A scout's personal journey from science enthusiast to startup mentor among Utrecht’s student community

Jelmer van der Velde, a startup scout starting fresh in the field of entrepreneurship, is on a mission to guide aspiring entrepreneurs. His motivation began in molecular life sciences, but after having completed elective courses in entrepreneurship and finance, he found a new passion.

In his role as a student startup scout at UtrechtInc, Jelmer actively promotes the Student Validation Program and networks at relevant events to discover and support the next generation of student entrepreneurs and talent within the Utrecht Science Park. Through a series of reflections and candid insights, Jelmer shares his own growth and the profound impact of connecting with diverse communities, all while emphasizing his commitment to fostering entrepreneurship beyond personal success.

Supporting a culture where students are inspired to think big and dream large

What motivated you to join the student startup scout team and how does it align with your personal interests and career goals?

Jelmer’s academic journey began with a keen interest in the chemistry of life and the physical laws that govern it, a discipline he’s adopted after having graduated from a bachelor’s of four years. Today, he is discovering the boundless potential of the startup ecosystem.

Reflecting on this transformative journey, Jelmer shares, “I don’t really like the whole big corporation thing, already deciding my career, and working up the ladder.” It was clear that he didn’t want to pursue the ‘one size fits all’ mentality in the corporate world, but rather, contribute to a genuine cause on a smaller scale, “I thought it would be way cooler to join a small team and work from there and not really follow a path that has been laid out but figuring it out on my own.”

Can you describe your role and responsibilities as a student startup scout?

While he initially joined the Student Validation Program, his enthusiasm for a more significant role became evident. He embraced the position of a student startup scout with pride, finding purpose and commitment in this transformative journey, “Students we’ve met through the workshops we’ve hosted had to think of their lives and think about a problem they wanted to solve. And it was really cool to see that they all came up with all kinds of business ideas, all catered towards tackling problems in their own life.” Jelmer has motivated many students to step beyond their usual boundaries and develop their problem-solving abilities through workshops. He encourages them to adopt this solution-oriented approach and envision using it in their own future businesses.

I try to give a lot of examples out of my personal life and why I think that as an entrepreneur you can make this big difference in society and shape the world a little bit towards a more ideal path.

In what ways do you believe your contributions have made an impact on the growth and success of student startups?

In his role as a scout, Jelmer plays a crucial role by connecting students to valuable knowledge and skills. Through interactive sessions, he encourages them to think creatively. His passion for the subject is evident, and his enthusiasm motivates students to explore their entrepreneurial potential. He says, “I provide my personal phone number and offer personal help. It’s a friendly way to introduce them to UtrechtInc. Instead of diving into a big organization with 40 companies, they have someone they know and can ask questions.”

Despite the fact that the students he engages with don’t necessarily have an interest in entrepreneurship, they consistently leave with a positive outlook on the opportunities in this field. Jelmer’s key takeaway is the rich diversity among these budding entrepreneurs, coming from various backgrounds like arts, law, and programming, which, in his view, underscores that entrepreneurship is inclusive and transcends traditional boundaries.

I think in the future, to make a more lasting impact, we would like to not only host these one-time events but maybe integrate UtrechtInc in some university courses.

How did your role as a student startup scout help you improve your personal skills, especially when it comes to engaging with diverse audiences and building connections with people?

Jelmer’s journey as a scout, much like self-discovery, has its challenges. He’s had to find the courage to speak to large audiences and broaden his personal growth. These experiences have not only enhanced his professional skills but have also boosted his confidence. Jelmer reflects on these valuable experiences, saying, “It’s hard to put into words, but I’ve gained insights into how entrepreneurs think and what an entrepreneurial ecosystem is like. This knowledge will undoubtedly help me in the future, whether I want to join a club, a startup, or connect with new people; it will make approaching them easier.”

While he’s been a student startup scout for just a few months, he’s more confident than ever in trying new things. Stepping into unfamiliar territory has taught him the art of embracing new challenges. “For me, the most significant improvement has been in public speaking. I recently had to present in front of about 130 people, something I’d never done before,” Jelmer shares, emphasizing his personal growth. He stresses the importance of persistence in generating and maintaining leads, ultimately encouraging others to take initiative without fear.

A message to future startup scouts from Jelmer himself

What advice would you give to future student startup scouts who are considering joining the UtrechtInc team?

For those considering the path of a student startup scout, Jelmer offers practical advice. He emphasizes the significance of perseverance and building deep connections with people of all backgrounds. “You might need to step out of your comfort zone a bit and take action even when you’re not entirely comfortable with it. It’s a bit like a ‘fake it till you make it’ mindset,” he suggests, acknowledging the enduring impact of sustained enthusiasm and unwavering commitment.

Within the UtrechtInc community, Jelmer’s contributions act as a bridge, fostering the growth of student startups and a sense of togetherness. His strong commitment to helping and guiding individuals in their entrepreneurial journey creates genuine connections that extend beyond the professional sphere. These qualities and experiences enable him to apply his professional skills to other areas of his life.

“Reach out to many people, send numerous emails, and you’ll encounter many rejections, but that’s okay, as long as you keep reaching out,” Jelmer advises future scouts, highlighting the importance of perseverance and outreach in the journey of mentorship and personal growth.

Come inside! Let’s have a chat.


Posted October 2023