Mentor Spotlight: Bram Kanstein

Startup Weekend Amsterdam 2015 is just around the corner. With only one more month to go exciting developments are happening around the event. Last time we introduced Lauren Valbert to you as our mentor and we are back with another exciting person as an addition to mentor team.

Meet Bram Kanstein. He is the European community manager of Product Hunt – Just before joining Product Hunt, Bram built and launched Startup Stash, “A curated directory of 400 resources and tools to help you build your Startup”. The site went viral through Product Hunt and got 35K unique visits and 230K page views in 48 hours. Startup Stash is currently the #1 most up voted product of all-time on Product Hunt.

We Interview Bram for our awesome community with respect to upcoming Startup Weekend Amsterdam.

How can you help our participants as a mentor?

I know a lot about startups that are out there and the problems they are trying to solve. I can help the teams sharpen their idea and give them examples of existing products that are similar/in the same space. Also, I think I can help them focus on the core of the product and define what their MVP should look like.

What kind of ideas are you looking forward to see at this year’s event?

It would be awesome if someone came and pitched a product that solves a small problem, but which is high in demand. So a solution to an urgent problem, or of course something with beer.

Why is entrepreneurship important to you?

Taking initiative and building something that solves other people’s problems is something I really admire. Plus I love discovering new startups and products so the more entrepreneurship the better

What is the most important lesson you want to give to our participants?

For me, ideas are born out of your experiences, your problems, your victories, stuff you see, stuff that inspires, big companies, but also small ones. How can you reach a point where you have an idea that’s truly interesting and worth chasing? And what do you do next? That’s something I hope I can help the participants with.

Why someone with a business idea should come to Startup Weekend?

Because it’s an awesome journey with awesome energy and the best place to find likeminded people that may be able to get you further along with your idea.

Why should people participate in Startup Weekend even if they don’t have an idea?

Same as above, it’s a great place to find likeminded people to connect with, and find someone that has an awesome idea you’d like to work on!

Buy your ticket for the event here!








Interview with Startup Weekend Mentor: Lauren Valbert

We are proud to bring back and introduce to you one of our mentors, Lauren Valbert. 

Lauren helps businesses with customer development, business development, and marketing. Customer centrism is the philosophy behind the company’s focus: how do companies attract, retain, and motivate the customers that will make their business successful and profitable?

She works with companies to create customer profiles, which then are tested and validated, and which can then be used to build growth-oriented business and product development strategies. She has had her fair share of helping businesses bloom.

We had a chance to interview her for Startup Weekend.

How many Startup Weekends have you mentored at?

This is going to be my 5th startup weekend in total and 3rd in Amsterdam.

Which participant team made the biggest impression on you?

It has to be a team from Startup Weekend Amsterdam 2014 which tried and pivoted a lot over the weekend and ended up talking about their learning process and failure on Sunday night pitch.

We as human beings and as a society are focused on success and results only but what I liked about that team is that their experience focused on the learning process itself and the fact that exposing vulnerability can help other people learn.

What makes you come back to Startup Weekend Amsterdam every year?

I love the whole concept of startup weekend. I love the team of dedicated individuals behind Startup Weekend Amsterdam and the fact that it is ran voluntarily is a testament to the energy and the passion that the team brings. The structure itself is weird, chaotic and energized rather than something which is too structured and boring. So for me it is tiring but also very energizing and fun.

How can you help our participants as a mentor?

Helping all size of companies develop ideas is part of my daily work, especially with regards to their customers. My expertise is related to how an idea is related to a customer, on every level: from ideation to validation to successfully launching the product or service.

What I will bring is the customers perspective to what participants will be building. You may think your idea is great but I’m going to look at it from a customer’s point of view and help you develop it further.

What kind of ideas are you looking forward to see at this year’s event?

I’m looking forward to Social Entrepreneurship ideas, ideas which can impact our community and people. Ideas which can transform ways to share information which is offline as well as online to make people’s life better. I don’t think most of us need any more products, what we need to do is figure out better ways to communicate, connect, share and impact each other’s world.

What is the most important lesson you want to give to our participants?

The weekend is not about ending up with a successful idea, its about learning and allowing yourself to fail. I would say come in and be prepared to fail.

Why should people participate in Startup Weekend even if they don’t have an idea?

There are two kind of people at this event; people with great ideas and people who help them actually make those ideas happen. I myself am the latter type as I don’t have great ideas by myself but I’ve great skills supporting those people bring ideas to life. Supporting and bringing ideas to life is actually much more fun. It really stretches you creatively and i think those people are more important than the people with ideas. I see those people as a major asset to Startup Weekend.

Looking forward to our coming event? Buy your tickets soon.

Buy your Startup Weekend Amsterdam 2015 Ticket Now!








Interview with Our Sponsor: Rockstart

Startup Weekend Amsterdam welcomes back one of the sponsors from last year to the event again: Rockstart

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Rockstart gives startups rock-solid support in their first 1000 days. Since 2012, Rockstart has helped startups from all over the world grow faster. With 2 accelerator programs has helped more than 40 startups take off and created over 250 jobs. Besides accelerator, other initiatives like Rockstart Spaces, Answers and Impact are also part of Rockstart.

We interviewed Don Ritzen, co-founder and Managing Director of Rockstart Accelerator.

What history do you have with Startup weekend?

Don-Ritzen-Rockstart

The idea of Rockstart also came out of Startup Weekend which we organised for first time in 2009. I participated a Startup Weekend event in Copenhagen and my team won the weekend and afterwards we had members of jury and VC’s coming up to us and saying they’d like to invest, which was mind blowing. The startup continued, raised $2 millions and went to Silicon Valley, I couldn’t go with them. Here in Netherlands Startup Weekend has such an energetic effect that people that win the event or form a very nice team they sometimes quit their jobs right after the weekend but what I noticed is that they struggled to find launching customers or investors. I thought we should have something as a next step after startup weekend. We didn’t have anything like that in Netherlands and no one was doing it so I decided to do it, and met my co-founder Oscar Kneppers at Startup Weekend and together we launched Rockstart.

Why is entrepreneurship important to you?

I think it challenges you to make the most out of yourself and it gives you freedom and autonomy to make your own path. To create something when there’s only a idea is there on paper and make it come to life is the best feeling there is and everyone at Startup Weekend feels that because they start with nothing on Friday evening and they make something out of it by Sunday evening and that is why it’s such a powerful event and I think that is also the essence of entrepreneurship.

What effects SW has on ecosystem of city or country?

It has a big effect on people who join the event; after such a weekend they realise that the idea they have been walking around is not so difficult to implement and together with Sunday evening pitches guests the energy that is in the room on Sunday evening is something you won’t see at other events and that energy spreads across the city, infects other people and encourage them to join the event or do entrepreneurial things on their own.

Why someone with a business idea should come to Startup Weekend Amsterdam?

It simply is the best platform to take your idea to next step. You can keep it to yourself and grow it in your own time but when you start to share, it gets better. With more thoughts and different point of views make something improve. People who have ideas usually don’t do something with them and some years later at some dinner party they say ‘look at the company who raised another 5 million, i had same idea 2 years ago’. Startup weekend is a platform which allows you to do something with your ideas.

Why should people with full time jobs come to Startup weekend even if they don’t want to build their own company?

You leave the weekend very energetic with a lot of ideas and insights in terms of how to do your job differently or better. For example working with business model canvas or working with different people you don’t normally work with gives you a different approach to the usual way of working and that brings a lot of improvement.

Why you decided to sponsor?

It is about giving back  to Startup Weekend as I got a lot from it, it brought be where I am today. I think its nice to have other people have the same experience which i had.

Looking forward to our coming event? Buy your tickets soon. Early Birds Sold Out.

Buy your Startup Weekend Amsterdam 2015 Ticket Now!