Blog & Events

Stay updated with news and events
from our science & tech startup community

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: Robert Meijer

Favorite part of working with ACE: Everything I do at ACE is inspiring, but my focus is on the coaching of start ups. It gives me great pleasure when things go the right way and you see both the people and the company grow.

Fun fact: I love working with startups and entrepreneurs who also have a great impact.

How do you support startups in their growth?

I always start by asking the startups what their mission statement is. The mission statement is connected to the reason they started the company in the first place and the reason for its existence. This is important since it facilitates the very foundation for which the company is built on and helps guide them in future decision-making. In times of change, if the mission statement doesn’t comply, then startups are going in the wrong direction.

After having established this, I make a huge jump and switch to the BHAG- Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Here, I want to identify the goal of where the companies want to end up in 5- 10 years. Once I know the mission statement and where the company wants to go, I can see which steps are needed in order to get there.

To facilitate these goals, I like to use timelines and milestones. These help identify where the startup needs to be five years from now, one year from now or tomorrow morning. When these are in order, the startup can create a clear and concrete plan to follow. I recently worked with a founder who had defined very clear goals for her startup, but was missing a timeline. When I asked her how far she had come in reaching these goals, she answered “nowhere”. This was due to the fact that she had no milestones or timeline that could guide her forward. That is why I emphasize the importance of these in the pursuit of reaching future growth in your startup.

What is your background and area of expertise?

My main background is in finance and strategy, but I also happen to have some experience in sales and marketing. In fact, I was a tutor in Marketing at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht. However, it is a combination of finance, strategy, marketing and sales that are my areas of expertise and all of these combined are quite useful when it comes to helping startups.

What drove you to the startup ecosystem?

I have always had a passion for innovation and entrepreneurship since my father and grandfather were both entrepreneurs. That is why I focused on financing companies during the first part of my career. Later on, I got involved with founding ACE back in 2007, and there is nothing more inspiring than working together with young people who embrace an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset.

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

The secret is that I never tell startups what to do. Instead, I simply encourage them to create their own goals and make their own decisions, while asking a lot of questions. It’s all about asking the right questions and letting the founders find the answers themselves, which in turn will help them pursue their own goals.

Ultimately, we are not here to manage the startups. I often like to describe this with the help of a locomotive. We are here to help them build the locomotive, put it on the rails and start it running in the right direction. Once it is running, you just have to make minor tweaks and push the right buttons to keep it running more efficiently. We help them by giving them feedback on how to build this locomotive and what the right direction is to get it running. After this, our job is done and we let them run their locomotives by themselves.

Could you illustrate this with a few success stories?

A couple of years ago, I was working with a startup which I am very proud of today. This was back in their initial stage of accumulating their very first customer, and they needed support in doing this. I was there for them to help them finalize their first customer and afterwards when speaking to the co-founder, he said this was a crucial moment for the existence of their company.

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.

Back to overview