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Adriana Lorenzo

From mentor to director: an interview with the new AI program director Raymond Alves

In the two years since Rockstart first launched its inaugural AI program, they have continuously tackled one of the most complex issues entrepreneurs with a technical background face: giving their deep-tech startups a commercial application. Much to the team’s delight, the newly appointed AI program director Raymond Alves is taking on the role with an acute understanding of this issue and plenty of industry experience.

With a business perspective geared to, Alves stands by his belief that thinking about how to solve a certain problem, and subsequently creating a business outlet from it, is what will lead entrepreneurs on an even more successful startup journey. His experience is both familiar and concrete, having worked with Rockstart as a mentor in the previous AI programs. He grew from developing his own technology-driven business ventures into helping startups and scale-ups in an advisory role, aiding young entrepreneurs with spinning their technologies out of the research department and into profitable new businesses.

Brilliant ideas + brilliant teams
It sounds like a simple formula, but it takes time, effort, and perseverance to get there. Alves believes that one of the biggest challenges for AI startups is changing the way they get their potential to translate to success. You can have a great idea but with a moderate team, the chances of your startup becoming successful are slimmer. Where, in opposition, it’s more probable that a moderate idea with a great team achieves success. In this vein, it’s clear that Alves believes that a startup’s success is directly related to the team itself. But how does a team develop the right formula? In his words, “working focused and together, creating a collective ambition, executing a plan, and being open to receiving feedback.”

Why is the Netherlands an ideal country for AI startups?
Location plays an important role in a startup’s journey. An attribute specific to the Netherlands is the ease of crossing borders and exploring new initiatives. The result of this access is often building a product with a lot of potential for the future. Another notable benefit: the existence of new business concepts that were born from specific problems such as large corporations having difficulties finding the right startup to collaborate with.

The Dutch government has recently taken initiative when it comes to investing in AI. This new interest partly services the attractive technology companies and universities that exist in the country, attracting new talent and new ideas in the AI sphere.

Why Rockstart?
According to Alves, the greatest reward for a startup joining the AI program is that they have the chance to belong to a high-quality ecosystem of capital, market, community, and expertise. The mentorship aspect especially holds a lot of value for startup development. Rockstart’s program structure helps a wide range of startups to improve their level of positioning, as well as the growth that they can realistically achieve.
Rockstart is now looking for startups that are using promising new technologies and have deep expertise, knowledge, and understanding of all challenges in artificial intelligence and
who are eager to be connected to ideal partners, talent, capital, and coaching ecosystem.

The future of AI
Lastly, Alves believes that the concept of AI is becoming a more concrete mixture of taking smart technology concepts to a broader extent. AI can help entrepreneurs get a deeper understanding of the problem they are trying to solve in order to create a profitable business.
Compounded with the recent interest in AI, the industry and technology are getting more recognition from not only Dutch but also European governmental organizations who consider it to need more attention from an educational and economic perspective. Luckily, the perfect ecosystem is being developed in order to bring the AI concept into practice. The future is bright and, as Alves so aptly illuminates, “Rockstart can bring a lot of value to existing and new businesses by building solid startups, with a strong talent and business models making use of substantial AI technology.”


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