START-UP PLUS: not only the youth has the future

John Pemberton was 55-years-old when he launched Coca Cola. Colonel Sanders was 65 when he began fast food chain KFC. Their success stands not on its one: ​​research shows that people over fifty who start their own business, are two to three times more successful than people in their thirties. Yet virtually all start-up programs aim at young entrepreneurs.

About Start-Up Plus
Leyden Academy and Aegon therefore developed Start-Up Plus, a free Dutch program for people over fifty who want to set up their own business. The program started with a the kick-off meeting on October 15, 2019. Followed by eight intensive weeks of online learning and coaching on topics such as customer needs, revenue models, marketing and prototyping. On December 12, 2019, about fifty participants pitched their ideas to an expert jury. The most promising start-up was awarded a cash prize of 10.000 euros and further coaching for the development of their company.

“People over fifty burst with ideas and with their experience and network, they have a greater chance of success.” – Project leader Dr. Jolanda Lindenberg

And the winner is ……
Both the jury and the audience selected the idea of 82-year-old Han van Doorn as the winner. With his “Are You Okay Today” app, the behaviour of the older individual is observed by patterns in their daily power usage. In case of changes in the usual routine, an automatic call is made to the resident, and if there is no response the caregiver is contacted. This gives both the resident and the caregiver some peace of mind. Han speaks from personal experience: “My son wants to keep an eye on his old father. But I do not want an alarm button around my neck or cameras and sensors in my house. This self-learning system reaches out when necessary, without being too intrusive.” Han has developed the app together with his son, has tested it in practice and is already in contact with interested parties such as a health insurer and energy provider. The jury sees his start-up as promising and sees great potential for Han’s innovative app: there are over 4 million informal caregivers in the Netherlands.

Never too old to undertake
Another great initiative is that of 52-year-old Klaartje Gisolf. Her ‘Upcycle Factory’ offers a workplace where waste materials are converted to sustainable products. “My target market is 65- to 99-year-olds, people who are often seen as vulnerable. I want to show them what they are still capable off.”

Start-Up Plus was developed by Leyden Academy and Aegon, and made possible by EIT Health. Many thanks to partners Instituto Pedro Nunes, Medical University of Lodz and University of Naples Federico II.