#FoundersFridays: Meet Niels Baay
Meet Niels Baay - founder of Nxus. Learn what moved Niels to found his spinoff exactly 14 hours after graduating and what piece of entrepreneurial advice never fails to keep him motivated to keep going.
#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 founding a startup as well.
This month we spoke with Niels Baay, founder of Nxus - a spinoff from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, founded on the belief that the recruitment process of graduates and young professionals can be different. Nxus offers a matchmaking platform that connects young professionals with the right internships or entry-level jobs - based on their skills, without bias.
How did your career journey lead you to found Nxus and how did you find your co-founders?
The idea for Nxus came to me in my final year at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences when we had to find an internship to graduate. I noticed how many of my fellow students struggled to find an internship and, in particular, how my Indian friend had to apply 8 times more often to land an interview compared to his Dutch peers, despite being top of his class and being very motivated. As students often don’t have work experience and just have their studies to go on, the vision was born to match students to jobs and internships based on the knowledge and skills they have developed in their studies, while at the same time removing (unconscious) biases from the hiring process. 14 hours after graduating, I founded Nxus.
Although it is an Amsterdam-based startup, Nxus has international roots with a development team in India and Italy. Our co-founder Guglielmo D’Anna is from Florence and is Head of Frontend Design. I got to meet Guglielmo through a mutual friend, one of my roommates during my Erasmus exchange in Warsaw. I flew over to meet him in Florence and after pitching him my vision for Nxus over a cappuccino, he was sold. Shortly after, through my family network, I met our other co-founder Walewein Luchtmeijer, a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience in technical and social innovations. With Walewein on board as Head of Business Development, our core Nxus team was established.
What makes Amsterdam a great city and a great ecosystem for a startup founder?
While studying, I developed a passion for innovation and startups in particular. I decided to write my thesis on the effects of Brexit on European startup ecosystems and discovered that Amsterdam has one of the best ecosystems supporting startups. Innovation hubs like Amsterdam Science Park and Titaan in The Hague also enjoy close relationships with surrounding universities, which makes the larger Amsterdam Area very attractive for spinoffs to establish themselves. This played an important factor for Nxus, as a spinoff from the HvA, in deciding to locate in Amsterdam. Not forgetting to mention the ACE Incubator programme which has helped us expand our presence and network in the city greatly.
What has been a recent win for Nxus?
It has been a great couple of weeks regarding the milestones that we achieved. First of all, we won a big European tender for 12 colleges of ROC van Amsterdam & Flevoland, with almost 40,000 students, making it the largest secondary vocational institution in the Netherlands. Also, just last week we secured a new funding round (to be disclosed soon) and celebrated our 5-year anniversary in our new office at Startup Village. It is not a given for any startup, especially in the EdTech sector, to reach the milestone of 5 years, so we had a large celebration.
What has been a recent “challenge” for Nxus, and what have you learned from it?
Despite the many positives, the last 2 weeks have been difficult for me to balance my work and personal life. Amidst onboarding our new client and negotiating our funding round, I was close to losing my father at any moment, who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. It was really a rollercoaster of emotions unlike I have ever experienced before, and very challenging to not let it affect the business and deliverables. Contrary to the traditional notion of keeping business and personal life separate, I’ve come to realize that it’s better to be open with your clients and investors, instead of trying to keep up a poker face. I also learnt that despite this turbulent period, it is important to take a moment to acknowledge how far Nxus has come, and that it is now much bigger than just the original founders team. After meeting with my father, whose condition is fortunately more stable now, we agreed that a celebration was more than appropriate.
What are the goals and needs of Nxus for the upcoming 6-12 months?
In the coming months, we will of course focus on a successful roll-out of the platform at the 12 colleges of ROC van Amsterdam & Flevoland. With the additional funding, we will be scaling our business development to onboard more knowledge institutions in our pipeline. Not less important is to increase the number of internships and vacancies on the platform to meet the additional supply of students coming from newly partnered knowledge institutions.
What’s a piece of entrepreneurial advice that never fails to inspire you? That you would want to pass on to others as well?
Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of determination and focus. That being said, my most important advice is a simple one: to absolutely believe in your idea. When you are 100% committed and passionate about the problem you are solving, your co-founders, team and investors are more keen to jump on board with you and keep supporting your idea even in challenging times.
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.