#FoundersFridays: Meet Willemijn Schneyder-Valbracht
Meet Willemijn Schneyder-Valbracht, co-founder of SwipeGuide. Launched in 2016, SwipeGuide aims to change the way we work and learn in a manufacturing environment.
Founders Fridays is a new StartupAmsterdam initiative to showcase inspirational stories of local entrepreneurs to 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 by providing startup founders a space to share their insights and experience, we’ll all learn and grow together.
This week we spoke to Willemijn Schneyder-Valbracht, the co-founder of SwipeGuide, a Saas Platform that is on a mission to save the world from useless instructions and deliver the most intuitive way to standardise work in the manufacturing industry.
What led you to start SwipeGuide?
Daan Assen and I started SwipeGuide in 2016 out of a mutual frustration with instructions in general; just think about how wasteful and inefficient most paper consumer user manuals are. Shortly after, we had an opportunity to transition into manufacturing tech. It’s a complex and niche industry but we soon discovered a critical need for better work instructions within this manufacturing context.
From there, it was a matter of introducing our product to key early adopters like Heineken and ABB, who are still our customers today. They saw the clear benefits of having a digital tool that can crowdsource, improve and distribute knowledge among their frontline workforce. Having the support of these companies from the beginning - and celebrating how our users all over the world benefit from the platform - has been absolutely crucial to our success.
How are you approaching diversity and inclusion as you build your team?
It’s been a cornerstone of our company from day one. Not only is it the right thing to do - we have a responsibility as industry leaders to make the world a more equitable place - but it helps strengthen us as a company and deliver a better product. When a company includes more and more people from diverse backgrounds, the scope and perspective of our community - and experiences - grows exponentially. This means our creative and strategic abilities grow at the same pace as our team. To this end, we also work to embrace a true sociocratic way of working which allows us to eliminate hierarchies and work in an agile way.
As a female founder, I think a lot about how I fit into this ecosystem. As women, we’re the odd ones out in the world of tech. It’s still very much a male-dominated place, and change is needed if we want to make sure the tech we build also contributes to a more inclusive society. As leaders in the industry, it’s crucial to understand that we have a collective responsibility to drive change and give back in meaningful ways.
But it’s not just the gender angle. So many people from so many backgrounds face discrimination on a daily basis. Real diversity means celebrating talent, regardless of any of these factors. Our hope is that by setting the bar high and leading by example, we can make enough waves in our local - and then global - tech community to inspire a widespread change.
Why did you choose Amsterdam to start & grow your business? How has the local ecosystem supported you through your journey?
Amsterdam is a great place to be a tech company. The access we have to not only an incredible global talent pool, but also to a diverse and supportive tech ecosystem, has been an immeasurable benefit to our long-term success. Take our office space for example: B Amsterdam is the ultimate space for access to a vibrant local network of startups and innovators. As part of a thriving community built of leaders in global tech, Amsterdam-based companies have the ability to elevate one another, collaborate and inspire success.
What has been a recent “challenge” for your business and what have you learned from it?
I think it’s an obvious answer but it’s the truth - every company has had to deal with the unique challenges of the COVID-19 virus. We’ve had to make some difficult choices under pressure. Our company culture certainly took a hit from these decisions, and we’ve had to pay a high price: we had to let go of some brilliant people and this had a substantial impact on our overall team spirit.
But failure was never an option, and neither was abandoning our commitment to a vibrant and inclusive culture. We’ve now doubled down on expanding our talent, and we’ve brought on some great resources to help us build SwipeGuide stronger than ever. Our recent funding round is, of course, a key component to this sustainable growth.
What was the last win that you feel most proud of that has contributed to the local tech ecosystem?
I think we have to talk about our most recent funding round because it represents an opportunity for growth, not only in our market but within the world of industrial tech. We’re really excited to announce that we’ve just closed a €5M investment with Speedinvest and also Amsterdam-based CapitalT and Newion Investments. Our ability to continue to collaborate with local investors means we’re able to keep our roots firmly planted in Amsterdam, even as we expand and push on towards global success.