Rotterdam Start-Up Award

How to encourage young entrepreneurs in the city?

The challenge

The Rotterdamse Startersprijs (Rotterdam Start-Up Award) was initiated when iconic office building Groot Handelsgebouw (1953), right next to Rotterdam Central Station, started to explore new ways of positioning itself. Promising start-ups get the opportunity to take centre stage, and by doing so they can win a year of free office space (equaling around €15.000,-). Our job: make sure everyone has heard of the award and increase visibility for Groot Handelsgebouw.

Our approach

In order to attract the right start-ups and put Groot Handelsgebouw back on the local mental map, we opted for an efficient combination of PR and online/offline visibility of the event. We selected a jury consisting of ‘mediagenic’ members to play a major part in the process. We developed a new website providing information about the status of the competition, as well as the opportunity to enter. The website was promoted on social media (mainly Facebook and Twitter), through targeted Facebook advertising and Google AdWords. Additionally, we distributed attractive flyers and postcards in Rotterdam’s popular co-working spaces and coffee bars. We organised events open to start-ups as well as other entrepreneurs and organisations from the city. We also approached a variety of start-up clubs like the Awesome Foundation and (business) networks (Rabobank and Kamer van Koophandel, among others) to collaborate with and to attain a wider reach. This way we managed to offer the city and its start-ups a complete package: not just office space, but also a network and coaching. Before, during, and after the award event.

The outcome

Eventually, six start-ups were nominated for the award. They actively campaigned for their cause; appearing on the radio, gaining votes in the major online communities, worked with national celebrities for their promotional video’s, and went door to door with promotional teams to get votes. Their efforts resulted in almost 8000 votes. As a side effect, Groot Handelsgebouw was established as an attractive working space – not just for corporates, but also for entrepreneurs that are just starting out – and especially those wanting to scale up. ‘Groot Handelsgebouw is not your average multitenant office building. It is a unique asset to the city, investing in young entrepreneurs that have something to offer to the city,’ said Marius Meurs, CEO of Groot Handelsgebouw. In this manner, the identity of the building was strengthened in the process of activating the city.