Empowering Northen Startups: The story of Young Heroes

Sarah Brehm and Eva van Leeuwen, cofounders Young Heroes

Founded in Groningen and Friesland's mission is to help startups thrive in the northern ecosystem. 

A great example of an entrepreneur who doesn't care about provincial boundaries is Eva van Leeuwen, the founder of scaleup YFK and startup Young Heroes. With offices in Groningen and Leeuwarden, both companies are leaders in the north. YFK is a research and marketing agency that helps clients with issues related to research, strategy, marketing and communication. Young Heroes is a coaching and career network for young professionals. Voted the "best Frisian startup" in 2019, YFK has grown the research and marketing agency into a scaleup with more than 30 employees. Since 2022, Heleen Ploeg has strengthened YFK as managing director and co-owner.

Eva participated in one of the largest tech conferences in Europe, Slush in Helsinki. The trade mission to Slush was co-organized by the Foundeds. Traveling to Slush enriched her vision of entrepreneurship and provided Young Heroes with new opportunities. Eva emphasizes the importance of such trips: "As an entrepreneur, you quickly get sucked into daily things, zooming out for a moment is sometimes difficult. During this trip, where you get inspired by all the innovations and other entrepreneurs, you also take a fresh look at your business, which is just healthy. To be honest, the beach party in the basement of a parking garage wasn't bad either."

Eva van Leeuwen with part of the Dutch delegation at Slush

Both on the customer side and on the investor side, contacts were gained that we could follow up on later. Last but not least, partly because of Slush we decided to look for funding for Young Heroes and we raised our first round this year!

Attending Slush not only inspired Eva but also provided valuable contacts

The northern startup ecosystem offers strengths and opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs. Eva emphasizes cooperation and knowledge sharing in the region, "I experience that people here really want to cooperate. There is much knowledge being shared in the North." Moreover, the North attracts young talent: "There are plenty of young people who want to stay in the North and have a nice job."

Although the North of the Netherlands is a fertile ground for startups, thinking nationally and internationally is vital. Founded in Groningen and Friesland play a crucial role here as independents. Eva underlines the importance of Founded: "I think the word independent says it all. To me, Founded in Friesland and Founded in Groningen are one."

The northern startup ecosystem is flourishing thanks to the efforts of entrepreneurs like Eva van Leeuwen and the support of Founded in Groningen and Friesland. Together, they are creating a success story that can compete with other leading regions in the Netherlands and beyond.