At this point in time, the VU alumni family is more than 100,000-strong. Where did life lead them after graduating? In this series, we introduce you to three alumni who all earned the same degree. This time, we present you three former VU students who earned their master’s degree in Entrepreneurship.
Boris Blijham (27) is co-founder of ThePhoneLab.
How did you end up working in the phone repair business?
“After a night of drinking beers, I woke up the next morning with a phone that was completely wrecked. Some shady phone store told me they could repair it for 180 euros: a lot of money for a student. I eventually repaired it myself with a repair kit and some loose parts I ordered off of the internet. Before I knew it, other people were knocking on my door to have their phones repaired. On some days, twenty people would come see me in my student dorm. I realized I needed to approach things more professionally. That’s how ThePhoneLab was born.”
How do you distinguish yourself from competitors?
“Before I started working together with my business associate, you had two options if you wanted to have your phone repaired. You would either go to one of those sketchy phone stores where they offer low-quality repairs, or you’d go to the Apple store, which delivers high quality but is also very expensive and inaccessible. We’ve managed to full up that space in between: cheaper than Apple, but we guarantee high quality and accessibility.”
What skills did you learn during your master’s that you’ve applied doing business?
“I always want to know what happens with all the numbers in regard to bookkeeping. If I’m doing something, I want to understand the full extent of it. Things start going wrong if you don’t understand the full picture. I also learned a lot about marketing. How do you start building your brand? Customers generally don’t have a lot of faith in the repair business, which is why we want to radiate reliability by wearing white lab coats. We are also more transparent when it comes to how we work: you can see us actually carrying out repairs in our open ‘kitchen’.”
Tine Bakia (24) is co-founder of Shared Packaging.
So what is it that Shared Packaging does exactly?
“You probably don’t give this much thought, but when you lazily order food straight to your couch, your food will be delivered in packaging that’s only used once. Often, your food will be packaged in a variety of different containers. And after that short period of time in which your food is being transported, all of the packaging material is generally thrown away. Quite bizarre, if you start to give it some thought. We want to introduce a system in which packaging material can be reused.”
Do people who lazily order food to their couch even want to worry about this?
“We don’t want to inconvenience the consumer or restaurant owners at all. You can still very conveniently order your food, but without the amount of garbage it usually comes with. One of the options we’re now looking into is going to people’s houses to pick up the packaging material. Another option is for customers to bring it back to the restaurant, for which they get a reward in return. Our pilot in 2020 will determine which method will work best.”
How has the response been thus far?
“Very good. Many restaurant owners are very enthusiastic. When I was still working at Foodora, the former delivery service, restaurants were already looking into sustainable packaging. They didn’t really have a choice, either. From 2021 on, the European Parliament is banning single-use plastics. If you really think about it, the current system of food packaging doesn’t make much sense at all. How nice would it be if we can prevent millions of kilograms of garbage from being produced?”
Patrick Suiker (27) is co-founder of a website named AllesOverCrypto.
How was AllesOverCrypto born?
“I was always interested in money and doing business. When I was four years old, I set up a roadside stall that I used to sell berries from. That later changed into sunflowers, perfumes and festival tickets. I earned quite some money with that while I was still attending university. During that time, crypto money was an upcoming phenomenon and I started reading up on it. Together with my current business partners, Derek and Robin Westra, I set up the website without really being too serious about it. It got out of hand quickly.”
So what do people visit AllesOverCrypto for?
“AllesOverCrypto is a platform that teaches you everything about cryptocurrency and the underlying blockchain technology. Many people think of the crypto market as something scary or unknown and our website offers them articles, videos and online courses. We essentially guide them through the world of crypto money.”
Why should people take an interest in cryptocurrency?
“Crypto money is the digital money of the future. You’re really just one click away from transferring money to anyone anywhere in the world. There is no bank involved in this process, so people in developing countries – who often don’t have bank accounts – can become part of the global economy too. The process of sending money is very quick and the transaction costs are next to nothing. I believe that this technology will change everyone’s lives, even more than the internet has done.”