Marja Ruigrok, dedicated owner of Ruigrok/Net Panel market research bureau as well as VVD chairperson in the Amsterdam City Council, is one of a group of Dutch investors investing in Nepalese start-ups. “It’s amazing how much impact you can make with a relatively small amount of money.”
“I like start-ups. The energy of the entrepreneurs is infectious.”
But Ruigrok herself is not lacking in energy. She is not only the successful owner of Ruigrok/Net Panel but also spokesperson for the VVD party in the Amsterdam City Council, and has acted for years as a mentor for start-ups with the Rockstart accelerator programme. When Rockstart Impact was set up in 2014 – a cooperative venture between Rockstart and One to Watch – Ruigrok immediately got involved and went to Nepal as mentor. A whole new world opened up for her. “We visited companies and gave workshops to entrepreneurs. But they inspired me as much as I inspired them. Many young Nepalese study abroad but come back wanting to make a difference. They build businesses up from scratch, create jobs and really do change things. Fantastic.”
When the idea of impact investment – investing in businesses with a social mission – crossed her path she and Edmond Hilhorst, co-founder of Independer, and from the very beginning coach for Rockstart Impact, took the initiative to set up the Nepal Impact Investment Club (NIIC). The club’s investors put money into promising Nepalese start-ups. “It’s great to be able to coach companies as well as provide them with capital so they can expand quickly. I would like to invest every year in new companies that have successfully completed the Rockstart Impact programme. If a successful entrepreneur wants to buy us out, I immediately invest my proceeds in other promising entrepreneurs. In this way, our club can achieve a lot with a relatively small amount of money.”
While in Nepal Ruigrok was also inspired to solve social problems in Amsterdam using a similar business-like approach.
“Open Raam” (Eigen Raam) has recently been set up in Amsterdam. This is a project in the Red Light District allowing sex workers to exploit their own work space.
I have been able to persuade the Amsterdam City Council to invite impact investors to invest in these properties instead of the city council. After all, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of public services to run a brothel. Who would have thought that Nepal would inspire me to think along these lines?”
In April Ruigrok and the other NICC members will be in Nepal again. “We’ll be visiting our current investments – the special, privately-run Bloom School and Smart Tech, a software developer for road construction and also the participants of Rockstart Impact 2016. Apparently, there are quite a few very good companies among them.”
Interested in joining Nepal Impact Investment Club?