Ludovicus Henricus Fransiscus Eliens, Luuk, was born in the Netherlands and studied Liberal Arts and Sciences at Tilburg University. For some reason, that we will try to discover, Luuk decided to apply for MIETE and to travel to Porto. He moved in September 2013, and has been living in our city since that date.
MIETE-BLOG: Luuk, let me start by thanking you for this interview, it is most kind of you to spare us a bit of your time from the new startup. Let us start from the beginning. We know you had launched at least two companies before joining MIETE, can you tell us about it?
Luuk: I started my life as an entrepreneur at the age of 17, when I founded my first company together with my partner in crime Tim van Kemenade (also MIETE student). Our company called Bearded Tree was a tech startup that tried to isolate electricity usage of every individual appliance in a household. The idea was to, based on this information, provide households with personalized advice as to what kind of appliances they should purchase to save energy and thus money. This venture lasted for about 10 months and was great fun. At that point in time however, we made every mistake one could possibly make. We did not have a business model or a market, our team was too big, we didn’t speak to our clients and much more. The whole experience was great fun though and we learned a lot.
The second venture I started with Tim was called Excellent Student. This was a company that provided students with secondary school with tutoring classes given by students from university. Our company acted as an intermediary. Over the years, we managed to gradually grow the company until we sold it in 2013.
MIETE-BLOG: Entrepreneurship seems somehow to be an addictive sport. When you arrived in Porto, you and your colleague Tim van Kemenade took very little time before starting something new in Porto, however, I wonder if you could share with us your personal motivation to join MIETE and to travel to Portugal.
Luuk: In May 2013, Tim and I were kind of at a loss. We sold Excellent Student and could start something new in the Netherlands. On the other hand, we understood that doing a master could greatly benefit in the future as it could serve as a kind of ‘insurance’ in case future ventures would fail. We decided to combine the best of both worlds and find a master where we could (1) learn more about innovation and entrepreneurship and (2) try to start new (high) tech ventures. The MIETE program was perfectly suited to suit our needs.
MIETE-BLOG: You are now writing your dissertation and will complete MIETE within the next few months. How would you describe your experience?
Luuk: I am positive about my experience in Portugal and with MIETE. The master taught me valuable skills I didn’t possess before. Besides, I do believe there is a wealth of potential within FEUP and am grateful MIETE gave me the possibility to explore what is out there. In about 1.5 year, I learnt a new language, have a master degree in my back pocket, I met my girlfriend here and got great opportunities commercializing technology.
On the downside, I find it difficult to deal with the cold (especially inside houses) and I am sometimes annoyed when I need to deal with bureaucracy. Taking everything into consideration, I am happy though ☺.
MIETE-BLOG: I was reading today a post from Wayne Power, President at Gravity4 entitled “Why I Chose to be an Entrepreneur “. Somewhere along the text he says “At Gravity4, we have one phrase we engrain in every entrepreneur who joins our team. ‘Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness’.” Would you say that this attitude is also important for a MIETE Student when developing his or her business project in MIETE Project Courses?
Luuk: I do indeed agree with this phrase. Perhaps it is even better to say something along the lines of: ‘Not seeing or seeing opportunities is your responsibility and yours alone.’ An attitude that I sometimes observe in some students, an attitude that I don’t like, is that instead of looking at the opportunities that are there; people tend to focus on what is not there. This attitude is not only unproductive but in general doesn’t lead to anything. I strongly believe it is vital to try to see what you can do rather then what you cannot. I know this sounds like a cliché, but it is quite true.
MIETE-BLOG: At last, if you allow us a more personal question, are you enjoying Porto? Porto is very hilly, are you still riding your bike as you did back home? What attracts you most in our City?
Luuk: I am very much indeed. For me, Porto represents everything I need from a city. There is good nightlife, great nature (sea, mountains, river) and life is not that expensive. If houses were warm, this city would be perfect! ;-).