How Let it Grow drives an urban green movement
With their strategy for innovation approved Franklin de Bekker is eager to start the urban green revolution. But imagining a new world is different from establishing it; a mission needs to be executed! After joining, Irene Rompa takes away his impatience when she immediately starts building an ecosystem for startups.
When I reached out to you, our starting point was that we had to do something with innovation.
It wasn’t clear at all what I would be working on, but when you told me the Let it Grow story I wanted to join straight away. What a cool project! I think that after a few calls my assignment was clear: what could we do with startups for Let it Grow?
After six weeks you knew you wanted to set up an incubation programme.
An incubation programme is a training programme that helps startup companies to grow by providing funding, mentorship, training and network access.
In order to speed up innovation, we needed to develop a fertile ecosystem for startups working with plants and flowers. I did some research, I went into the field to find out what was already there; what kind of startup programmes could we learn from or connect with; how intense did we want to make ours; who did we want to join?
I think you spoke to more than forty people in that first month: startups, accelerators, incubators, teachers, growers, venture capitalists. That was very useful!
It really narrowed things down. I learned that there was no programme focusing on plants and flowers yet. So at first we wanted to help everyone. Luckily I was advised to focus solely on people with a concrete use case, people that had already shown commitment. There are so many people with ideas. And you want to be able to work on something real. I also preferred creating an incubator rather than an accelerator.
What’s the difference?
People definitely use different definitions here, but for us it meant an accelerator programme would be more of a pressure cooker. An incubator is less intensive, and also gives the startups more time to actually develop. I didn’t want sessions every day and I wanted to prevent that the outcome of our programme would only be a collection of fancy slide decks designed to appeal to investors. The people we attract are not interested in that. So we decided we wanted to help them during a period of five months.
The decision to help startups for a longer period defined the core activity of our new organisation. So everything came together nicely around the brand story: Let it Grow. Growing a business takes time.
I also explicitly wanted to work with actual entrepreneurs as mentors for the teams because they have had experience in a start-up setting. Whilst mentors from corporates are very useful in accelerators that target startups which have B2B products, they might not be so familiar with the challenges that come with starting your own business.
And startups are usually very convinced of their ideas, so they have no doubts that their product will succeed.
Ha, yes! There’s always a discrepancy between what the startup thinks it needs and what the mentor thinks is needed. I understand it’s annoying when you have to validate everything, but it’s necessary to check whether your idea has a chance of succeeding.
Did that insight make it easier for you to come up with a list of subjects and services for the coaching sessions?
It did! It’s not a very difficult formula and you really get a good idea of what kind of programme you want. You always start with lean startup, and then you cover all aspects of growing a business: so sales, legal, growth hacking, and so forth.
In order to speed up innovation, we needed to develop a fertile ecosystem for startups working with plants and flowers.
Our intention is to trigger young people to come up with new ideas, to set a new wave of entrepreneurs in motion