Once Jorien Walraven started to work as a veterinarian, she was surprised by how many inefficient systems were still in practice. She always wanted to set up her smart and digital practice but realised that she could make a bigger difference and help more people if she could create a digital solution that could be used by all veterinarians and animal owners. Now Jorien is part of our validation programme and thrives in the entrepreneurial community.
The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University is the only institution in the Netherlands training students to become veterinarians. This is where Jorien finished her veterinary degree in 2019 and has since then been working at a veterinarian practice. Jorien grew up in an entrepreneurial family and during her studies, she took the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship a bit further. “In veterinary medicine, there were some courses that you could choose that were made for entrepreneurs or people who wanted to be veterinarian entrepreneurs. I chose them all because I’ve always known that I’m interested in being an entrepreneur and in entrepreneurship,” Jorien explains.
Getting veterinarians into the digital era
Can you describe your startup?
“I am working on electronic patient files for animals, so that we can connect all veterinarians and owners with the medical data of their pets. This way we can bring veterinary health to the digital era,” Jorien says proudly. She explains that this type of solution will make it easier for owners to keep track of their animals’ health which in turn will make it easier to keep the animals healthy. She adds that “At the moment there is a shortage of vets as well as problems and complaints from animal owners that they cannot afford animal healthcare anymore. I think we can help them by making the system more efficient and therefore more affordable through a digital solution. Being able to share the health data of animals will also result in faster and better healthcare, whenever and wherever it’s needed.”
How did you come up with this idea?
Jorien explains that when she started working as a vet she felt as if she were going back to ancient times and she saw a lot of issues. Firstly, everything is being written down on paper and importing it into the computer system is a highly inefficient process. Secondly, a lot of information is getting lost when making notes by hand. And finally, it is often very emotional for animal owners to come to the vet and therefore they tend to forget most of the things that are being said, which leaves them with a lot of worries and questions after their appointment. “I felt that we need to make this system smarter and better. And then I started brainstorming with my brother, ‘how can we fix this problem?’,” Jorien continues.
When did you come up with this idea?
“Well, I have always been very interested in entrepreneurship, I think because of the freedom you have to go for it, and that no one is holding you back. And I really like that when you work really hard you feel the rewards the most, but you also feel the responsibility and sometimes the pain that comes with it,” Jorien shares. “So, when I started as a vet I first thought about setting up my own practice. I was talking with my brother about it, and said that if I did set up my one place I would like it to be a smart and digital practice,” she continues. “A few weeks later we spoke again and said ‘Doesn’t every practice need this solution?’. And then we changed our idea a bit. We thought this was way more fun, and I felt that I wanted to solve this problem not only for myself but for everyone else.” It was about one year ago that they had this conversation, and half a year later they decided to act upon it.
Doesn’t every practice need this solution?
So now it is you and your brother working on this together?
“Yeah, and we have actually split the tasks pretty well. He is the technical guy and I am doing all of the business management – so we have our own territories that we respect. Still, we of course think a lot about everything together, which helps me a lot. When I have an issue or I am thinking about strategies I can always ask him and we think about it together,” Jorien explains. “And I need to say that working together with your brother, maybe people fear that, but for me being used to working in this family business, it feels really nice to have someone that I can trust, who is also taking this important part of the startup on his shoulders.”
I feel really at home in a startup environment.
How do you see yourself in the future? Would you like to work full-time on the startup? Or also have your own practice?
“Now I have been working as a vet for three years and I still have this big passion for animal health. But, I feel really at home in a startup environment and my plan is to put more time in my own company and ‘raise that puppy’,” Jorien says with a smile on her face. “But I think I will always keep one toe in veterinary medicine. I like to see what happens there, and I like the feeling of being a vet.” She continues by adding that ”Having my own veterinary practice is not my only dream anymore, because I want to be more innovative and solve this problem for the community. Therefore, I now also have the dream to solve the problem of getting veterinarians into the digital era. And who knows, one day, I might combine my two dreams, starting an innovative digital-based veterinary clinic using the software we are now creating.”
I have the dream to solve the problem of getting veterinarians into the digital era.
Joining the validation programme at UtrechtInc
Since February 2022 you’ve been participating in UtrechtInc’s Science Validation Programme, how is that?
“It opened the world, for sure. As I came from an entrepreneurial family, I thought I knew a lot,” Jorien begins. “But of course, I now became aware of the knowledge I was missing as I did not study any business management at all, and I really enjoy the help from UtrechtInc filling those really important blanks.” She continues “Because I feel now, especially after a few months, that if I would not have had your help I would for sure have made all those obvious mistakes that you are helping us to avoid. Also, I do not feel alone. I think that with a startup, it sounds really cool when you start. But after a month or two, you realise that it is you doing your work alone, and you also come across resistance from people and authorities, holding you back or making it hard to keep going. But together with UtrechtInc, you feel really strong, and you feel that you can either tackle those problems or learn from them, instead of getting overwhelmed, hurt or even killed by them.”
I think that with a startup, it sounds really cool when you start. But after a month or two, you realise that it is you doing your work alone, and you also come across resistance from people and authorities, holding you back or making it hard to keep going.
“When I started the programme I didn’t even know what validation meant… But now I have learned that the programme supports the stage I am in really well and it helps me a lot. The validation part includes talking to people, finding out what the problem that I want to solve actually is, and trying not to make the mistakes that everyone makes,” Jorien continues. “Of course, you do not enjoy doing interviews all the time, but I found out I enjoyed listening to my customers and their problems. And, I think that the only thing I regret until now is that I could not be a bit more often at UtrechtInc, because I enjoy it a lot there. I am always very jealous when I see the teams working there, I think that would be amazing. But on the other side, you first need to make choices and find the time to work during the daytime on your project. But I am really looking forward to maybe being more part of the UtrechtInc experience.”
Of course, you do not enjoy doing interviews all the time, but I found out I enjoyed listening to my customers and their problems.
How many customers have you interviewed so far?
“I think as a vet and horse owner, trainer, seller and buyer, I am in the middle of all my customers every day. And I found out that just telling people what I am doing results in pieces of interviews and that people always want to find out more and help,” Jorien explains. She says that she asks questions like ‘What have you already done to solve this problem? Did you already use a product like this?’. She continues by saying, “I think for me it is super easy. I believe I have had ‘big interviews’ with 10 people already and in the meanwhile, I have spoken to 50 or 100 people asking for parts of the information I need to validate my product.” Jorien adds that she thinks it is rather easy for her also because “I know the customer segment because in many ways I am the customer segment and I try to use that knowledge and those contacts in my validation process. Being your customer segment is worth a lot and I am proud to do this startup as a veterinarian.”
I am proud to do this startup as a veterinarian.
The step into entrepreneurship
Have you always known that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
“I was already a little bit of an entrepreneur since my studies because I had my own business in training and selling horses and I also gave some instructions and medical advice for horse owners,” Jorien explains. “I really liked it, but I did not feel like I was being really innovative, changing the world. And I think that is something that is important to me. When I am working as a vet it is really cool and I help the animals. But, I actually really enjoy moving the world, instead of one single animal at a time.” She adds that from the age of 14 she saw her father being an entrepreneur, “I was raised with all the responsibilities, the good and the hard stuff that comes with it.”
I actually really enjoy moving the world, instead of one single animal at a time.
Now when you are a year further from when your startup idea was born, what would you say to someone in that position you were in then?
“I think that one of the important questions that you need to ask yourself is ‘Do I truly want to be an entrepreneur?’,” Jorien says. She says that a good idea in itself is not enough if you are not willing to take on the hard work and the lack of structure. “So you need to be able to do that – or find people around you that can help you with that,” she adds. “You first need to try to find out if you want it, and like it, then go fit it. It will only make you a greater person in many ways and you should not be scared that the idea might fail, because that is part of the process. Even if you fail, it will be a win in many other ways and what you’ve learned you can use for the rest of your life. Pursuing this startup forms me as a person and I feel that together with UtrechtInc you’ll be equipped for this life- and business journey so much better.”
Pursuing this startup forms me as a person and I feel that together with UtrechtInc you’ll be equipped for this life- and business journey so much better.
How did you get in contact with UtrechtInc?
“I found out about UtrechtInc when I registered at the KVK and came across information about the programs they offer,” Jorien says. She explains “My boyfriend has his own startup and him being a start-up enthusiast has been a big support for me. At first, I thought ‘They probably won’t be interested in my ideas,’ but he helped me not be scared and just start the application and that way I found my spot at UtrechtInc where I started my own startup journey”.
Posted August 2022