Start-up entrepreneurs included in St. Maarten trade mission

HAARLEM–Three winning start-up entrepreneurs will be travelling to St. Maarten to present their innovative idea and participate at the trade mission this month that serves to assist the island in its efforts to build back stronger after Hurricane Irma, and expand the role of small, innovative entrepreneurs.

The travel expenses of the three winners of the recent DO Challenge, Aleksandra Dragozet of Sea Going Green in Amsterdam, Marlon Kock of Bini Travel from Aruba and Erwin Meijboom of Slow Mill from Haarlem, are sponsored by Haarlem businessman Nick Stals.
Investor Stals wanted to help out these three small, innovative entrepreneurs by giving them a platform while at the same time assisting St. Maarten in its recovery. One of the three winners, Meijboom, hails from Haarlem. Meijboom and his company Slow Mill won third prize with the slow mill design, a system that generates energy through a water wheel in the sea.

The DO Challenge, a contest in which start-ups were invited to present ideas for St. Maarten’s reconstruction and to make the island more resilient for the future, was organised by Haarlem entrepreneurs Valerie Vallenduuk and Jildou Steensma. Twelve ideas were presented at the DO Challenge.

First prize winner was Dragozet and her company Sea Going Green which provides advice on how to achieve sustainable tourism. Second prize winner Kock and his company Bini Travel developed a wristband for the tourism sector which can be used for payments on the island.

In October, Steensma and Vallenduuk organised the first Present Your Startup Caribbean. Present Your Startup connects start-ups to investors. After the successful first event on Curaçao, Steensma and Vallenduuk travelled to Aruba together with Axel de Vries of EY Caribbean to attend ATECH conference Aruba.

“Our idea was to do something for St. Maarten after the hurricane. In Aruba we talked about it with several parties. De Vries decided to work out the plan with the representative Arno Boersma of Centre for Excellence COE Aruba, which is part of United Nations, and Bianca Peters of 360innovations,” Vallenduuk told The Daily Herald.

Together with their partners, EY Caribbean, the Centre for Excellence (COE) of the United Nations and the Dutch Caribbean Chamber of Commerce, Present Your Startup started preparations to organise a trade mission in St. Maarten from March 15 to 21.
“I don’t believe in only bringing money, but I also believe in investing in local entrepreneurship and stimulating innovative ideas that can contribute to a stronger economy and a more resilient island,” said Vallenduuk about the intentions behind the mission trade.

The organisers have gathered quite a number of entrepreneurs and investors for the trade mission: 10 from the Netherlands, about 30 from the Caribbean, 30 to 40 persons from St. Maarten, seven from the United States and several persons from Canada, France and Suriname.

As part of this trade mission, a SXM DO Tank will be held at the Simpson Bay resort on March 16, 17 and 18. The event is set up as a hackathon in which multi-disciplined groups will search for innovative solutions to address the various issues facing the island. The event is organised by EY Caribbean and the COE.
A match-making event between participating companies, entrepreneurs, both local and from abroad, will take place on March 19 through the so-called un-conference format. This initiative is led by Preset Your Startup Caribbean and the Dutch Caribbean Chamber of Commerce.

According to Vallenduuk, there have been many inquiries about solutions for St. Maarten’s waste management issue, sustainable construction and retraining programmes. A number of experts in these areas will be part of the trade mission.

Vallenduuk said she hoped that the trade mission and the associated events would assist in the getting the island and its major source of income, tourism, back on its feet. “We hope that coming together at an inspiring location, creating partnerships and coming up with innovative ideas will ultimately help to make St. Maarten more resilient and sustainable.”

Source: The Daily Herald