#FoundersFridays: Meet Junjie de Graaff
Meet Junjie de Graaff, co-founder of GrownUpWorks. Learn how he caught the startup bug, how he deals with the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur and why embracing agility is the key to startup life.
#FoundersFridays is a StartupAmsterdam interview series: for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. Each hero answers 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 spoke to Junjie de Graaff, co-founder of GrownUpWorks - a new platform that connects students, graduates and young professionals to jobs at startups and scaleups. As Junjie puts it, GrownUp is more than just a job board - it aims to become a thriving community that inspires and guides young talents to explore the startup ecosystem, discover job opportunities, and gain invaluable insights. What sets GrownUp apart is their comprehensive approach, offering not only job listings but also a wealth of inspiring stories, resources, and guidance for personal and professional growth.
What made you catch the startup bug? How did your studies and previous work experience contribute to you becoming a founder yourself?
During my studies, I was captivated by the potential of innovative companies as a catalyst for personal growth, responsibility, and meaningful impact. However, securing a third-year internship at such visionary organisations proved challenging, leaving me disconnected from the startups and scale-ups I admired. I realised fellow HBO and WO students shared my desire to work for startups, but were unaware of where to find them, or how to secure a job placement.
After completing my fourth-year internship and being fortunate to secure a full-time position at NADUVI, I gained a really good understanding of the struggles companies face while searching for the right talent. These struggles do not only include finding the right talent, but also talent that fits the startup culture. This reminded me of my own hurdles in securing internships at innovative firms. Driven by these insights and the need to bridge the gap between ambitious graduates and startups/ scale-ups, I founded GrownUp.
The reason why we strive to connect young talents with the startup world is because we firmly believe that the career opportunities are underexposed compared to traditional career paths. While the potential of growth and the opportunities it offers to young talents are immense. By sharing knowledge and experiences, we aim to shed light on the exciting and rewarding possibilities that exist within the startup world.
My personal journey, from navigating limitations in securing internships at innovative companies to embarking on my own entrepreneurial path, has fueled a profound passion within me. I am committed to connecting young talent with the dynamic realm of startups, fostering their growth, and supporting their success in an ever-evolving environment.
Being an Amsterdam university alumnus and registering your startup here, what makes Amsterdam a great city and a great ecosystem for a startup founder?
As an Amsterdam University alumnus and a startup founder who has registered my venture in this amazing city, I can confidently say that Amsterdam offers an exceptional environment for entrepreneurs. The startup ecosystem here is truly vibrant, with an abundance of coworking spaces and startup hubs that provide the perfect setting to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs. What sets Amsterdam apart is the multitude of events and programs tailored specifically for startups, offering invaluable opportunities to grow your business and expand your network.
And let’s not forget the sheer joy of biking through this beautiful city on a sunny day - an experience that adds a unique and enjoyable touch to business meetings.
What has been a recent milestone you’ve achieved with GrownUp?
GrownUp recently achieved a major milestone by releasing an upgraded version of our platform, offering enhanced functionality and a seamless user experience. We are also proud to have established valuable partnerships with startup communities like B. Amsterdam, as well as collaborations with universities, further strengthening our ecosystem.
These collaborations exemplify our commitment to fostering a supportive community where young talents can explore working at startups and scale-ups, exchange experiences, discover companies, and find job opportunities. Our ultimate goal is to connect and empower the startup ecosystem, bridging students, knowledge institutions, and startups.
To celebrate our platform's upgraded version and growing partnerships, we're offering startups an exclusive opportunity. Post all your internships and startup jobs for free for 9 months and let us elevate your visibility among young talented HBO and WO professionals. Don't miss out, seize this chance now by filling out the form.
If you were in front of a crowd of potential partners and investors, what would you ask for for the coming time?
If I had the opportunity to address a crowd of potential partners and investors, I would ask for their support in expanding our community and scaling our impact. With their help, we can further strengthen the startup ecosystem by reaching more college and university students, providing them with valuable information, enhancing our job offerings, and inspiring stories about working at startups and scale-ups. So students can get inspired by the experiences described and discover companies and job opportunities in the startup space. By working together, we can make the startup environment more attractive and accessible to young professionals and students, guiding them towards fulfilling career opportunities in this innovative sector.
In summary, I would ask for the support and collaboration of potential partners and investors to help us expand our community, enhance our offerings, and make a lasting impact on the lives of young talents seeking to embark on their journey in the startup world.
What’s a challenge you’ve faced on your entrepreneurial journey so far and how do you deal with it?
As part of a founding team of only two people, you will find yourself as one of the primary driving forces behind the growth of a business. This means that your time is limited, and I have personally faced challenges in allocating my most valuable resource - time - effectively. Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I have learned to discern which activities and ventures are worth investing my time in and which are not. Maintaining focus, being persistent, and having the courage to say “no” when necessary are the fundamental pillars of success for young entrepreneurs.
What would you say to a fellow student/ recent graduate thinking of starting a startup?
As a startup founder myself, I've learned that the key is to embrace agility and not get caught up in overthinking your business ideas. It's all about taking action and just starting. Don't be afraid to deviate from your original plans and be open to adapting along the way. One invaluable piece of advice I can offer is to reach out to experienced individuals and fellow founders in your industry. By seeking their guidance and insights, I was able to build a relevant network and gain invaluable knowledge.
Remember, the startup journey is about learning, growing, and connecting with others who have been through similar experiences. So, don't hesitate to ask for help and advice—it can make all the difference.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.