There are a whole lot of students going about with great new ideas for products or services, especially at a business-oriented university like Erasmus University Rotterdam. And just like for Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) or Larry Page (Google), this obviously starts in a garage or up in an attic. Messing about, doing a bit of building, making prototypes, having a glass of beer and daydreaming. Nothing wrong with that.

Start up hubs in Rotterdam.

But what if your idea turns out to be really good? Where can you go in Rotterdam to cultivate and develop your brand-new company? To find out, we spoke with all kinds of key people in the wonderful world of meet-ups, bootstrapping, co-working spaces, incubators and angel investors.

Further growth in a specialisation

Have you reached that point at which your idea is live and it all seems to be working? If so, it’s time to leave your attic room or the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE). Rotterdam provides many options for this phase as well. Tech entrepreneurs can now head to SuGu (short for start-ups and grown-ups), for example. Since 2014, SuGu has been offering space to innovative manufacturing businesses in Rotterdam’s Vierhavengebied district; in other words, just a stone’s throw away from the city’s iconic Marconi Towers. While it may all sound somewhat vague, the reality is quite okay. Examples in this context include businesses that make products by means of 3D printing, recycling, bio-based materials, robots and other modern methods.

    • expertise: business models that close cycles
    • services: space, the mutual exchange of ground and residual currents, PR, network, contact with investors
    • admission requirements: circular or bio-based focus, proven business model, in or almost in the growth phase
    • location: Tropicana, Maasboulevard 100
    • website:

Start-ups that focus on education also have their own place in Rotterdam, although arrangements are rather informal. Eduvilla, a gathering place for a handful of start-ups like Dwillo (links experienced professionals to starters for coaching), HousingAnywhere (helps students to find a room abroad) and ProjectCampus (means of communication to learn with and in groups), is located in an old villa at Schiekade. Since there is no website, it would be best to simply drop in at Schiekade 105.

Spireaux @ BlueCity010

Tim van Koolwijk

Photobioreactors. While it may not make the ladies swoon, industrial designer Tim van Koolwijk (29) from Delft has made it his work. “I am the founder of Spireaux, a company that makes photobioreactors to cultivate very healthy cyanobacteria in a sustainable and efficient way.” In other words, Van Koolwijk makes sealed growth chambers that enable Spirulina to grow with the aid of LED lighting. This microscopic plant is full of healthy ingredients (like proteins, antioxidants, minerals and essential fatty acids) for the food industry, for example.

In contrast to its competitors, van Koolwijk’s company supplies the Spirulina as a paste, which ensures the absence of the often unpleasant taste and odour. The Spirulina can also easily be used to enhance existing foods. As a bonus, the organisms also convert a considerable amount of CO2 into oxygen.

Van Koolwijk is based in BlueCity010, which is located in the former subtropical swimming paradise at Nieuwe Maas. Regarding the benefits of the location, Van Koolwijk stated that the “network of fellow entrepreneurs there has already led to a number of interesting leads and ideas, such as attractive grants, the possible reuse of Tropicana’s old pumps and reactor vessels, and connections within the sustainable food market.”

There have also been specific results, such as the cooperation with RotterZwam, which grows mushrooms using waste coffee grounds. “These mushrooms emit CO2. We will use it to feed our Spirulina.” In addition, the Spireaux founder and director is very much looking forward to the new step that BlueCity010 intends to take this year. Makerspaces, small laboratories in which entrepreneurs can work, will be created in the building. “We’re looking forward to using the new facilities. The dry lab will make it possible for us to make our new prototypes in-house, which will save a lot of time.”