Alumni and students from the Universities of Delft and Rotterdam are jointly launching the start-up ecosystem: Graduate Entrepreneur

News - 09 April 2021

Entrepreneurial students and successful alumni of TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam have jointly set up Graduate Entrepreneur, a structural collaboration that will offer start-ups and scale-ups funding, a network and coaching as well. The new platform aims to unite existing activities and offer unique growth opportunities to start-ups and scale-ups in various sectors, such as artificial intelligence, technology, social sciences and medicine. In this way, TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam will offer joint entrepreneurship a more prominent place on their campuses.

TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam offer top education and research that rivals the best universities in the world. Less than 20 kilometres apart, the universities offer various studies to more than 40,000 students, and both universities are characterised by their diverse campuses and international character. While this is a good foundation for great start-ups, in practice there are still obstacles that prevent the majority of companies from surviving the first five years.

Combined Rotterdam-Delft innovation cluster

The objective of Graduate Entrepreneur is to boost start-ups and scale-ups in the combined innovation cluster around Rotterdam and Delft. We do this by offering a platform that brings (student) entrepreneurs from both cities together and gives access to a network of fellow entrepreneurs, alumni and investors. In addition, the platform will offer a wide range of facilities, support and funding. The online platform went live today.

20 to 30 new start-ups a year

The Graduate Entrepreneur Fund has the ambition to have around 20 to 30 new start-ups with pre-seed funding take their first steps every year. With additional seed funding, it is expected that a significant part of this number will grow to scale-ups. The first closing of this fund is expected to take place in the third quarter of this year.

Set up by prominent alumni

The initiators of Graduate Entrepreneur are prominent alumni from Rotterdam and Delft such as Michiel Muller, Gert Jan van der Hoeven, Hadewych Cels, Sandro van Hellenberg Hubar, Menno Antal, Frans van Houten, Michiel Westermann, Machtelt Groothuis, Tijo Collot d'Escury, Frans Haafkens, Frank Slootman and Hans van Ireland. In addition to TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam, they have also joined forces with the Erasmus Medical Centre,  various student associations, and organisations such as Delft Enterprises, Erasmus Enterprise, the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship, YES!Delft, Stichting Erasmus Trust fund FoundationDelft University Fund and the Philips Innovation Award.

Enormous potential

Entrepreneur and alumnus Sandro van Hellenberg Hubar speaks on behalf of the alumni: “As alumni of Rotterdam and Delft, we like to show the enormous potential that there is in the cooperation in the field of entrepreneurship by students from both universities. We have the ambition to create the activity of, for example, the innovation cluster around Harvard and MIT in Boston in the Netherlands. We aim to increase the number of successes such as payment platform Adyen, online supermarket Picnic and meal delivery service Takeaway. ”

“I see more and more that my fellow students want to start a start-up based on their own ideas. It is great that the alumni from Rotterdam and Delft, who are successful in business, will now work with us to support this. That is very valuable, ”said Nienke Roef, the student chairman of Graduate Entrepreneur.

Strengthening innovation and entrepreneurship

President of the Board and Rector Magnificus Tim van der Hagen: “We have an excellent track record in Delft with regard to incubation and validation. We need to scale this up so that we can compete with innovation clusters outside the Netherlands. This initiative together with Rotterdam will further strengthen innovation and entrepreneurship. Never before in the Netherlands have alumni and students played such an important role in this ”.

Ed Brinksma, chairman of the board of Erasmus University Rotterdam: “Translating top education and research into positive social impact is central to EUR's strategy and as a Rotterdam institution, entrepreneurship is in our blood. It is great to see that alumni from Rotterdam and Delft have now jointly set up this platform that fits in seamlessly with this, and that so many students are participating with enormous enthusiasm.

Graduate Entrepreneur consists of:

  • The Graduate Entrepreneur Start-up Ecosystem aims to be inclusive for all existing players in Delft and Rotterdam. All organisations that focus on providing the facilities for innovative entrepreneurship will provide support such as: education, training, masterclasses, coaching and mentoring, office space, validation and incubation programs, and funding. The EUR and TU Delft alumni network will provide mentoring and coaching programs for starters. This is often of decisive added value in addition to financing.
  • The Graduate Entrepreneur Pre-Seed Fund, set up by alumni from both universities. Alumni have now pledged € 3 million. The Pre-Seed Fund will start in the coming weeks.
  • A second fund, the Graduate Entrepreneur Seed Fund, which is being set up and is scheduled to close on July 1 of this year. This fund will focus on larger follow-on investments. This allows start-ups with a lot of potential and a greater capital requirement to be helped through the next growth phase. The Seed Fund aims to start in the second half of 2021.
  • The Graduate Entrepreneur Accelerator to guide promising start-ups with seed funding and targeted programmes to scale-ups. This Accelerator aims to start in 2022.