If you have an innovative idea that contributes to a stronger Rotterdam, then join the Rotterdam Entrepreneurs Pitch, a Rabobank Rotterdam and Rotterdam Partners initiative in collaboration with the Municipality of Rotterdam, VNO-NCW, MKB-Rotterdam, Ondernemersontbijt Rotterdam and Algemeen Dagblad. Anyone can participate: from Startups, SMEs to large companies and creative ideas for retail, catering, mobility, the office sector etc. The aim is to help Rotterdam businesses and the city with a good idea. District director of Rabobank Rotterdam, Willem Groenendijk, initiator and organiser of the pitch, tells us more about it.
Why an Entrepreneurs Pitch now when many businesses are struggling to keep their heads above water?
‘I would almost say: that’s why. I call this a time of reflaction; a combination of self-reflection and action. We hear from many entrepreneurs that the past quiet months have given them time for self-reflection. They’ve had time to think, to look at the vulnerability of their business model and to recover and come up with new business. It’s already leading to great initiatives in the city.’
Where did the idea for the Entrepreneurs Pitch come from?
‘It came from Rabobank Amsterdam. 128 ideas were submitted there. No, we’re not at all concerned that Amsterdam was first. Collaboration suits us. We are a cooperative bank with a mission: Growing a better world together. We help businesses with initiatives using our network, our knowledge and sometimes money. In these times, mindset is everything. Do we consider ourselves beaten or do we regroup to “Never waste a good crisis”?’
Never waste a good crisis?
‘We need optimism to take the next step. The reality in this Corona era is that there may be a second wave of the virus in autumn, layoffs and unemployment will rise. We need to look at the opportunities and ideas that exist in the city right now. Then we are using this time as a prelude to a new economy, hopefully even as a transition to a new world.’
Your appeal is for plans that are innovative, circular and/or sustainable and that contribute to the recovery of the city.
‘When it comes to sustainability, people often think of climate goals, but the pitch is as broad as possible. Sustainability is also societal. For example: Why not ask all businesses to include a multi-year Sustainability Plan in their CSR? Besides showing that you put solar panels on your roof and manufacture responsibly, you could also include what you do for the health of your employees and how you deal with poverty reduction.’
Can you give an example of sustainable entrepreneurship in Corona times?
‘Boeren voor Buren is an example of this. In the context of shorter food chains, we look at where there are food surpluses and how we can get them to the city. For example, together with Zero Food Waste Rotterdam, we brought a surplus of 15,000 kilos of potatoes from a farmer to the city. Rotterdammers could fill a bag for € 4.50 and part went to the Food Bank. Zero Waste Rotterdam puts the profit back into new projects. Sometimes initiatives just need a little push.’
"I hope we are victims of our own success."
The Entrepreneurs Pitch submission closes on 15 July. On 20 July, a select eight can pitch their idea.
‘If a thousand plans are submitted, it will be hard work, but I’m looking forward to it. I hope we’ll be victims of our own success. We do a preselection while reading and, in the end, we choose the best eight. The judges will choose the three winners based on their plan and pitch. We’ll then help them further develop their proposition. Not with money, but with the gigantic network of all participating organisations and publicity.’
What happens to the five pitchers who don’t win and all the other submitted ideas?
‘If you belong to the top eight, you are already a winner in my opinion. But those that aren’t in the top three or aren’t chosen will probably be disappointed. In that case, the following applies to everyone: do you consider yourself beaten, or will you regroup and contribute to a smart, green and healthy Rotterdam region. If it’s up to me, we’ll continue the Entrepreneurs Pitch every year, and collect ideas across the city that will make the city stronger.’
Entrepreneurs Pitch at the historical Schielandshuis.
Submit your idea by Wednesday 15 July 2020 to firstname.lastname@example.org. The eight most innovative entrepreneurs will be allowed to pitch their idea to a panel on Monday 20 July 2020. The panel includes: alderman Barbara Kathmann (Wijken and Kleine Kernen), Desiree Verdaasdonk (Director Rabobank Rotterdam), Pieter van Klaveren (MKB Rotterdam) Mai Elmar (VNO-NCW Rotterdam region Rijnmond), Wilbert Lek (Rotterdam Partners) and Paul van den Bosch (Editor-in-chief AD). The moderator is Peter Schuiten (Ondernemersontbijt Rotterdam). More information: www.rotterdaminnovationcity.com/news/entrepreneur-pitch.
Text: Esther Wienese