Great to chat with Joost Kamermans Co-Founder at Seenons, a platform that connects waste chains to new use cases as part of the circular economy! We discussed the ups and downs of startup life, balancing supply and demand within a circular economy, waste policy and incentives, differences between startup cultures and more!

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James

The unedited podcast transcript is below

James McWalter

Hello today you’ speaking with Joost Kamermans Co -founder at Seenons, welcome to podcast Joost brilliant to start? could you tell us a little bit about Seenons. Yeah.

Joost Kamermans

Thank you Very much happy to be here. Yes, of course and so senance is a software company that’s helping other companies to reduce their waste and and we do that by yeah, helping them monitor their waste helping them engage with the whole network Of. Ah, different logistical companies and waste processors and and ultimately we also help them with procurements to really lower their yeah their waste.

James McWalter

That very good and what drove the initial decision to start cnons.

Joost Kamermans

Um, very good point and so we started about two and a half years ago yourre and I were working at an office. It was a go working space and where yet we were and got by the amount of. Ah, waste trucks that would pass through a street on a single day. It’s it’s based in Amsterdam and it just made no sense to us that we saw all these garbage trucks passing by all the time and at the end of the day our our own garbage container was always filled. They intrigued us. It was like why is this happening. It makes no sense and and that’s when we started looking into this whole waste problem and and found that there’s way more wrong to it than just these trucks right? that there’s and huge garbage belts that we are creating all over the world. it’s in the ocean ah it’s it’s literally everywhere and and that there’s yeah big competition between waste management companies that all sent their own trucks to collect waste because they want to have that as their their input for their machines mostly incineration plants at the time and and still today. And and that therefore it could happen that if I have a brand of of waste management company and my neighbor has a different one and yeah that we have multiple trucks going through the street on a single day and this is the case in most places at least in the Netherlands. Um, yeah.

James McWalter

And.

Joost Kamermans

This could definitely be from an ecological perspective. This obviously makes no sense but also from an economical perspective. 

James McWalter

No absolutely and and I guess in terms of your relationship with your cofounder your and were you already kind of thinking about starting something was this like an idea as you’re trying to ideate or was it. Oh you already had an existing relationship and you both kind of were like oh this is the thing we both want to work on next right.

Joost Kamermans

Um, yeah, so I guess we both had a separate journey. There. So for me I had a started before in the Us. Um, this was a throughout my studies there and we had a. Course that was called healthcare entrepreneurship and we had to yeah the name already says it we had to start a company and there I really learned on how to not do it so we we somehow got funding. Um. With an idea which is in the us way more common than it is here in the Netherlands and we see we built the product for the Netherlands out of the us to then find out that in the Netherlands. The the system was so different that there was no market for it. So we built something and we were really proud of it. Was really pretty really advanced. But there was no demand so why did we do that and then I started working at the Boston Consulting group to then learn. Okay, how do these markets work. How how does it even work and how do you really research an industry in a very brief amount of time. Um. And after that I decided to give it another go and and especially throughout my work at Bcg I was exposed to some projects in big energy company turnarounds there I found how difficult that is if you have a very big company and turning it around. Especially if you’re you’re sitting on a lot of assets that make the turnaround difficult so to give you an example if you are a big oil company and and you’re trying to become. Ah yeah, green and and rely only on green energy. You still have one hundred billion on your balance sheet of oil fields.

Joost Kamermans

How are you going to do that. Well you don’t because economically it makes no sense and we saw the same happening for for the waste industry. There’s a lot of companies that that have invested in assets such as garbage trucks such as incineration plants other other type of um of yeah processing facilities. And if then the the tides change and then you still have these assets so it’s really difficult for you to move with that and that’s when I realized okay this cannot be changed from within so it has to be done from outside then I met yourn and Jon had already something like 40 starteds. He was very good at. Um, at platforms especially matching. He’s also done that in for dating sites so in a way that’s also matching and so with my sorry. Oh yeah, yeah, finding a good fit is probably more difficult indeed and then with all the.

James McWalter

Even more difficult, even more difficult than waste matching.

Joost Kamermans

And yeah, with his knowledge about ah platforms and the technology side and my strategic and commercial side. We figured. Okay, let’s ah, let’s give this a go together.

James McWalter

Fantastic. And so then you know you have this kind of nugget of an idea around waste. The inefficiencies associated with it. What was the kind of early efforts at you know, an Mvp you know first what that first kind of version of the product looked like and then also were there any kind of pivots along the way. So.

Joost Kamermans

Um, yes, and yes, no absolutely And so when we first started out. Um we had to do everything by experiment as I said I learned from my last endeavor where we built an entire product to then test if there was a market for it. This time we really did it the other way around. So We asked a lot of customers what they wanted So We really did a yeah customer research very and yeah, very much with boots on the ground so we really went shop by shop asking them how they would deal with their waste. But not only to customers. We also went to waste companies and we went to processors and we went to the whole ecosystem to understand why this problem is is the problem and what could be a potential solution and eventually we had an hypothesis on what people would want so we built a website and we said this is what we’re going to do are you in. And to our own surprise We. We actually had a lot of Sign-ups really quickly and then we called these companies we’re like this what we’re building but we don’t have this yet if we actually built this do you then would you become a customer and they would all say yes of course I would and that’s when we knew. Okay.

James McWalter

Right.

Joost Kamermans

Now we have to build this and that’s when we sat down and started really yeah, developing an Mvp which initially yeah, really didn’t mean much because it’s just transporting waste from a to b and over time that he had to e evolve into an an app that would work for you as a.

James McWalter

What I love about that story is you know you mentioned this early startup that you worked on a few years ago where you made something that you’re very proud of and very very beautiful, but there was no users or is this time around you did classic lean startup where you’re like oh it’s just a landing page with some signups. Don’t build anything on the backend and then you just go to the other side of the market.

Joost Kamermans

Um, as a business.

James McWalter

Place and say hey we have signups. Do you want it and you are kind of testing response directly without spending a ton of time you know making a beautiful widget and so on and I think this is something I’ve also you know, learned over the years when I tried to build something for a very beautiful actually also in a marketplace situation and then. You know wasting a lot of time and then later it’s like oh I’m not building anything unless a customer is basically forcing me to to build it and it’s just it could be kind of changed the trajectory of those early days of the company.

Joost Kamermans

It does it does’ and I I think that’s also very important to tell starting entrepreneurs like what what we tell each other a lot is that and there’s somebody in a garage who one day wakes up under the shower with a great idea. Sits down in the garage build something and it’s it’s happily scaling ever after and that’s not true. That’s what they always say put in newspapers. That’s never how it went and I know for example, this is a story that goes about Amazon no.

James McWalter

It. It’s never been true. No.

Joost Kamermans

Very often. It does not state that he was already a millionaire working at Goldman Sachs before and then renting a garage to start this company so and very often that’s something that people don’t don’t hear and I think entrepreneurship is definitely something that’s in you. Being opportunistic and also seeing opportunities. But there’s also tricks to it that just apply and that you can learn and that these are definitely best practices that can prevent a lot of headaches and and also financial hardship because if you invest all your own money into building your product before knowing. That anybody’s interested that can really cause big problems.

James McWalter

Yeah, yeah I mean one one kind of emotion I think is something that is under talked about especially those stages of the entrepreneurship journey is embarrassment. It’s like you have to be really comfortable. Be em parissed to buy poor versions of the product poor versions of your pitch you know and venture here talking to investors. Ah, you know it’s not easy, but you have to like continuously put it out there and as long as you’re refining it along the way you know getting comfortable with that level of of embarrassment or you know I’m not.. It’s not great because in by definition. Whatever you’re going to build is bad to start like that’s just the nature of it and I think that’s the bit that that’s the kind of dirty secret that people don’t talk enough about just like be.

Joost Kamermans

Um, yeah.

James McWalter

Like like lean into embarrassment in order to kind of get through those early days and I guess you know as you’re kind of going through that you know that Mvp P iteration kind of process. Ah you you mentioned this kind of you know you you kind of have these 3 set sides sort of market in essence right? So you have the.

Joost Kamermans

I Couldn’t agree more? No absolutely.

James McWalter

Producer of the waste right? consumers or there might be also kind of enterprises and so on Absolutely and then you have ah the the kind of waste you know processors of various types I’d love to get into both of those sites in a moment but you also have the people transporting the waste.

Joost Kamermans

Um, businesses. Yeah.

Joost Kamermans

Um, again.

James McWalter

How do you kind of engage those people. Um because I believe that’s nearly like a third side to the marketplace and.

Joost Kamermans

Yeah, and I think that that also brings that extra. Um, yeah dimension and difficulty to the business because you have to do quite a lot in order to help a customer I think that was one of the main challenges we faced like if you are going to serve a a business with. With their waste and you’re gonna help them with it. You have to do the whole circle before you truly add value and typically as a startup you want to do as little as possible really well and because that’s just way more manageable. But for us that was super super difficult because if you’re gonna be my customer you expect me to take care of all of your waste because. Otherwise why am help am I helping you so that means I need both logistical solutions and processing solutions for all your waste and yeah that that made it difficult.

James McWalter

Right.

James McWalter

Yeah, and so how how did you again in those kind of early days Initially you know did you ever consider doing the delivery yourself or ah, you know because I guess one of the kind of principles is like you have this excess cap capacityities so already existing on some of these you know transportation and and waste companies and how do you kind of? ah.

Joost Kamermans

Um, yeah.

James McWalter

Identify where there are places that you could actually kind of redirect some that waste and so what was that kind of process like and.

Joost Kamermans

Yeah, so I think that was fairly simple for us. So as we did all that that market research in the beginning we found that there’s a huge access capacity capacity specifically in processing there in the Netherlands we are importing waste because we don’t produce enough. Can you imagine so that.

James McWalter

Wild.

Joost Kamermans

Definitely a big problem so that also made it really clear from the start we are not going to build processing capacity because if we do that we become the problem you always start out with the best intentions when we first created incineration plans and it was a big upgrade from a dumpster.

James McWalter

I but.

Joost Kamermans

So the idea of building that was very was ingenious, right? Why would you not get electricity from waste now we know that we’re running out of these precious materials that we are therefore creating additional c o two at a time when this all started. This wasn’t the problem at that time so it would be naive to think that whatever you build today. That that’s not going to be the problem in the future if we in the future decide that we have to consume less for example, even if you build a plastic processing facility and it could be a problem and maybe in the future plastic is just wrong. Material. There’s a new super material. That’s then the the best solution. We as a platform want to be agnostic. We we want to have no vested interest in the way of processing so we always want to be able to switch and and in terms of um, yeah transportation I think you were spot on we if we were to do that with their own vehicles and the point is that theyre. Is way. There’s in literally every place in the world. There’s enough logistics capacity because everything that comes into the city that we consume has to come into the city somehow by transportation that means that by definition. There’s also capacity for this to go back. We simply don’t do it because we don’t want to because it’s and It’s financially it’s more interesting to drop off packages than to pick up packages and so that’s why we don’t do it but everything that enters the city either leaves the city through a garbage truck or it leaves the city through the seeward because some of the food we can chew. And yeah, it’s going to go out of course and so there’s. There should be enough capacity and it’s always most efficient if we do more with reverse statistics so we were like why would we then introduce additional vehicles. It makes no sense.

James McWalter

and and I guess then if I was a consumer or a business wanting to cut onboard onto sceneons. What’s that experience like today.

Joost Kamermans

Yeah, also you um so how it starts is you? yeah you you get our app and with the app you tell us this is the waste I have please come pick it up and we can pick up your waste with the best form of logistics. If you’re in an inner city of Amsterdam that could be a cargo bike. It can be a boat. It can be many ways and if you are more in an industrial area typically it is a garbage truck it very much depends on the size. The quantity, the volume what we would send and then we match your waste with whoever can best upcycle it.

Joost Kamermans

So that it’s being processed over there and then ideally you buy that product back. That’s made of it. Typically these chains are very complex very much dependent on the Stream. So There are streams that are very that speak to the mind such as orange beals that you pick them up with a gargo bike. You can turn them into Orcello which is a drink which then gets back sent back to the restaurant where the orange peels came from and they sell these to their customers and you have the full circle with so other streams is is way more complex and but this is what it’s looked like and then all the waste that’s left. So the residual waste that we don’t want to that We can’t do anything With. We’re going to help you get rid of that because that’s our Mission. We want to get to a world without waste meaning no more residual waste because that’s really stuff that we burn. Ah, if there’s cardboard going back and forth. There’s no problem with that. If. There’s glass jars going back and Forth. That’s fine as long as we can reuse it at least.

James McWalter

And I guess the one of the kind of major difficulties with anything to do with waste is the sorting component right? So obviously it’s be perfect if the restaurant put all their orange peels in 1 specific container and then you have this beautiful back and forth as you mentioned? Um, but how do you kind of think about that.

Joost Kamermans

Um, yeah, yeah.

James McWalter

The the kind of work to be done around sorting should that lie at the producer of the waste should that lie you know more upstream into the the waste facility. Is it a mix. How do you think about that.

Joost Kamermans

Um, I think the last the last thing you said it should be a mix so the way we look at that is ah ideally you would have some magic machine that would sort everything afterwards because then that’s the least amount of effort for everybody. So why wouldn’t we do that. Definition. That’s never going to work because organic streams they go bad if you have cardboard that goes wet. It’s not the same anymore and so you can’t do that if you then say? Okay, so if we can’t do that then we have to separate everything perfectly. If you tell people you have a hundred bins that they have to put stuff in ah, people are not gonna do it and even if they’re willing to They’re not gonna understand it because it’s way too complex so we’re gonna have a mix and that means that most likely and what you’re gonna have is.

Joost Kamermans

Cardboard class these type of things you always separate most businesses have those then depending on the type of business that you are you might separate something different. So let’s say you’re in the in the netherlandss a restaurant. It’s called the avocado show you have a lot of avocado pits. Ah, for you. It could make sense to do something with those but an average restaurant is not going to separate those because you don’t have enough of those and so very much looking at these streams. What really is worth the effort and and then you’re going to have some categories. So what we see in the Netherlands we call it Pmd which. Basically it’s packaging of food and this is a separate stream that is fairly simple. It’s fairly. It’s still difficult. But it’s it’s doable to separate it afterwards and and there’s also aluminium cans be tea bottles in there. Um, so these are the ones that that the machine can detect. Um, and if we can get it to a level that all the stuff that’s really valuable that you separate those yourselves and that cannot be mixed and the stuff that we can separate afterwards they can all go into one bag and then we sort it afterwards to still get the the value out then we get you to share your waste and that that mix. That’s what we’re trying to work towards. And that will both come from innovation at the at the the back end. So really being able to separate afterwards. We’re not there yet, but it looks promising and also yeah, educating people to do at the front having financial incentives and all like yeah like change in behavior and. And then with all these measures together. We think we can do it and we’ve seen businesses. Do it.

James McWalter

That That’s so interesting. It. It kind of brings to mind whether this is is there I guess more of a pull on the demand side or supply side right? So if a particular you know avocado based restaurant have a ton of avocado pits is that then oh which kind of waste producers are sorry waste Processors. And even you know Upstream consumers of something like an avocado pit is interested in this and then you kind of go seek out those or is it more the other side where you’re actually saying yeah the the waste you know converters the waste managers they’re saying oh we really need some more orange peels. Can you go find some orange peels out there. You know from a supply point of view.

Joost Kamermans

Um, yet are.

Joost Kamermans

Yeah, well what I always say is every waste stream and there’s hundreds has its own unit economics and it’s and it’s its own market and it goes up and down. It’s just like the ah gold or silver or anything else. So.

James McWalter

Or is it a kind of balance between the two and.

Joost Kamermans

There was a time when you would receive a lot of money for cardboard. So then people would go buy the doors little kids asking for your cardboard. Do you still have some old newspapers because it’s something. It’s worth something right? and then over time that price that’s reduced so it became actually expensive again. There was little demand. Then the pandemic hit ah and the the demand went through the roof and the supply really killed so now today and if I have like high quality cardboard or paper people really want it. So it’s very much a pool market will that still be the case next year I don’t know right? It’s always going to go up and down. But long term we expect pool always to increase because every material is decreasing typically at least the supply of it and if you then look at these are fairly old streams if you look at a new stream. So. It’s avocado bit nobody nobody ever did something with that. Ah, before that nobody wanted it right? Why would you want it then now there’s some people who said oh I’d like to have it to um, get to ininerate it. Why not? Then when there were some people who would like to um, um. Yeah, to extract the the gas out of it like for history I forgot the word in english and which is which is less bad than burning it and then there were some people who were like oh I could use it to make paint and mo if they this worked for them and if they actually set up a factory. Goingnna need a lot of avocado bits. So then that the whole economy flips around and we see this happening with all sorts of streams like we believe that in the future more and more things that are wasteted today that we just throw away that we don’t care about in the future people are like I want that stuff. We saw it with old phones but you get to throw it away and nobody won an old phone now we discovered that there’s more gold than the average ah trash pal than there is in a gold mine a per square meter of course. Ah so why are we not taking that goal out of these machines again. Why are we trashing it so all of a sudden There’s a whole market for used devices because there’s so much precious materials in it and we expect over time that every material becomes valuable both because of taxes and because of shortages.

James McWalter

So interesting. You know when I think about your business and when we’re researching sceneons it was like okay, the logistical you know backbone is like the core of this business. It’s like so absolutely important. But as you’re talking there. It makes me think of you know, trying to figure out the hundreds of waste streams. And the unit economics of each and the supply and demand balancing and all those kind of things to try to like you know, just grab efficiencies to make more and more parts of the economy circular. It’s like it’s ah very much a data play right? like you need to be able to understand these things to a degree and to a you know in a database that is updated on a very very high frequency. You know as we’re seeing with the the kind of struggles around supply chains right? now you know raw materials like are through the roof and so things that might make sense for the next like eighteen months might not not make sense from a certain type of waste collection after that and so I guess how do you think about that data component and you know are you. I guess how do you kind of track that how do you build out that kind of competence within the company itself and.

Joost Kamermans

Yeah I think it’s key at the end of the day we are a tech company where we’re a data company and we see that in the future in the netherlands at least and I think in all of europe and circularity is is key for 2050 the European Union has made that. Ah. Ambition that the full economy is circular and the only way to achieve that is if you have a very clear understanding of where all the materials flow and and because we have customers on the 1 hand who submit their waste streams we have logistical companies that are plugged into our system that drive on our app. And we have processors that that use our app to ah to forecast input and ah and quality and that type of stuff we know exactly and where what type of material type of quality. What type of quantity and where it’s flowing and where it’s going and that we can actually optimize for this. And and we can incredibly improve efficiency. So why would you bring if there is a cardboard plant in the south of the country and there’s one in Germany why would it go to Germany we so often see that there’s incineration plants in the Netherlands where. Stuff from the very south goes to Amsterdam and stuff from amsterdam goes goes elsewhere. It makes no sense but because they don’t communicate and they both need their input. They source it both ah without talking to each other having the full overview. The pie is simply smaller and. But if everybody would be able to see where what material is free in what quantity and what quality we could optimize for this and this would make the whole economy flow much better and would make the country much less dependent on um and and the continent much less dependent on. Um. Importing raw materials and we now see how important that is.

James McWalter

Yeah, absolutely and I guess only think about all some of those kind of other macro elements right? So course you know we’re we’re trying to kind of increase the amount of transparency you know reduce the amount of opaque relationships so that we can see where these inefficiencies are and improve on them. Um. And you also as we talked about like have those kind of hit by supply chain pressures and costs and so on in generally a positive way I think for your business One of the things that I wonder is maybe a a bit of a headwind is Covid itself. So I’ve talked to a few companies who had waste management going into Covid and as people became very much. Adapted to single-use you know types of plastics and all this kind of thing. Um it you know it definitely slowed down some developments of certain types of waste streams into things that are more circular or renewable in various ways. How do you think about how you know Covid has affected things in both the kind of short and long term. Trajectory of kind of waste management.

Joost Kamermans

Well I find that an interesting question like we actually started our business only a couple months before covid hit so we’ve only known covid and and in the beginning just like anybody else we were like oh what’s what’s this going to do. But. We grew from 2 to 50 people in two and a half years which has always been covid and at the the last latter 2 years at least and so it did not impact us at all the people I talk to they still care about it. But it’s not I think the transition that we’re making. Covid has much less of an impact I think what’s actually happening in the world. Ah regarding the effects of climate change. Um, that’s something that that keeps on happening and also the the effects that we that we see on how global supply chains get disrupted both because of covid both because of the. And the trouble in Ukraine of course and we see that nobody would want to import materials forever nor from an ecological nor from an economical standpoint so we see a huge push both in terms of economic push as in terms of legislation towards this this change.

James McWalter

Yeah, that that that makes a ton of sense and and you mentioned it’s kind of growth to up to 50 people. Um, so you know what’s the kind of goals over the next couple years from buddha kind of growth in terms of team but also company product all that kind of thing.

Joost Kamermans

Yeah, so I’d say our ambition to grow. The team are not so high because we are a tech company and I think you do something wrong if you end up with 10000 people in your tech company because then you’re not working more efficient and you’re also making the system more expensive. We want to create. Efficiencies and we want to make it beneficial for all users and that also means and not asking too much money and because then it’s not going to happen and and in terms of yeah ambitions well our ambition is to to save half a megaton of waste. By 2026 and for your reference that’s about a quarter. We do annually here in the in the netherlands that the country does so that means automatically because it’s not realistic. We have such a large market share in one country. So that by definition means that we would expand into the rest of Europe.

James McWalter

It no, that’s that’s incredibly exciting and I guess you know geographically it’s quite nice being in Amsterdam you are literally kind of in the center of a lot of you know large countries kind of around you. Um, and so what you know What’s the kind of timeline for that you know is this. You’re already starting to think about how do we you know incorporate France how do we incorporate Belgium or is that kind of a couple years from now.

Joost Kamermans

Um, so we’re definitely looking into expanding we are already a little bit in other countries actually and so these things are moving fairly quickly. But I think from a competitive standpoint I don’t think it’s smart for us to announce that before we actually do it.

James McWalter

I Oh absolutely no ors at all and you we talked a little bit about or touch upon you know some of the you know policy pressures in a positive way coming from the Eu in that um, are there more ah other things you would like to see that would help you know the kind of expansion of this industry.

Joost Kamermans

As well. But yes, we will for sure.

James McWalter

Um, either on the incentive side for you know you know waste management that kind of thing or even on this this incentive side. You know more penalties for bad waste management or you saying look the actual policy framework right now is pretty good. It’s purely about execution now for companies like yourself. So.

Joost Kamermans

Um I think even in the curen environment. We can move. We can definitely do a lot and and at the same time I do think that the government can help with that like a lot of the incentives and. People talk a lot about true pricing but in a way for waste. That’s really really true if you design a product and and it cannot be repaired. It can only be trashed you cause and a big debt to future generations and I’m not even talking only about the contamination that it might cause. Ah I’m also talking about some materials. We’re just running out of so if you are using those materials without the ability to repair it reuse it or recycle it then then it’s lost which is total waste and so we think that what you is doing that you. Um, sort of force a producer to think about the end of light stage I think that is amazing. That’s what we need. That’s the 1 thing that we cannot force ourselves what we can do is we can help companies separate their waste. We can help processors and upcycle ah certain streams. But then there’s always some products some. Some streams that nobody can actually do anything with and those have to be redesigned either. They should be forbidden either. They should be ah yeah, they should just not be necessary or that’s something we have to work towards of course that’s way more complex than the way I say it now but that. If we really want to get to a a circular society which I truly believe in that’s the way to go.

James McWalter

And then thinking about getting to that circular. Yeah Society Circular economy. Um, you know there’s a lot of people starting to kind of work on climate tech startups and different ideas and so there’s a ton of innovation going on and in some areas more than others. You know if you could like wave of magic wand then say hey. Want the next kind of group of innovators to come and focus on this particular part of the pie where are you not seeing enough innovation where smart people should be kind of more focused and.

Joost Kamermans

I see smart people but I see that there’s still that they don’t always have to push that they need to succeed and then I’m talking specifically in in terms of processing capacity. So what we see now is that there are certain startups that set up a ah processing. System for for example, coffee residual they are turning this into ink I think that’s amazing and they just got funding 4000000 I think that’s great. Ah, but that’s really a drop if you look at the amount of coffee residual we have annually and in Europe so they’re going to meet money more the same applies for. And these orange peels the same applies for really dedicated type of plastic facilities. So I see people with ambition I see people doing it but I I think that as long as we’re talking millions. Yes, it’s a lot of money for an individual but for an industry of. Of hundreds of billions and it’s not going to do it. We need people. Ah banks we need governments investors. We need people who are bullish and we don’t need those that funding I think we’ll be fine. We’re take company. We grow fast I’m talking specifically about those people who start now in their garage. With their first experiment for ah, processing, upcycling, whatever if they show that it can be done and don’t then I I need investors that are willing to jump in before it’s fully proven. Typically you need scale in order to prove it and that’s yeah, that’s a chicken of the or the egg story and and that can only be solved by by taking the risk.

James McWalter

Yeah, it kind of brings to mind this divide of 2 types of capital that I think generally people who are very kind of venture focused of which I think you and I both are kind of fall into thatca. Um, we generally just think in terms of like our next round of financing from yeah on the venture side. But if you’re trying to build a big processing plant. You basically need 2 lines of capital. You need you know let’s say a couple million dollars to pay salaries and so on. But then you also need project financing to build the thing. Maybe that’s based on dash. Maybe it’s some other kind of form of of capital that isn’t purely kind of equity based and I’ve talked to a ton of people who. You know they’re building factories on the basis of equity financing and it just doesn’t make sense because it’s just like ah you know it’s the wrong tool for the wrong job kind of thing and I actually think there is a big opportunity for you know some innovative. Maybe they’re just even consultants that then necessari be a company but people who can start kind of working with founders and. You know equity investors to be more open to these other forms of financing in addition, not replacing. But in addition to the equity financing piece because as you say like 4000000 is great. You can pay salaries for a few years but you need 40 to 400000000 to actually build your couple processing plans.

Joost Kamermans

I’m fully with you there and I must say that I’m optimistic of what I’m seeing now in the market that there’s for example, here’re in Amsterdam there’s ah af which is the amtradam climate fund ah that actually gives loans to these type of facilities. highly yeah highly risky of course you have a you have an asset underneath it this factory. But if the factory is not going to if it’s not going to work. What is it worth so. They take a lot of risk but I think it’s really good that they do it. Regardless they therefore also have to ask of course significantly. Yeah in my opinion high interest rates but it makes sense because it’s high risk. And I think also from an and a founder perspective. It’s fine because if it works you can pay off the debt and you can still repay those those interests and if it doesn’t you lose your asset but it but it was worthless anyway, so it’s I think it’s win win and if they spread it well if there’s a hundred of these projects I’m sure some will fulfill some will succeed. Ah. As a society. We’re better off and I think financially it also yeah, probably makes sense as long as they do good due diligence. So I’m really positive about that. Yeah development.

James McWalter

And you you know, worked on starting this startup in in the us in the past that obviously you’re building you know a very successful company in the Netherlands as you think about the different kind of work and startup cultures between yeah, working in Amsterdam and working in the us what are the things that you learned in the us that. You know more local dutch you know founders could could learn from and also vice versa like what do american you know founders what could they maybe more appreciate from you know, Dutch and european founders and.

Joost Kamermans

I really like that question and I actually thought about that a lot. So for me personally what inspired me most and I went to Wharton University Of Pennsylvania so ivy league with a lot of super super ambitious people and when i. Before I went there I was really nervous and I thought okay I’m really going to be by far the dumbest guy in the class and I don’t want to say that that might still be true, but it wasn’t I wasn’t flabbergased by how smart people were because they were definitely smart, but there’s also a lot of smart people here in the Netherlands. But what. But stood out to me is that they were bold and then I’m not talking about just just crazy or yelling stupid stuff but they they really dare to dream big and and there were people in my in my class I would say. Yeah I I’m not I don’t think I’m gonna finish a semester because I’m trying to raise 20000000 to to solve this disease or something and some of them would actually drop out and do it and in the beginning I really thought they were yeah hallucinating and some of them didn’t succeed of course. But at least they tried so I think that really trying to. Really daring to dream out loud ah that to me is a big american talent and and the other thing that I noticed and that um when I did that built that startup we did that with the horizon school of technology which was a summer program and that was. In the University Of Pennsylvania it was not from the University Of Pennsylvania but it was in the same building and and the founders of that academy um, they were really really driven ah to the point that. I recall we were gonna learn how to code because that was part of the program they were gonna teach us how to to build our own Mvp and that the program was 9 to sleep and I didn’t understand what to wind and it really meant at 9 you start and you work till you sleep and one of the I’m dutch to us.

James McWalter

Price.

Joost Kamermans

I mean we we’re not like that. That’s really a culture of difference and they would do this six days so only and I think only on Saturday they wouldn’t do this and and one of those guys even ah when we went for lunch he would combine it with going to the toilet to save time for for last walking and. I really thought that’s just outrageous right? and and he always spoke about I just I really want to be successful. Be far in 30 and what what I found most inspiring inspiring is this actually didn’t work out for them super well I think it succeeded but not to the extent that they wanted it to but he started 2 other things into.

James McWalter

Too much. Yeah.

Joost Kamermans

In the years after and 1 of those actually ah was valued over ah ah, $1000000000 within 2 years of starting it. Super yeah, super inspiring but to me if you’re talking about merit based this guy was willing to do whatever it took and really put in the hours and really grind it. Keep on perfecting it and killing all his darlings. He would work on something for months ahead and then just throw in the trash and start again if it didn’t work and that to me like I have never seen anybody in the netherlands do this and it pays off. Um so hard work does pay off and I yeah I was really impressed.

James McWalter

I yeah I absolutely love you know that those kind of past stories and they completely align with myself right? like you know and I started working on on startups in the us I was kind of flabbergasted. You know you go to these founder events and there’s like a 19 year old telling them telling you but they’re a literal billion dollar idea and I’m just like you know 30 something like what? what are you talking about.

James McWalter

Like I wish I had that confidence at that age. Ah, but on the other side. Yes, like the work life balance is so difficult and you know there’s ah somebody who I kind of admire can’t remember their their name but I know I admire them but they have this kind of you know you have this expression of like you know don’t work harder work smarter but they say don’t even work smarter work bolder right. You actually have to take on those risks to have like the massive like upside from you know the leverage of you know because risk return are always you know related in whatever you’re you’re kind of working on and so their thing is like look just just work bolder. Um, you can kind of hit those heights in a way that you might have surprised yourself, especially if you do a couple things. You know over the course of your life and like literally every year when I have my kind of you know, look back in the year I’m like oh I should just take more risks every single year is my consistent message myself and like if people you know, similar it to yourself look at me taking ah taking a lot of risks. Um, and then the other I I suppose just taking that kind of anecdote on my side I track everything about yeah, the work I do. And my productivity at 45 hours a week of actual solid work and 65 hours a week of solid work are identical. So I just like save the extra 20 hours and like spend them with my wife my dog and friends and all those kind of things because I’m actually hitting the same kind of metrics at work and so I think that you know. You you live to work or you work to live like those dynamics between Europe and the us I think absolutely both kind of can teach other a bit more about the balance.

Joost Kamermans

Yeah, no, and and that spot on. So though. As to your question. What would the americans be able to learn from the dutch and I to me ah, a great example is always adjut the payment company in the Netherlands usually um, very successful and I think what they did and is they they did this to the max. So. I don’t think that they worked insane hours. They worked very smart. Very effective also making sure that if you work that you really work and if you don’t work that you really enjoy it. Um, and that leads also to a great atmosphere and that leads to a very large employee engagement and retention. And it has a lot of these benefits. So I I think that and I must I think that also applies to our own company like we are obviously touch based for me this very strongly holds for me if I work very long hours. My productivity doesn’t increase for these american guys I told you they could do both. They were both productive. And they could work 80 hours I I must just acknowledge that they are more talented in that respect than I am I I just can’t do it even if I wanted to ah but a looking staying close to myself and knowing where my talents lay and also knowing where the culture where where I live and where I’m from. Um, what works best I very much believe in this about um, making sure that we work smart making sure that we work very efficiently if we work really work. Don’t just sit there and then also make sure that we have ah downtime we really enjoy it. We’re not going to call each other into weekends or or send late night whatsapp urgent messages because it only causes stress and typically doesn’t solve anything.

James McWalter

I Yeah and I completely echo that um us it’s been fantastic. Already enjoyed the conversation. Um I suppose before we finish off is there anything I should have asked you about but did not.

Joost Kamermans

I Really feel like we Um, we talked about a lot of things already and but I guess um yeah, the last thing that you could ask me is if we’re still looking for some people.

James McWalter

Yes.

Joost Kamermans

Um, I’m actually not sure who’s who’s your audience but I’m assuming that there’s some talented people out there.

James McWalter

Absolutely yes, So yes, so you’re if you’re looking to hire at the moment and we can definitely include your careers page and in the show notes. Thank you just.

Joost Kamermans

Thank you very much bye.

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