Since the launch of the Graduate Entrepreneur platform to foster start-ups and scale-ups of students and alumni from Rotterdam and Delft, the associated funds have already raised €21 million. This money will be used to finance young tech companies, appoint an experienced fund management team and strengthen the ecosystem around the universities. The amount was raised through alumni, Delft University of Technology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus MC and third parties. The first investments in young tech companies have already been made.

Despite the innovative knowledge and talent available in the Netherlands, the country produces hardly any unicorns – young companies worth at least one billion dollar – compared to other countries in Europe and Asia. One of the reasons behind this is that only a fraction of Dutch start-ups grows into scale-ups. The Graduate Entrepreneur platform wants to change this by providing funding for young tech companies – especially in the deep tech sector – while simultaneously offering support and coaching through a growing network of alumni of the three universities, including a number of experienced international entrepreneurs.

Inviting alumni to join

‘To provide a fertile ground for innovation and entrepreneurship we need to support young entrepreneurial talent with funding as well as coaching and access to an extensive network,’ says Frans van Houten, CEO of Philips, alumnus of Erasmus University Rotterdam and one of the initiators. ‘With Graduate Entrepreneur we want to offer that important combination to enable more start-ups and scale-ups of graduates of Rotterdam and Delft to succeed in their ambitions.’

‘We have taken many important steps since launching the Graduate Entrepreneur platform back in April, such as realizing the first close of the Seed Fund and appointing Auke van den Hout and Angela Pellaupessy as fund managers,’ adds co-initiator Menno Antal (Action investor and Delft University of Technology alumnus). ‘Our goal is to give as many young ambitious entrepreneurs as possible the chance to seriously develop their business. We are therefore happy to invite even more alumni to join Graduate Entrepreneur.’

Unique fund with direct ties to Delft and Rotterdam

The Graduate Entrepreneur Seed Fund is a commercial investment vehicle. Experienced investors and entrepreneur Auke van den Hout (former Nimbus Ventures) and Angela Pellaupessy (former InnovationQuarter) have been appointed as fund managers. Together with Ludolf Stavenga (as venture partner Deep Tech, also connected to Delft University of Technology) and Nienke Roef (former chair of the first student board of Graduate Entrepeneur) they will form the fund management team of the Graduate Entrepreneur Seed Fund. This fund is unique because of its direct ties with the universities from Delft and Rotterdam and the network of highly successful alumni entrepreneurs, making us a very attractive investor for young tech companies”, says Angela Pellaupessy.

The Seed Fund has just completed its first close for an amount of € 17 million and intends to grow this to at least € 30 million. An initial investment has now been made in Quantware, which aims to make quantum chips widely available and has the ambition to grow into the Intel of quantum computers. “Through GEF we are in direct contact with CEOs and entrepreneurs with large networks, who have a great deal of knowledge and experience with international upscaling, securing major financing rounds and therefore large-scale expansion. We learn a lot from them which helps us grow strongly. We also come into contact with ambitious top students, forming an essential basis for our recruitment,” says Mathijs Rijlaarsdam, CEO and co-founder of Quantware.        

Investing in two new start-ups every month

In addition to the Seed Fund, the Graduate Entrepreneur platform also started the Pre-Seed Fund back in April ‘21. The Pre-Seed Fund is funded by donations from alumni and is managed by a student team under the guidance of the fund management and alumni. At its launch in April 2021, € 3 million was raised for this fund, which has now grown to € 4.5 million. This fund has now invested in six companies and aims to invest in two new start-ups every month. The goal is to support around 20 to 30 start-ups annually.  Young entrepreneurs with a good business plan can apply to the Pre-Seed Fund in order to receive capital and coaching sessions by experienced entrepreneurs while building an attractive network.