#FoundersFridays: Meet Anieke Lamers
Meet Anieke Lamers, co-founder of Amsterdam-based Peekabond. Learn how she came up with the idea for her startup, why it's great to be a founder in Amsterdam and why it's important to enjoy the startup ride, despite the many challenges and curveballs.
#FoundersFridays is a StartupAmsterdam interview series: for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. Each interview has our hero answer five questions on their entrepreneurial journey, their learnings, milestones and bottlenecks, as well as on Amsterdam and the Dutch startup scene. It’s a platform for entrepreneurs to speak their minds freely and pass on their learnings to anyone who’s thinking about starting a company as well.
This month, we're catching up with Anieke Lamers, one of the co-founders of Peekabond - an ethical social mobile platform that helps global families build deep bonds with their loved ones at a distance. Through asynchronous connection with content such as interactive lessons, activities, games, stories and songs, children are able to form bonds and maintain relationships with their aunts, uncles and grandparents who live abroad.
How did your career journey lead you to found Peekabond?
Prior to Peekabond, I worked as a Venture Capital investor and in the financial industry for many years. Most recently, for an Amsterdam-based impact fund called Rubio Impact Ventures, where I had the opportunity to review and work together with many impact companies. My expertise was mainly in the Social, Education, Health & People empowerment sectors.
Over the years I saw hundreds, maybe thousands, of startups pitch, always wondering what it would be like to start a company - but I never had that ONE brilliant idea (or the guts), until… My sister gave birth to a baby girl in Australia and I saw firsthand how hard it is to raise a child being away from family. I saw how much pain my parents, who were first-time grandparents, experienced from not being able to hold their first-born grandchild. I decided I wanted to solve this global problem using the power of technology. I strongly believe that it’s possible to do good in the world, while also building a commercial company. This idea is something that is very close to my heart, so I feel very aligned with my company’s purpose.
What makes Amsterdam a great city and a great ecosystem for a startup founder?
Well, I’m a bit biased as I’m born and raised in the Netherlands (in Limburg actually), and my mom is from Amsterdam, so ever since I was a little girl, I’ve felt at home in Amsterdam. The openness and diversity of the city makes it the ideal playground for a startup. The Dutch market in general is also quite open to trying out new things, which makes it a great test bed prior to expanding to bigger markets, such as the US. Moreover, Dutch people can be extremely honest (and blunt), which is also helpful if you’re looking for honest feedback on your first product.
Furthermore, Amsterdam has a great ecosystem for a startup founder because it attracts talent from all over the world and hosts a lot of events and initiatives happening in and around the city, including accelerator programmes, investor/ tech and pitch events, meetups at co-working spaces and more. I also lived in other (bigger) cities like London and Sydney, but what makes Amsterdam so nice (and “gezellig”) is that it’s all within cycling distance. This makes the barrier of meeting people in person - or actually showing up to events - lower.
What are the goals and needs of Peekabond for the upcoming months?
Let me start with our long term vision: we want to create 80 million meaningful memories by 2028. In order to get there, we need to let more families know that there is a safe and easy solution to help bridge distance between young children and their loved ones. So that families can build meaningful connections regardless of space and time. If you are excited about this, please try out and share our free app with someone in your family/ circle.
Our key goal in the short term is to expand within the Dutch market. We started the Peekabond app over one year ago in English, but quickly realized just how much potential there still is in the Dutch-speaking market. Which is why, we’re excited to announce that we’re launching the Peekabond app in Dutch this week! Check out this website tailor-made for Dutch grandparents.
In addition, we’re working on some really cool new features - integrating Artificial Intelligence in the product to give more personalised content suggestions. With this network effect, focus and new features, we intend to double the amount of families who are using our app. We believe the Dutch market is an ideal test ground to prove that what we’re building - works.
What has been a recent win for your business?
It’s hard to choose but, I’d say one is testing new features, such as the personalized AI-generated bedtime story feature we call Storybond. We're testing this with some families now, and getting really good feedback. Interested users can sign up for our closed beta here and try it for themselves. I personally tested a couple of stories with my niece in Australia, and these created some really memorable moments already.
In general, I’d say the key wins are always around the topic of bringing value to our users: families with young children who want to build meaningful connections. When they tell us how they use the Peekabond app, how it helps them - that is most rewarding to me. In our early studies, our users scored the quality of the bonds with the children before and after using the app, and they reported a 20% improvement within one month of using the app. Imagine what that will do in the long run.
I am extremely proud of my diverse, international and multicultural team including my co-founders who, day-in-day-out, keep pushing the company forward. All to achieve our main goal: to help global families build bonds.
It is therefore nice that Peekabond received recognition as one of the leading tech innovation startups in Europe in Q1 2023 at MWC by Tech.eu. I myself was recognized as one of the up and coming talents of 2023 by FD. Finally, our new Dutch app was also spotted last week by NL Times, a key news outlet in the Netherlands.
What do you think of the startup life and what’s one piece of advice you’d like to pass on to other founders?
Many startup people will agree that behind the “cool startup” facade, the reality is that everything is just “hacked together” in a Minimal-Viable-Company-kind-of-way. This is completely normal and is usually the case for every newborn company. Every week, there’s a new decision to be made, or a little fire to extinguish. You have a limited budget and a constant feeling that you have to move mountains and create miracles. Can you imagine the adrenaline and thrill when it works though?!
In my humble opinion, startup founders are miracle workers: it’s pretty awesome that you create something out of sheer nothing. It forces you to constantly be creative and see it as a great challenge and opportunity to grow.
The flipside of that however, is that you’re in a constant state of rush and not enjoying the ride, because the work is never truly done. Decisions always need to be made. It’s not like when you reach Product Market Fit, you will always have it. It’s not like when you raise a big funding round, you can lean back and relax. On the contrary: it’s like a scaffolded game and every level gets a bit more challenging.
With all that said, what a fun (and addictive) game entrepreneurship is. I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t forget to celebrate the little moments, appreciate the energy and effort people give you and enjoy the ride.
If you’re an Amsterdam-based founder working on an innovative solution that solves an urban or social challenge, and you’d like to share your story with our audience, email Alexandra at email@example.com.