Learning, developing and networking: the speed dates

On April 30, sparks were flying at Impulse on the Wageningen University and Research campus. The building was the venue for a dizzying 124 speed dates, spread over seven rounds, between more than 35 coaches from 20 different companies and 50 ambitious students. On this afternoon, the people behind the top 40 projects from the WUR Student Challenge: ReThink Protein had the unique opportunity to meet (almost) all the business partners face-to-face and hopefully make a lasting impression on them. Impulse was transformed into one huge dating arena in which students were given a fifteen-minute slot to wow the coaches with their ideas. With the clock ticking ominously in the background, students needed to use their time wisely to brainstorm with experts and take on valuable feedback. This event also provided an opportunity for students to network in an informal setting and get to know more about interesting career opportunities.


In the morning the students received two interesting and interactive workshops. Jan Rademaker from ttopstart further explained the business model canvas, while Chantal Dekker of Rabobank talked about the basic financing principles.

A plenary session was organized before the start of the speed dating. After a warm word of welcome by Stacy Pyett from the taskforce of the WUR Student Challenges, Rik Hendriks briefly went through the programme of the day and explained the business model. The business model will be used in the upcoming phase of the WUR Student Challenge: ReThink Protein as a tool for the students to work on their own business models. Lastly, the rules of engagement for the speed dates were explained and it was time for the students and companies to take their places at the tables.


But what are the coaches actually paying attention to? Lucia Luijben from Nutreco said she wanted to help students with thinking about upscaling their project and especially around quality, consistency and availability in large volumes. Jan-Peter Doomernik of Nature 2.0 was keen to work with the projects, but also wanted to meet the people behind the project and see their passion and energy.


The loud sound of the gong marked the end of a speed date and the time to change tables. While new teams rushed off to their next date, other students were anxiously discussing how they thought their date went. In the meantime, as some partners were taking a breather, coaches jotted down their findings before the next fresh face appeared at their table. With an exciting setting and a group of enthusiastic students and coaches, the seven rounds of speed dates seemed to fly by.


Everyone nowadays has heard of speed dating, but is it a good way of collecting useful feedback. Nicola Salvatori and Nicolas Curubeto from team MeProtein believe it is. By speaking to many different companies, they collected a lot of feedback. Jasmine Barwari from All Gaens raises another point: the speed dates force you to look critically at your own project, which shows you new opportunities.

Peter Leonhardt form Cargill was pleased to see that the students came well prepared and some even brought presentations or prototypes of their projects.

Both the coaches and the students saw the added value of the joint brainstorming session. Yvette Müskens from Dalco Food hoped she could help the students with not only sharing her expertise, but also by bringing the students into contact with partners from her own network. Chantal Dekker and Agnieszka Demeter from Rabobank were pleased with the informal setting in which not only the knowledge of the company was asked but also personal opinions. Edgar Suarez Garcia from team ALFI thought the diversity of the companies and feedback was a plus point: receiving advice from various perspectives helped students to develop their ideas in different directions and give them more depth.


In a nutshell, this dynamic event matched coaches’ knowledge and experience with the students’ ambitions and potential. More than just passing on knowledge, the afternoon saw some sincere, inspiring exchanges between people on both sides of the table. That’s what you call speed dating 2.0!