Evert Jaap Lugt, former CEO and founder of Nimbuzz, has been managing director of the YES!Delft incubator since June 2017. According to Lugt, The Netherlands must become a “startup nation” so as to not be left behind by the rest of the world.
In 2006, in the midst of the mobile revolution, Evert Jaap Lugt founded Nimbuzz, a messaging and calling app. By 2014, the app reached approximately 150 million users and was sold to British New Call for €137 million.
After Nimbuzz, his managing role at Swisscom innovation marked a step closer to his current work at YES!Delft: bringing innovations to the market. “This is something I really enjoyed. But I was doing it only for one company, whereas now I do it for several companies – or actually for the Netherlands as a whole.
According to Lugt, if entrepreneurship is a profession, then it is only logical to have an entrepreneur take the lead at an incubator. “I feel a bit like a former footballer who is now becoming a coach. In sports too this is considered to be a plus”.
Having graduated from Eindhoven University of Technology, Lugt speaks of “a passion for technology”. Combined with his enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, he appears fully in his own element in his new work environment. “The potential of YES!Delft, in combination with TU Delft (university), is infinite. There are so many smart people here with crazy concepts. ”
“Innovation is extremely important for the Netherlands. Take a look at exponential technologies, such as artificial intelligence for instance. It’s crucial that we play along and keep up with it, and not simply leave it to the US, for example. Asia is also working hard on this, there are thousands of startups set up each year.”
Lugt agrees that the law of big numbers – the more starters, the greater the chance of big success stories – does not apply in the Netherlands. “We must focus on quality. But fortunately, more and more people are prepared to do something with entrepreneurship at all.”
The Netherlands must become a “start-up nation”, says Lugt. “We now have the opportunity to create innovative industries.” Lugt agrees with the view that many jobs are threatened with extinction. “It can go fast. When I worked at KPN 25 years ago, almost the entire telecom industry was European. Nokia supplied the handsets, the infrastructure was provided by Ericsson and Siemens. Today, we don’t even participate in these areas anymore.”
If you’re planning to apply to YES!Delft, pay good attention now: Lugt’s most important question he asks startups is: what problem are you solving? “I sometimes meet people who say: I would like to do something with drones. Then I say: nice, but the technology is actually irrelevant. Much more important is which problem you solve.”
Lugt already has 3 distinct priorities for the coming period. First, bringing knowledge to the market requires a better connection with corporates. “We will organize more programs, platforms and events around this. It would be nice if universities know more about the challenges faced in business.”
Second, universities and their incubators should work together better. “In Delft we’re good at tech, in Rotterdam mainly at business. Many consumer apps come from Amsterdam, real things are made in Delft, why do not we bring that together?” Techies have a great need for commercial people. If you can bring those groups together, you will get amazing results.”
Finally, Lugt’s third priority focuses on encouraging and supporting women entrepreneurs. As father of three daughters, Lugt states, “We’re doing far too little for female entrepreneurship.”
Note: this article has been translated and summarized based on a Dutch source.
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