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Stirring the Entrepreneurial Soup

Coaching Session
On Wednesday, I had the privilege of spending over an hour of Martin Haring’s time. Martin (@martin_haring) is Coordinator of the Amsterdam Centre for Entrepreneurship, better known as ACE. The mood was very upbeat as he had just come back from Budapest where ACE won first prize in the 5th annual European Enterprise Awards in the category “Investment in Skills”.
Stirring the Entrepreneurial SoupACE was founded five years ago and is a collaboration between 3 Amsterdam universities, the Dutch government and entrepreneurs. It runs an elective minor in Entrepreneurship for 3rd and 4th year university students. But it’s not make believe as some other entrepreneurship programmes in The Netherlands : “The students have to officially register their company with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce and operate it like any other real business” explains Martin. And they’ve got a lot on their plates: the minor is full-time but lasts only six months, not a lot of time to start a company, especially considering that many students don’t have a concrete business idea when they start the programme.

During the six months, the students have an educational component of about 4-8 hours per week but for the rest of the time they’re either at ACE plotting their next steps or out in the real world doing deals. In the beginning, the educational component concentrates on creativity and idea generation. Afterwards they get law, entrepreneurial finance, marketing and all-important sales training. At any one time there are about 100-150 students running 30-40 businesses. Students decide what their companies will offer and the companies are active in all sectors of service, trade and product development.
A Coaching SessionOn a company by company basis, 6-month goals are agreed upon between the students and ACE and the students’ assessment is based on how well these goals are reached. During the programme, they are supported by 10-15 staff members. “The students have a lot of independence in this programme, but business coaching is not optional”, Martin continues. “One hour week of business coaching by our staff is the absolute minimum. The programme really revolves around competent business coaching, and, if needed, we’ll pull in additional specialists.” One thing the students do have to organize themselves is start-up financing, which most student companies do by the time-honored triple-F method (Friends, Families, and Fools).

For more information about this very interesting initiative, see the ACE home page (English version). There’s also a nice video about ACE available (English subtitles).

Peter Kraan

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