan aan de slag met een bedrijfscase gerelateerd aan het thema The Next Economy voor bedrijven als ABN AMRO, CGI, PwC en Port of Rotterdam. Daarnaast maken deelnemers kans op een all-inclusive reis naar Boston en een aanbevelingsbrief van burgermeester Aboutaleb.

Waarom aanmelden voor Rotterdam100?

Het is voor studenten een mooie kans om ondernemerschapsvaardigheden te ontwikkelen zoals pitchen, cross-sectorieel inzicht te krijgen, carrièrekansen te ontwikkelen en een waardevol netwerk op te bouwen. Bovendien krijg je een kijkje in de keuken van grote bedrijven en draag je bij aan ‘BV Nederland’.

Geïnteresseerd in Rotterdam100?
Meld je voor 11 december aan via de website!

Voor meer informatie, lees de brief van burgermeester Aboutaleb en bekijk de website van Rotterdam100.

Nieuwe directeur UtrechtInc


Per 1 januari zal Jorg Kop het stokje overnemen van Roel Raatgever als directeur van UtrechtInc.

Ik ben erg blij met de keuze voor Jorg als nieuwe directeur. Jorg heeft zowel startup als corporate ervaring. Juist deze combinatie is nodig voor de volgende groeifase van UtrechtInc. Ik ga UtrechtInc vol vertrouwen overdragen.” – Roel Raatgever

Jorg Kop is niet onbekend met de ondernemerswereld – hij is onder andere co-founder van  SnappCar. Hij heeft daarnaast in diverse ondernemende Marketing-, Sales- en Algemeen Management rollen gewerkt bij verschillende bedrijven: van startup tot beursgenoteerd.Jorg Kop UtrechtInc

Kop laat weten een voorliefde te hebben voor startups.

Het gevestigde bedrijfsleven realiseert zich nog te weinig dat de ‘disrupt or to be disrupted’ discussie hoog op de agenda moet. Startups maken slim gebruik van deze stilte door te rebelleren met innovatieve ideeën en business modellen. De explosie van positieve energie die nodig is om vanuit het niets een potentiële groeimotor van de economie neer te zetten werkt aanstekelijk. Daar zit vooruitgang en daar wil ik bij zijn“, aldus Jorg Kop.

Jorg was al enige tijd betrokken bij UtrechtInc door met zijn startup SnappCar in 2011 en 2012 deel uit te maken van de community.

Ook later als mentor groeide mijn enthousiasme. Ik voel mij thuis in deze innovatieve omgeving waar van alles gebeurt en kijk ernaar uit UtrechtInc naar een volgend hoofdstuk van groei te brengen“.

Kop ziet kansen voor startup incubator UtrechtInc in onder andere “het creëren van duidelijkheid”, door nog meer te focussen op startups van ondernemers en wetenschappers binnen de sectoren E-Health, E-Learning en E-Climate.

Eigenlijk liggen er volop kansen voor UtrechtInc. We grijpen de belangrijkste aan om via ondernemerschap een positieve impact te maken op de samenleving”.


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