We had a chat with Thom Wernke, the Co-Founder and CEO of StartDock, a community-driven coworking space. They bring entrepreneurs together in many different ways and make sure they get to know each other so they can help each other grow. Read more about how they help companies, check out which advice for founders Thom shared with us, and find out what he thinks about the startup scene in Amsterdam.
1. Hi Thom, thank you very much for agreeing to do the interview. Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you first got connected to the startup world?
When I was 24, I finished my Master’s Degree at de Vrije Universiteit (VU University) in Amsterdam. During my studies, I started an IT company with Johan Assink, called “Databazen”. We worked from the university campus, and at a certain point, one of our customers asked: “Why is your office located at the campus of a university?” That was the first moment we started thinking about the concept of an office and started our search for a “cool office environment in the heart of Amsterdam.” We visited many events in Amsterdam to meet other entrepreneurs, potential investors, and like-minded people. That’s when we started learning about the startup world in Amsterdam. This period has always felt like the most awesome time for me: it was the period of learning, trying, failing, and pure pioneering.
2. You’re the Co-Founder & CEO of StartDock, a community-driven coworking space. Tell us about your mission. How do you help companies?
We believe it takes a community to grow a company. You can be an entrepreneur while working from home and alone, but we believe it’s way more fun, inspiring, and useful to surround yourself with like-minded people in a cool environment and grow together. We bring people together in many different ways and make sure they get to know each other so they can help each other grow. They have their “office” at StartDock, which is their second home. They work, meet, and have lunch and drinks at StartDock.
3. What is it about entrepreneurship that particularly attracts you? How do you feel you’re contributing to the startup ecosystem in Amsterdam?
I like the entrepreneurial phase of growing from 0 to 1, the part where an idea grows to execution. The feeling of “making the impossible possible” with a dedicated and skilled team is what excites me most.
With StartDock, we contribute to the startup ecosystem of Amsterdam by facilitating some of Amsterdam’s brightest entrepreneurial minds and providing them the space to grow. We organize a lot of events, like “Pitch4Capital”, where we match investors and startups.
4. Since you’re a founder yourself, could you share the top three lessons for entrepreneurs you learned over the years?
- In StartDock, I prefer to work with colleagues that perform better than myself in any field instead of being “the best in all fields.” I believe this will take you way further
- If there’s a hard decision to make in our organization, I remember why I started StartDock and our core values. Denying the “why” and the “core values” because I saw good business opportunities often guided me toward trouble
- If something seems too good to be true, it (almost) always is
5. What do you think is working well in the Dutch startup ecosystem, and what needs to be improved?
I think our startup ecosystem belongs to the best startup ecosystems in the world. Access to talent, capital, and knowledge is outstanding in the Netherlands. What can be improved is our conservative way of investing. Many Dutch founders and leaders, including myself, prefer profit over growth. I believe we can learn a lot from the American way of hyperscaling.
Thank you for sharing your story and insights with us, Thom. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
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