Scaling up in the world

“My aim is to create a team spirit,” says Ellen Spithoven, advisor and programme manager of ACE’s Ready to Scale. The ACE’s Ready to Scale programme for startups at the Amsterdam Science Park aims to stimulate growth, but there’s also a strong focus on working together. “We concentrate on entrepreneurs that have a strong ambition and are willing to grow,” Spithoven says, “but they also have to be likeminded people who are open to sharing experiences and helping others.”

Created by the Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and The Startup Network (SUN) in cooperation with entrepreneurs, investors and universities, the Ready to Scale programme has been running since spring 2017. It includes one-on-one advice – run by KplusV, also located at the Science Park – which is tailored to the individual startups taking part and covers all aspects of running their business. An additional group programme also features workshops, mentoring and matching with talent, investors and corporates. It’s in this second part of the scheme in which that team spirit can really thrive. 

“There were some super inspiring businesses there and it was fascinating to get to know them a bit better,” says Meike Korpershoek, co-founder and CEO of De Taalprof, an agency for Dutch-language teaching in higher education, who took part in Ready to Scale’s first edition. Some of the other participants had a similar set-up to her company – “we had the same questions about employees, insurance etc” – and they continued to meet for lunches after the programme had ended “and really learned from each other”.

Unusual challenges

The programme also includes unusual challenges designed to improve its participants’ ability to work as a team. “There was a module about leadership organisation,” says Korpershoek. “We did a project where we had to make ladders and then climb on them, and then figure out things like how we felt, like whether we trusted our teammates – it was really refreshing! We’re experienced entrepreneurs, but we need to be challenged. If we’re always being told the same things, we’re like, you’re wasting my time. That project felt really new!”

“I wanted to professionalise. Leadership, structure and finance-they helped me a lot with that.” 

When a startup is reaching the point where it wants to scale, there are manifold issues to consider. “You may find yourself in need of some advice from business experts,” says Spithoven. “Experts within the Ready to Scale network support you along the way. Services include notarial, fiscal or juridical support, design, marketing or sales advice or consultancy on strategy, international expansion, subsidies and funding.”

For Korpershoek, international expansion was not on the cards just yet. “I didn’t necessarily want to grow,” she says, “but I did want to professionalise. Leadership, structure, finance – they helped me a lot with that.” Has the programme changed her way of working? “I take more time now to work on the business in addition to taking care of the day-to-day deadlines. I always try to take at least half a day a week to take a step back and think about where we’re going.”

New perspectives and insights

Concluding, Spithoven muses on what the programme hopes to achieve. “I hope entrepreneurs will gain new perspectives and insights into growth challenges facing their company,” she says. “I hope that the programme will empower them to make concise decisions and encourage more innovation.” 

For further information, visit ready2scale.org. If you’re interested in taking part in the upcoming edition of the programme, email Ellen@ace-incubator.nl – there are a few spots left!

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