Pavel Timofeev (he/him) on starting anew after a successful exit
Pavel Timofeev is a seasoned traveler, pet lover and successful entrepreneur. His most recent venture, Cooper Pet Care, founded together with his friend Michael Fisher has just launched in the Netherlands. They aim to bring transparent pet insurance on-the-go to all our dear furry friends. Cooper Pet Care recently graduated from StartupLeap, which is why we decided to celebrate with an interview about their experience in the Netherlands so far.
What makes the Netherlands an appealing place to found a start-up of all countries?
There are many reasons that make the Netherlands a great place to found a company:
- It’s one of a few countries that has a special start-up visa for entrepreneurs. Pretty much anyone who has a business idea can easily come to the Netherlands to start their business.
- On the other hand, there is a skilled migrant visa to bring highly-skilled employees based outside of the EU which comes in handy when it comes to hiring.
- Apart from that, the country itself has a diverse talent pool of highly skilled individuals.
- It has a great location and you can expand your business to big economies such as Germany and France.
How has your experience as an expatriate entrepreneur been so far?
What’s been great here:
- Great startup ecosystem: you have startup incubators, events, co-working spaces, VC firms, local media sites covering startups. People are generally very friendly and happy to help.
- Official government organizations such as Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND), Chamber of Commerce (KVK), municipalities, etc. just simply work without much bureaucracy.
- Majority of business activities are done in English and the majority of the population in Amsterdam speaks English. It might get harder when you need to deal with tax authorities, accounting, or any official organization. Then you need a friend who speaks Dutch.
What could be improved:
- It’s really, really hard to raise seed capital for a pre-revenue company in the Netherlands. We spoke to many local venture capital firms and had multiple meetings with several biggest players but in the end it was always a “no”. I think the situation will improve over time but as for right now it’s much easier to raise capital in the US, UK, Germany and France than in the Netherlands.
- I was a little surprised about the banking system. It took us almost 5 months to open a business account with a traditional bank (one of the biggest ones in the country). A rescue option is to start with a neobank which can open you an account within a day or two but it comes with its own limitations (if you need to perform an operation which is slightly non-standard you have no place to go or make a call to). Also, banks in the Netherlands have negative rates for accounts with over 100,000 euros. Imagine, you spend months raising capital and then you see how money disappears every month because of the bank fees.
This is already your second start-up and it seems like it’s on the right track to performing just as good as the first one. What are, according to you, the three key qualities a first time entrepreneur needs to succeed?
- Persistence. It takes blood, sweat and tears to make a successful company. Way too many startups give up too early. You have to be 100% in for an X amount of years. Someone said it takes 10 years to become an overnight success.
- Passion. You have to be passionate about the product or service you’re building. Otherwise one day it will become harder to wake up and find motivation to keep going.
- Have an open mind and never stop learning.
How important is your network as an entrepreneur?
Very important and useful when it comes to finding the right contacts in the companies you want to do business with, getting new clients, and promoting your business. Or when you need to get an expert opinion on a certain topic you can leverage your network.
I came to the Netherlands to participate in the Antler startup incubation program. It immediately gave me access to a huge network of other entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors. Participating in local events (virtually nowadays), hackathons and programs such as StartupLeap allow you to expand your network.
What is your biggest lesson learnt as an entrepreneur?
You cannot build a great company alone and when it comes to hiring you should hire people who are smarter than you.
And as my mentor likes to say: if you are the smartest person in the room then you’re in the wrong room.
Whom do you think a program such as StartupLeap would be useful for?
For anyone thinking of starting their own business. You can get on the right track and learn about the importance of customer interviews, how to find a co-founder, how to use the business model canvas template, etc. You can also pitch your idea to like minded people and get valuable feedback. And of course you can expand your network and find a co-founder.
Feel free to get in touch with Pavel at email@example.com regarding pet advice, business inquiries or internship opportunities. Cooper Pet Care is currently looking for an enthusiastic writer who can write convincing pieces of text in both English and Dutch.