I just returned from an exhilarating and inspiring journey that took me from the bustling energy of Viva Tech in Paris to the serene and vibrant atmosphere of Maastricht and Heerlen.
My recent experience at Viva Tech was like being swept up in a vibrant tornado of innovation and progressive ideas. It was a testament to the dynamic power of technology and the enterprising spirit that fuels entrepreneurship. The atmosphere was undoubtedly bustling, and the event space thrummed with a contagious energy that was impossible to ignore. I found myself amidst a diverse crowd of start-up founders, investors, and policymakers, each bringing their unique perspectives and insights to the table.
Among the myriad of memorable moments, the opportunity to shake hands with President Macron was a standout. It was a gratifying experience to express my gratitude to him personally for his ‘Startup Nation’ policy that had lent critical support to my endeavors at Station F and Ecole Polytechnique.
France’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive startup ecosystem is truly commendable and inspiring, link. I was humbled to be able to express my appreciation directly to the president for the opportunity this policy has given to individuals like myself, enabling us to contribute to the dynamic startup landscape. Also another high public figure we said hello to was the prime minister.
Another memorable highlight of the event was being in the same room as Elon Musk, a figure who undeniably served as the main attraction. The crowd was filled with anticipation, people eagerly lining up to catch a glimpse of the tech luminary in the bustling Dôme de Paris. His presence seemed to electrify the atmosphere, a testament to his influence in the tech world.
My participation in this event was made possible by the RVO and the Dutch Embassy in Paris, to whom I owe my gratitude for the complimentary tickets. Their initiative to present an impressive roster of Dutch startups on an international stage like Viva Tech was commendable. I was delighted to share my experiences of doing business in France, and the opportunity to foster constructive connections was invaluable. The experience underscored the importance of building bridges between different ecosystems, a principle I continue to uphold in my entrepreneurial journey.
In addition to the stimulating interactions, I had the distinct pleasure of listening to Dr. Muhammad Yunus, a notable figure in the sphere of social entrepreneurship. Dr. Yunus, with his profound insights on using sports as a tool to effect change, reaffirmed my conviction that we, at SensAI Technologies, are indeed on the right path. His speech left a lasting impression on me, further fueling my commitment to leveraging technology and sports to drive social impact.
Another highlight was the opportunity to listen to Sarah Ourahmoune, an inspiring champion and ambassador for the Olympic Games 2024, noted for her advocacy for inclusion and diversity.
Her words on the transformative role of sports in inciting social change, and her personal experiences with the Boxer Inside Academy, were profoundly impactful. Ourahmoune’s dedication to using sports as a vehicle for societal reform resonated deeply with me, further strengthening my belief in the power of sports to make a positive difference in our communities.
Discovering Maastricht: From Paris to the Heart of Europe
Departing from the bustling Viva Tech and streets of Paris, arriving in Maastricht felt like stepping into another world. The city’s charm emanates from its cobblestone streets, medieval-era architecture, and the serene Maas river that flows through its heart. My host, Ellen Krijnen, was instrumental in making my visit comfortable and insightful. She shared her knowledge about Maastricht University’s unique Problem-Based Learning approach, providing me with a deeper understanding of the institution’s innovative approach to education.
As I walked around the university and the city, I found myself wishing to be a lifelong student — of life, of entrepreneurship. The environment sparked a flurry of creative ideas on how I could contribute to the international ambitions of Maastricht University.
Engaging with Intellectual Powerhouses
I was fortunate to meet with several intellectual powerhouses during my visit, including Professor Frank Thuijsman, a respected expert in Game Theory. My time spent with him and his dedicated team at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, particularly during a brainstorming session with the dynamic Ph.D. candidate Lucas Dahl, was truly enlightening. The energy, curiosity, and drive of the 900 AI and data science students in Professor Thuijsman’s faculty were palpable, and I am eager to see how their innovative ideas will shape the future of SensAi Technologies and contribute to Maastricht’s emerging startup ecosystem.
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Building Bridges in Sports and Wellness
An essential aspect of my visit was a meeting with Jorge de Vette and Edwin Jansen from the UM Sports Centre. Their openness to innovation and their enthusiasm for transforming the sports center into an open innovation lab left a lasting impression on me. They proposed a collaborative approach, inviting different stakeholders to come together, research, and innovate. This open-mindedness resonates deeply with the vision we hold at SensAi Technologies. I am excited about the potential for partnerships and advancements this will bring, particularly in the realm of student wellness and personal development.
Connecting with the Future: Student Associations
The student associations at Maastricht University are dynamic and diverse, mirroring the student body itself. Interacting with them was a joy and an education in itself. Their energy, creativity, and dedication are shaping the university’s future, and their perspectives provided valuable insights into the student’s life and aspirations. I’m looking forward to seeing how SensAi Technologies can collaborate with these vibrant associations in the future.
The University: A Beacon of Progressive Thought
In the heart of the historically traditional Limburg province, Maastricht University stands as a vibrant symbol of forward-thinking and progressiveness. The university’s unwavering commitment to nurturing knowledge, sparking innovation, and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration is genuinely uplifting. With its richly diverse student body and the unique blend of various faculties within one campus, the university cultivates a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s ripe with potential and opportunities.
The Quintessential European University in the Netherlands
Maastricht University epitomizes a European network institution, embracing a global perspective while maintaining strong roots in the Euregion. This institution has consistently championed the internationalization of education and research, recognizing and harnessing its inherent value. This unique approach equips students for a successful career, be it in close proximity or in far-flung corners of the globe. The university firmly believes that by unifying our efforts across Europe, we can accomplish a sustainable and equitable society, eradicate poverty, and make significant strides toward other Sustainable Development Goals.
Situated at the heart of Europe, Maastricht University fosters a welcoming and inclusive community where diverse cultures, perspectives, and ideas intersect and flourish. The institution warmly welcomes talented individuals from around the globe and reciprocally encourages students and staff to venture abroad, enriching their educational and professional experiences.
The strategic location of Maastricht University, adjacent to Germany and Belgium, also provides a unique advantage. Its European perspective, coupled with its reputation as the most international university in the Netherlands, positions it perfectly to nurture a dynamic startup ecosystem.
Yet, despite these advantageous factors, I detected a certain element was missing.
The Startup Ecosystem: Identifying Opportunities
Maastricht is geographically distant from the Dutch “Randstad” (the urban agglomeration of western Holland), which might partly explain why the startup scene has been slower to develop. In addition, the regional history of heavy industry and the subsequent economic challenges posed by the closure of coal mines might have had an impact. Nonetheless, the university can play a critical role in fostering entrepreneurship and invigorating the regional economy.
In my brief conversation with Professor Anita van Gils of the School of Business and Economics, we discussed the potential challenges and opportunities that exist within Maastricht’s startup ecosystem. I believe that sharing experiences from the Eindhoven Brainport region, Paris’ Station F, and the incubation program at Ecole Polytechnique could provide valuable insights.
A Glimpse of the Brightlands Campus
During my trip, I also had the opportunity to visit the Brightlands Campus in Heerlen and meet with their new director, Pieter Custers. The campus is doing remarkable work to foster startups and innovation in an area historically challenged by the closure of mines and industry. It was an eye-opening experience to witness the rejuvenation taking place there.
Preparing for the Keynote: Compassion and Challenges: flourishing through Resilience
I am very honored to give a keynote speech at the opening of the academic year of Maastricht University on 4 September 2023
As the date of my keynote address approaches, I am more excited than ever. The theme is compassion and challenges: flourishing through resilience. I am excited to share my personal story as someone from a refugee background growing up in the Netherlands, during my student period that led to my entrepreneurship journey which led me to Paris, where yet again I have to adapt and integrate into a new society, trying to make it as a founder. I would like to elaborate on my work with TERN, migrants as potential changemakers, and entrepreneurship as a social mobility vehicle.
I am eager to explore how we can involve and engage students in this discourse. Last year’s keynote speaker, Minister of Education Robert Dijkgraaf, gave an excellent talk on “rethinking borders”. In keeping with this spirit, I am keen to address the issues of mental well-being and social safety for students and staff in an increasingly fast-paced society.
Looking Ahead: Building Bridges
As I reflect on my time in Maastricht, I feel a sense of anticipation for the future. I am looking forward to the keynote, and more importantly, I am excited about the opportunity to engage more with the Maastricht community. I see the potential for building bridges between Maastricht, Paris, Eindhoven, and other global cities, fostering a spirit of collaboration and mutual growth.
So, stay tuned for updates on my keynote and the exciting collaborations that are on the horizon. Together, let’s continue our journey toward empowering individuals and building a resilient society.
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