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The ACE-ships: a founders’ road to success

Who are the coaches behind ACE and what makes them so great?

The ACE-ships: coaches

Who are the coaches behind ACE and what makes them so great? During this series we will introduce you to the mentors, and pillars, of ACE, who work closely with the startups to get them to where they want to be. We will explore their background, knowledge and expertise, as well as what drives them to work with startups.


Coach: Jin Han
Favorite part of working with ACE: To be able to learn as much as I share.
Fun fact: Jin previously worked with two ACE alumni who adopted a cat and made them the Chief Happiness Officer of the company. Having been inspired by this, Jin adopted his own cat- Miso- who is now serving as Happiness Manager (with potential for a promotion in the near future if he doesn’t break any more items!).

How do you support startups in their growth?

Essentially, I work with startups to understand their pain points, challenges and help address the issues. I focus on areas such as strategy, fundraising, financials, sales, validation and operations, and can for example help startups with their organizational structure within the company or with hiring new employees. In various areas, I like to work with founders to ensure they have the most optimal structure set up going forward.

What is your background and area of expertise?

I actually started in defense back in the United States as an Anti-submarine warfare specialist. After that, I joined a management consulting firm where I got to work with some of the largest companies in the world such as Samsung and American Express. I came to the Netherlands six years ago and joined an AI company as an executive to help them scale, and today I work at ACE with startups and investments.

My main background is in strategy, enterprise software and artificial intelligence. Having said that, my expertise is probably most dominant in the areas of strategy, fundraising, sales, acquiring the first few customers, product market validation and the operational side.

What drove you to the startup ecosystem?

Several things! From an external perspective, I think the startup scene is one of the most innovation-driven industries today and it is exciting to see the emergence of new technologies and ideas, and to be able to take part in these. Secondly, the energy amongst the founders is absolutely incredible and I learn a lot from them. Internally, one of the things that I treasure the most is continuous learning and being able to share the resources that I have, whether it is knowledge or time, with the founders. This industry enables me to continue to learn and grow, to share my experiences and have fun while doing it.

What are the secret ingredients to a successful coach-startup relationship?

I think there are three key ingredients:

  • Providing a safe space. It is important to make sure that there is no judgment in a coach-startup relationship. We have to keep an open mind while also balancing between being supportive and honest.
  • Trust and respect. In addition to creating a safe space, mutual trust and respect is also essential. By that I mean not only respecting each other’s opinions, but also being prompt on time and commitments. Whether it is starting a meeting at a certain time or keeping promised deadlines, I expect these to be met.
  • Delivering value. Without delivering value and helping the founders become successful, all of the steps above can be regarded as somewhat meaningless. Therefore, it is essential to make sure to be proactive and deliver value. This does not only include giving advice and sharing knowledge, but also helping founders connect with relevant people and introducing them to valuable networks.
Could you illustrate this with a few success stories?

Sure! During my time here at ACE, I came across a founder who was fearful of asking the right amount for their solution. After having gone through the methodology, their product turned out to be three times more valuable than what he was willing to ask for. I encouraged him to go with this number and when he presented the offer to the client, they did not even flinch and accepted the deal without any hesitation.

From a sales perspective, I believe it is important to craft contracts and make sure that startups get the contract that they deserve. I often come across similar situations where startups are afraid of asking for the right price, and try to give them the same advice as I did then. In addition, I have helped several startups by introducing them to relevant networks in which they have met either potential clients, partners or investors. I introduced this startup to the COO of the Marriott Hotel chain a couple of years ago and although they did not become their client, this encounter provided valuable feedback to the startup and their understanding of the product market fit.

Applications for our next incubation program (May ’22) are open now! Are you an early-stage founder with an academic background? The incubation program will help you get your tech or science based startup market-ready over the course of 10 weeks. Learn more about the program here or join our next online info session here.

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