[Startup Interview] Dennis van der Veen, CEO, Hamster Connect, Netherlands
Hamster Connect is a global niche social media platform for start-ups, investors, and accelerators and offers smart tools to help users reach their goals. The startup’s CEO Dennis van der Veen explains.
Tell us a bit about your startup
Hamster Connect offers a niche social media platform, a toolbox and a SaaS solution to start-ups, investors and accelerators. Hamster Connect is a multifaceted platform and marketplace that aims to become the global industry eco-system and the infrastructure for the industry.
In simple words, we offer tools like Investor Readiness Assessment, Valuation Calculator, Investors matching, Canvas Builder and many more smart tools and templates. Our goal is to add many more tools to the platform in the coming year(s). With our open wall users can post about their company, products and other updates and connect with other people in the industry.
Who founded Hamster Connect and what are their professional backgrounds?
Dennis who is also the CEO is a tech-savvy entrepreneur and investor who has been engaged in the start-up space in the last 16 years with a strong focus on IT, ICO/STO and Cryptocurrency. He was the founder and CEO of Exis and Savvy Group and is Board advisor at Moonwhale Ventures. Dennis is an investor, fundraiser, mentor and SME/Start-Up consultant.
Guillaume who also serves as CMO and the strategist is a start-up enthusiast. Always open to learn and help entrepreneurs. He has a University tech degree and started to venture more onto the strategic business scene. After his exit from his tech start-up he became a board member on several start-ups. He will bring his expertise on growth hacking and product management, to help grow Hamster Connect.
Who are the owners of Hamster Connect?
Dennis van der Veen and Guillaume Kloof are the two main owners. We also have two seed investors and a board advisor holding some equity in the company.
Where is Hamster Connect located?
We are based in Amsterdam (the Netherlands), one of the thriving European start-up hubs. Because we started during the COVID pandemic we don't have an office at this moment. We all work remote. However, we will set up office soon so we have an HQ and a clubhouse.
How is Hamster Connect financed?
We bootstrapped € 15,000 and received an € 80,000 seed investment. We also have 4,500+ honorary hours and a $10,000 credit from the AWS activate program.
What would you say are the dynamics that shape the tech and social media landscape?
Our industry is very fragmented. Although start-ups, investor and accelerators all need each other and are related to each other, there's little structure and organisation. It's an industry where ambitious, savvy and creative minds meet a mix of traditional "old" money and former entrepreneurs that had a good exit.
It's an industry where investors and accelerators can choose out of millions of new start-ups per year. Only 6,5% of all tech start-ups globally get an investment in or support from an accelerator. And 90% of all start-ups will never reach break-even and go bankrupt. So there's a lot to accomplish for Hamster.
What inspired you to start Hamster Connect? What opportunities did you see?
We have been on both sides of the table. As an investor looking for a start-up to invest in and as a start-up founder. Both sides have different challenges, but they are related to each other. And we have experienced these challenges are not just finding money or an investment opportunity. There's a whole process before that. On both sides.
The way the industry is (un) organised now doesn't give equal opportunities to (among others) women and founders of colour.
Hamster wants to take on these challenges and the inequality in the industry. We want to bring structure and opportunity so the chances for success will increase. For minority groups, for start-ups in general and for investors. Hamster Connect is this solution. We don't offer just a new social media platform, we are not just a matching platform. We are an integrated solution to the world offering support to start-ups, investors and accelerators to reach their goals.
We see a huge market with enormous potential to grow and have an impact.
What problem(s) does Hamster Connect solve?
We experienced existing social media platforms have become too big, cover too many industries and focus on nice new gadgets and not on structured solutions. And only 6,5% of all tech start-ups receive professional support from a VC or accelerator. The other 93.5% has to figure it out themselves.
The problems we solve:
90% of the Start-ups fail because of no product market fit or money. Lack of support and network
Knowledge, tools and funds are shattered across the web
Investors experience pitch deck avalanches
Smaller investors and accelerators need professional resources and support
What gives Hamster Connect the competitive edge?
Our Unique Selling Propositions include:
Network, prepare and raise funds in one place
Unique industry specific tools to help you grow your business
Our services and tools:
Social media solution and toolbox
White label solution for tools or platform as a whole
DealFLowBox; funnel, structure and drastically decrease incoming deal flow
Partner Place. Vetted and rated service providers
Who forms your customer base?
Hamster focusses on three target groups:
Investors (from small angels to VC's)
Accelerators focussed on technology
What does Hamster Connect need in order to grow?
We have the famous "chicken or the egg" problem. We need start-ups to attract investors and vice versa. The quickest way to do that is connecting networks and set up partnerships.
To be able to grow exponentially we have designed two solutions to help us achieve this. White label solutions and the DealFLowBox. Solutions we can sell to investors and accelerators. Through using our solutions they automatically help us grow our database. To be able to build the white label solution and the DealFlowBox we need an investment.
And third and last, we also need client panels to give us feedback on our plans, tools and services.
What is your growth strategy?
Product Development: Focuses on introducing new services to the existing market.
Diversification: Focuses on entering a new market with the introduction of a new service.
In which markets are you looking to establish your presence
We want to be THE global eco-system in the industry. We are located in Europe, so our home market is Europe. That gives us more than enough to do for the next years to come. However, we want to be a global solution. The more diversity qua location, cultures, back grounds etc, the better the eco-system will work.
And which start-up doesn't dream about doing business in the US? So do we. But at the right moment and in the right way. Closing an investor from the US could speed up this process.
Once we are profitable we would like to expand to less developed and upcoming regions. The African continent, South-East Asia, LATAM etc. These upcoming regions are developing well and can profit a lot from our infrastructure.
What are your plans for the coming 12 months?
We have a lot to do! In the next twelve months we will finish our platform and replace the current demo version. We also want to build and release the white label option and the DealFLowBox the coming year. Depending on how much investment and when we get an investment in, we will also start developing the Partner Place.
To be able to this successfully we want to hire a marketing pro and an additional developer. Therefor we need to raise funds in the next twelve months.
And last but not least, we will focus on closing partnerships.
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