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  • Raoul Kuiper

The success story of Tworby - known from Dragons' Den

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Tworby is for anyone who no longer dares or cannot ride a bicycle on a regular bike. This can be elderly people, but also people with a certain disease or a (mental) disability. We want these people to start or continue cycling again. Tworby is assembled by people with a distance to the labor market. In addition, Tworby ensures that bicycles are kept longer, because you can easily convert your own bicycle into a tricycle.

Bob van den Berg, founder of Tworby, recently gave a very convincing pitch on Dragons' Den. As a result, Shawn Harris of investment firm Orange Wings decided to invest in the startup. This injection of capital will help Bob grow to the next stage. Ronald Beuk of Generous Minds assisted Bob during his search for the right funding. In this interview, Bob shares a little more about his experience with the funding process and guidance.

Nice of you to share your experience with us Bob! Can you tell a little more about yourself?

Yeah sure! I'm Bob, 28 years old and I studied Innovation Science in Eindhoven at TU. Then I figured out that I wanted to do something in the social domain. What that should be exactly I didn't know yet. However, the themes of labor participation and sustainability already appealed to me. After my studies, I got the chance to start building Tworby at Voorwerkers. That's when everything came together for me. Keeping people mobile longer to encourage self-reliance and vitality. Labor participation because Tworby at the Voorwerkers is made by people with a distance to the labor market. And sustainability because we help people keep their own bikes.

Why did you start your own company? What is your motivation?

It also has to do with my upbringing. My mother works at a mental health institution, my father worked at a social firm, and he has now founded the Voorwerkers. A social company where he offers people with a distance to the labor market a place to work. So the social aspect has always been there for me, subconsciously.

Many people around me went to work for large consultancies and corporates and I thought about it. You can learn a lot there, of course. But this did not feel like the right choice for me.

The funny thing is that a lot of my friends are moving away from these big companies towards smaller companies with more of a focus on making a positive contribution to society. I think that is actually a good movement.

Recognizable indeed, we also see this in people around us.

Of course, you are a social entrepreneur for a reason and you focus on a specific domain of Impact. If you look a little bigger at the change you would want for the world as a visionary, what would that be? What would you want the world to look like?

Peter Hobbelen has written a book and says, Stop Social Entrepreneurship. I find that very interesting and that's how I look at it. If we all pay a little attention, there is no need for a small group to pay a lot of attention. Social Entrepreneurship has to be embedded, and not from laws and regulations but from intrinsic motivation. The fact that Tworby is made by people with a distance to the labor market is only logical to me. I would like it to be taken for granted by people and companies. That would be my utopia. Stop Social Entrepreneurship, make it the new norm. Let's all work on it together, then it will be a lot lighter and we will also achieve a lot more.

How is that for you Ronald?

I see this movement as the what I call " the reversed VOC." I think we on this side of the world have too much money and have earned too much for our own gain. We have amassed, destroyed and unbalanced in the past at the expense of others. That is why we have so much money now and why you see such a great imbalance in the world.

My dream would be that people realize, that the money they have too much here, they want to invest it in social enterprises that focus their business on correcting this imbalance. Especially in the early stage phase of these social enterprises because if we can guide the potential impact unicorns through this risky phase, that's when the big difference can be made. Traditional investors prefer not to invest in this phase, because the risk is too high and they do not yet have sufficient insight into the financial returns that can be achieved. There is still too large a group of rich people who invest in order to become even richer.

Fortunately, more and more rich people are also investing to make more of an impact. When we as humanity eventually restore the balance, social enterprises will no longer be needed, because then it will all add up again.

Bob: yes exactly. What I also want to get rid of is the term Social Enterprise. This feels patronizing; I have an ordinary business. But just because I have core social values underlying my business I am a Social Enterprise. Whereas I don't feel any different.

Ronald: I also hope that the real social costs we incur will be included in the P&L. Something that True Price, for example, has been advocating for a long time. So we're going to make sure that the bad products get more expensive, so you're not going to buy those anymore. That's actually where I'm most hopeful in the medium term.

Bob you were obviously looking for funding. What exactly did you have in mind in terms of support? It's a world you're diving into that may have been new to you?

True. I had never gone through the funding process before. So I thought it would be nice to have someone beside you who looks at it with you, and knows exactly how it works, gives you tips on what information is most important to share. I don't like making mistakes. I thought if I do it with someone who has done it before then it will be a lot easier.

Generous Minds and in this case Ronald, helps you find the right funding. As a new business owner you don't know how this goes, what the steps are. You need someone to guide you through the wonderful world of investing. How to make a pitch deck, which parties to write to, with which story and tone of voice. You learn a lot during such a process. You need that very intensive guidance.

Especially in the beginning it was nice to have the conversations with investors together with Ronald. That gave me confidence in how to approach it. I learned how to keep my head cool and not make a choice I could have regretted afterwards.

Without Generous Minds, I would not have met with so many parties and gained that knowledge and experience. The network and guidance was valuable.

Ronald: I have also seen you grow tremendously, and your pitch at Dragons' Den was the absolute best!

©Vincent TV Producties - Viaplay, format - Nippon Television Network Corporation licensed by Sony Pictures Television Ronald: What matters to us in every funding challenge is not just the goal of getting you funded, but more importantly in what we believe is the best way. Here it is not only important that we have filled the final financing request 'numerically' well with often a diversity of financiers according to our 'Integrated Capital' approach. But especially also that the financiers are truly aligned with you and your company. And then both in terms of impact goals, and what space and support you need to flourish as an entrepreneur. In our view, this is only possible if you transcend the level of 'matchmaker or fund finder' by working together as a trusted partner to do whatever it takes to make the entrepreneur successful. And of that I dare say that in Shawn Harris and her team at Orange Wings you have found a perfect and promising match.

''In our view, this is only possible if together you transcend the level of 'matchmaker or fundfinder' by truly doing whatever it takes as a trusted partner to make the entrepreneur successful.''

How did you experience it Bob to team up with Generous Minds for the entire financing?

From my experience, I have also worked with other parties. The dedication of Generous Minds and in my case Ronald is exceptional. That dedication is so great that I dare say with certainty that people close to him, on vacation or at night, certainly have to deal with that as well ;).

Still that is really nice, you know you are really going for it together with the same dedication and energy. That gives you confidence, which allowed me to let go a little more. You really want to work and build together. If you are not on the same page in terms of dedication, you know this quickly enough.

Ronald: You enter into a pretty intensive collaboration, often for quite a long time. That is why it is so important that you are on the same page together, otherwise you will not get it done.

Ronald: what I also liked about you Bob is that you are also open to a bit of coaching. For example, we made phases in the financing and made some adjustments, even though you felt you were already ready. This attitude and way of working also ensures that you achieve success faster together.

Can you tell a little more about the collaboration Bob? How did you experience working with Ronald, is there anything you want to elaborate on?

Positive. In the beginning I am always searching in a cooperation, since I always have a very clear idea myself how and where I want to go. Once I have an idea I go there 120% and then it's all hands on deck, and that's what I look for in a collaboration as well. With Ronald I had the feeling pretty quickly that that was a good fit. I quickly found out that Ronald has exactly the right knowledge and network I needed. The communication was fast, I like that too.

What was that like for you Ronald?

Once you get used to the speed and are intrinsically motivated together to make it a success then it goes well. If Bob had wanted to approach the financing in a way that didn't feel right to me then it would have become challenging. Which is okay too, because then you end up coming up with the best approach together. But we didn't have that at all.

What things did you take away from the financing process Bob besides the funding itself?

I learned the best way to structure a financing request and to go through a financing process from head to tail.

Is there anything else you would like to pass along to Generous Minds?

It would have been nice for me to have an expert connected who has knowledge of valuations.

Ronald: You're absolutely right about that. We have now attracted the expertise and we are integrating it into our financial model. In the whole process, valuation is now much more integrated.

Thank you Bob for sharing your experience! We are sure Tworby will continue to be a great success and give people the confidence to take the bike again!

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