"Entrepreneurship is the way to get the most out of life"

Interview with Rockstart Impact mentor Robert van Dortmond

Ten Nepalese companies started the Rockstart Impact programme this week. Mentor Robert van Dortmond cannot wait to start working with them. “I thoroughly enjoy mentoring Nepalese entrepreneurs, I hope to be a mentor for a long time to come.”

Rockstart veteran

Robert van Dortmond (67) believes that entrepreneurship is the way to get the most out of life. That’s why the former partner of Swiss executive search firm EgonZehnder got involved with the Dutch startup community over 15 years ago. He became an active investor and mentor of a number of startups. He gave workshops on Lean Startup method, Business Model Canvas and Team and Leadership at the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and he joined Rockstart in its early days. Van Dortmond: “As soon as I heard that Rockstart would launch an impact programme with One to Watch in Nepal, I knew I wanted to be part of that as well.”

Eager to learn

That was back in 2014. “The first Rockstart Impact programme was a great experience. I realized that I could not come from the Netherlands and tell  Nepalese entrepreneurs how they should run their businesses in Nepal. The culture is just too different. However, I believed that some practical tools that I was teaching in Amsterdam could be of value to them. That turned out to be true. I was surprised to see their eagerness to learn. Honestly, that is not always the case with students or startup teams that I coach in the Netherlands.”

Pitch training

The 10 mentors who are involved with the Rockstart Impact program each guide a number of entrepreneurs. The mentors work intensively together with these companies during the first week of the programme in Kathmandu and continue their support via bi-weekly Skype sessions. “When Demo Day was coming up at the end of the first programme, we realized that many entrepreneurs had terrible investment decks and needed help with their pitches. So I worked closely with all teams to improve that and make sure they would present their investment case properly to Nepalese and Dutch investors. Since then, I have given pitch training at the end of each programme.”


Van Dortmond is looking forward to meet the new batch of Rockstart companies next week. The selection procedure only just finished, says Victoria Ous, who replaced Simon Matthijsen as director of Rockstart Impact. “We had over 200 applicants this year,” Ous says. “We engaged the One to Watch investment team closely in the selection process as the Rockstart companies are potential investee companies for One to Watch. Their business and financial analysts supported us during the interviews with the last 30 candidates and they joined us on our visits to the final 15 companies.”

Mature companies

The 10 companies that were selected come from a variety of sectors: a floriculture company, a coffee exporter, a taxi operator, a strawberry farm, a cookie factory and a banana plantation are among the participants. Ous: “We have selected more mature Nepalese SME’s than last year. However, we think that these companies can still benefit enormously from the Rockstart Impact programme. However, some companies who did not make it through our selection process were already too mature. If companies are already investment ready, it does not make sense to select them for our programme.”