5 QUESTIONS TO WARD KARSSEMEIJER – ORANGE CORNERS
Hi Ward, introduce yourself to the Forward·Inc community!
“My name is Ward, I’m 38, and I work for RVO, which is the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. I’m part of the Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship team. We do several programs, and our cornerstone is the Orange Corners programme. In essence, we support young entrepreneurs in Africa, Asia and the Middle East so they can contribute to a more sustainable, inclusive and prosperous society. I am a Community Manager and Program Advisor. So one of the questions I ask myself is, “How can we provide value to our alumni community?”, and we do this by developing projects, activities and events that are interesting for them. One of these projects is the Orange Corners Alumni Accelerator. That’s where Forward·Inc comes in.”
What is the relationship between Orange Corners and Forward·Inc?
“The journey of a young entrepreneur is not finished yet after they’ve participated in an Orange Corners Incubation Programme. At Orange Corners, we believe that there is value in bringing together like-minded entrepreneurs from different countries who are in similar stages of their businesses. This corresponds with the expressed needs and wishes of the entrepreneurs themselves.
A while back, we conducted a survey with Orange Corners alumni asking them about their needs and their wishes. This revealed two main components: expanding their international network and gaining access to international funding. Collaborating with Forward·Inc was a nice way to make this link to the Netherlands and connect to the needs expressed by the alumni. So we worked on a project together this year called the Orange Corners X Forward·Inc Alumni Accelerator, an accelerator program for 16 Orange Corners alumni. That’s where our collaboration started.”
What are you most proud of with the Alumni Accelerator?
“There’s a lot of things! Generally, I’m very happy and proud of how we carried out this program for the first time. Of course, there are quite some challenges, but we also fit a lot of content and topics over roughly six months, with lots of different components including workshops, mentoring and a Demo Day. So we did quite a bit for a variety of entrepreneurs! It was really nice to see it all come together at the Demo Day. It was a success with the entrepreneurs being really well prepared. All 16 of them finished the program and attended the event where 10 entrepreneurs pitched. They really worked on the best versions of the pitch decks. I think the success of the program is first and foremost determined by the the commitment of its participants. So this was a really good indication of success.“
What do you hope for the future of the Alumni Accelerator Graduates?
“Firstly, I hope that they developed and acquired skills that they will use in their future life as an entrepreneur. Secondly, I hope that the new network they gained during the program will provide new opportunities. I think and hope that they have become more investment-ready. I know some of them have also been linked to investors directly through the program, for instance, some investors from Demo Day asked to be linked to an entrepreneur, so I hope that this will lead to potential investment in the future, but even if it doesn’t, I think these connections conversations with investors are very valuable in the growth of these entrepreneurs. Overall, I hope that they all will become very successful in their businesses.“
Where do you envision this partnership between Orange Corner’s and Forward·Inc heading in the future?
“This was the first time Forward·Inc and RVO/Orange Corners really worked together. We had to learn a lot from each other, especially in the beginning. We’re totally different organisations, so how do we match? I think that it went very well. Throughout the project, we learned to work together better and better so that was really nice. We could be honest with each other which I think is a really important part of collaboration, so I think that it was also a good starting point for further potential collaboration and opens up new opportunities to work together!”