Founders Fridays is a new StartupAmsterdam initiative that showcases local entrepreneurs who help strengthen our ecosystem. By inviting founders to answer five questions, we want to shine a light on our ecosystem’s most inspirational stories and role models. We hope that we’ll all learn and grow together by providing startup founders with a space to share their insights and experience.

This week we spoke to Maurits Last, the co-founder of SwapBox. This zero-waste packaging company focuses on developing and producing reusable packaging for the foods and drinks industry. The company aims to eliminate single-use packaging to reduce the pollution levels associated with packaging materials. 

1. How did your career journey lead you to found SwapBox?

I knew that I wanted to start my own company from a young age. However, if I was going to start a company, it needed to be one with an innovative business model and product. During my studies at Hotelschool The Hague, I discovered my interest in sustainability and hospitality. Here, I embarked on a university project called Business Model Innovation, and this is where the SwapBox journey started. In the year following this project, after a number of initial developments, we launched the company in Amsterdam. 

2. What makes Amsterdam a great city and a great ecosystem for a startup founder?

Amsterdam’s location is very attractive as there are many major universities in and around the city, all of which are generating a good supply of talent for startups. Additionally, for a physical product like SwapBox, the high population density offers a great market to operate in. The people are very open-minded and enjoy being at the forefront of innovation. Lastly, Amsterdam has a great mix of potential customers, from small businesses to big corporates, which makes B2B selling very attractive.

3. What are the goals and needs of SwapBox for the upcoming months?

We are looking to expand our teams in both Brussels and Amsterdam and are hiring in both locations. We are also moving to a new office in Amsterdam that will be big enough to accommodate our growing operations. As we are growing fast, we need to scale our operational processes so that we can handle the upcoming 200,000 swaps. 

4. What has been a recent win for your business?

We started our collaboration with Hotelschool The Hague, where we are implementing reusable packaging for takeaway meals and coffee. In addition, we reached our 20,000 swap milestone in November. Now we are focusing on increasing our volumes, a goal we already started working on as the Netherlands began to open up.

5. What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given? 

Focus on creating results and reaching your targets. As a startup, many people want some of your time, but the key is saying no to opportunities that do not directly help you to grow your business. In short, just focus on reaching your own goals. In addition, I strongly believe in doing more, testing more, and failing more. For example, I spent a year and a half brainstorming and researching, from which we learned more in six months than we ever could have anticipated. We also launched SwapBox believing in just one way of working, but after conducting a proof of concept, based on an alternate way of working, we are now much more efficient with our time and investments than before. If we weren’t flexible to test other ways of working, we would still be stuck in the past. 

Bonus question: We recently invited you to pitch how it is to work for your company in our matchmaking session 'career opportunities within the startup scene' during the UvA Career Skills Week. How was your experience?

It was a great experience meeting all of the young talent. It's good to see that there are a lot of young impact-driven students interested in working at startups. As the team is growing fast, we are still hiring for sales positions in Amsterdam and Brussels (FTE and internships).

If you would like to share your story with our local ecosystem, you can contact us by email at startup@amsterdam.nl.