In 2016, the Dutch Student Investment Fund was founded, celebrating its five-year anniversary earlier this year. DSIF was the first fund in Europe to be run entirely by students and for students, and invests up to 50,000 euros in startups in the very early stages, founded by students, PhD candidates or recent graduates. Keabetswe Tenyane, who is the president of DSIF, looks back on the journey so far.
“There has been a lot of growth in DSIF in the past five years. Currently, we have partners not only from the Netherlands but also from abroad. This network addresses different aspects of necessity when it comes to the value-added propositions to startups. Furthermore, as the years progress, there are many lessons that each board learns, which become key to the continued growth and expertise of DSIF. In those years, we have successfully invested in the three up-and-coming startups: Clairify, LoCoMoGo and Eden. For example, Clairify has already secured a decent client base, including the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE, the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, a Dutch international bank and leading sustainability consulting firm Nexio Projects. Their plans have been captured in Het Financieele Dagblad. Hence, together with our portfolio of startups, we grow, expand and advance our support.”
“Each startup is innovative and has characteristics that are unique to them, so no specific startup can be said to be better than another. To add to that, our portfolio startups are very different. For instance, LoCoMoGo is creating a toy train that teaches kids how to code, while Clairify is focused on the innovative smart sensors that measure the air quality and effects on people’s health. Both of them have great teams that tirelessly work to reach their ambitions.
Currently, we are very proud of our recently invested startup Clairify achievements. It featured in an article in the Financieel Dagblad. Also, the founders Wim Kamerman and Felix van den Horst are in the 500 most ambitious young talents in the Dutch digital scene according to The Next Web (TNW).”
DSIF is part of an extensive network of service, support and finance organisations for startups. How would you describe the collaboration with the others?
“We partake in collaborations with parties that we can add value to, in as much as they add value to our operations. For example, one of our partners that we hold in high esteem are Novel-T, where we receive deal flow from events hosted by them, and on the other hand, we recommend startups to make use of Novel-T’s knowledge, network and facilities. Additionally, we also form syndications with other ’VC’s; we make connections with people who can provide subsidy advice, as well as connecting them with platforms where they can showcase their business ideas. We are constantly working on creating a network that will be of maximum value to student startups.”
“The analysis of startups based on the risk associated with an investment in the startup. This entails looking into factors such as risk identification and management in the startup. We consider factors such as the research that went into identifying a market fit and strategy for market penetration. In addition to the previously mentioned, we also consider team composition, motivation, commitment and discipline. We believe that motivation is the key driver of innovation.”
What is your advice to students who are hesitating if it is worth exploring the business opportunities of their idea?
“As DSIF, we highly encourage startups to explore the business opportunities of their idea no matter what hesitations are associated therewith. We do provide assistance by offering feedback at every phase of the investment procedure. Furthermore, we work with partners such as Novel-T and Incubase, who could help a startup really groom its idea to be fit for the world.
Most importantly, DSIF is student-friendly as we are considerate of any possible difficulties that a startup may face because these are the growth opportunities. Consequently, entrepreneurs are not held personally liable in case of bankruptcy. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible, until it is done.” So just start, that is most important.”
“Firstly, it would be reaching the €1 million capital aggregate as it would make room for new opportunities for DSIF and the reach it can have. Secondly, my dream is that it would exist for long enough to provide many more students with the learning opportunity I have had just by being a part of the organisation. Thirdly, it would be to see the success of the startups in our portfolio and perhaps their journey to becoming a unicorn startup.”