‘Don’t make tech cool, just make tech useful’
Maja Rudinac from Serbia took two bold steps in her life. The first was moving from Belgrade to The Hague to do PhD research on Robotics at the TU Delft, back in 2007. Then, in 2014, she made the transfer from scientist to entrepreneur.
Here in The Netherlands Rudinac worked at the Robotics Institute and the Robocup Federation. Soon she found out about the elderly in nursing homes: they lacked energy, no-one visited them and some ’just gave up on life’. “It broke my heart. So I quit my two jobs to help those people.”
She started Robot Care Systems and developed the LEA (Lean Elderly Assistent), helping the elderly be more independent and make them feel confident again. For Rudinac, the technology itself isn’t the most important. “I don’t want to make the tech look cool, I just want to make it useful.”
The startup is on track: it is testing the systems all over Europe, mainly in The Netherlands, UK, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The LEA is expected to go into mass production by the end of 2016/start 2017.
Many founder stories are usually about overcoming some obstacles. Rudinac however faced just a few. At first the product was a bit expensive. But that turned out to be nothing good design couldn’t fix.
And being a foreign female founder, setting up shop here, that sure must have raised some eyebrows, right? It turned out to be just ok. “I never felt like I’m not at home. I feel welcome here. I really have the feeling the Dutch government wants foreign entrepreneurs to succeed in The Netherlands. I’m super grateful because I got so much support during the start. Even during my PhD they helped getting my research abroad. When it was time to apply for subsidies I encountered no problems.”
To be more precise, Rudinac got help from three specific parties. First, the KvK (Dutch Chamber of Commerce, red.), which helped her with checkups for innovation subsidies. The Rabobank was helping with a global search for investors. InnovationQuarter let Robot Care Systems meet with investors. Even in the phase of starting a business in The Netherlands, Rudinac recalls the help of YES!Delft and StartupDelta. “I could always find specific info on where to apply for funding, how to get it, and other stuff, like how many people I can employ.”
The last one is important for the scientist turned entrepreneur. “As the rest went smoothly, I luckily could focus on getting a good team.” According to Rudinac, that’s the base of a solid startup. “The next step is that you really must believe in yourself and your idea. Then I honestly don’t see how you can fail.”