Can One be a Professional Rebel?

Solving real problems with scalable business solutions
A Special Europe Feature on Social Innovation – Interview with Linda Vermaat, Co-Founder of Professional Rebel

Before I left Singapore, I read on Lonely Planet that the Dutch are known for their entrepreneurial spirit. In my few days in Netherlands, I found out that it is home to many household brands such as Philips, TomTom, Unilever, ABN Amro, ING Bank, KPMG, Heineken, G-Star RAW, Viktor & Rolf and She also has the fastest internet network in Europe and many Dutch both speak English and Dutch. Tracing back to 1602, the Dutch East India Company was said to have started the world’s first stock exchange. Much like Singapore, Amsterdam is also a port-of-call for trade, has a strong financial presence, is a tax haven and a hot tourist spot.

While looking for something local to do on ‘Vayable’ (a local tourist-experience matching site), I came across “Start-up Coffee” with Melissa Marijnen, founder of Professional Rebels. For 10€, I am promised 45 minutes where I can find out more about the startup scene in Amsterdam over coffee. I contacted her over the site and also tweeted her. I was pretty excited when she tweeted me back shortly and mentioned she was in Austin for SWSX but I can meet her co-founder, Linda Vermaat.

It was a cold Amsterdam morning. Together with my traveling partner, we figured out the directions and took a bus to an industrial area, where we found the startup hub, that housed 7 levels of start-ups “B.Amsterdam”. On the way there, we bumped into Linda, who like most Netherlanders, was biking there. She brought us to the café in the building where we chatted over warm coffee and plum cake.

H360 Online 2015 - Linda Vermaat (Co-Founder, Professional Rebel)

Halogen360 (H360): “B.Amsterdam” is an inspiring space with 7 levels of start-ups, an eclectic mix of vintage chairs in the cafe, Trabis as meeting spaces, a roof-top urban garden, fish pond and chicken coop, a farm-to-table restaurant and beautiful visuals. How did this place come about?

Linda Vermaat (LV): The black cube building was originally built as IBM headquarters and was left empty for quite a while. After IBM left, the urban planners experimented with another concept but it did not take off. The owner tried to rent it out but wasn’t able to do so. He then had an idea to build it up to house start-ups. Together with the developer, they then designed ‘the city in a building’ and create the necessary ecosystem needed for entrepreneurs to thrive. Within the building you can find workspaces, cafes, fitness bootcamps, craftsmen, event space, catering and more. We love being here!

H360 Online 2015 - B. Amsterdam

(H360): What is Professional Rebels about? How was it conceptualised?

(LV): We started Professional Rebels because we want to change and challenge business as usual. We believe that start-up entrepreneurs are the pioneers of a changing world – solve real issues and making money from it. They are the frontrunners who are changing the status-quo for the better. These men and women are extremely creative, have a strong vision and most of all: a lot of guts. With their product, concept and business models they are disrupting their industries. They think and do different. Their successes (and failures) show what’s on the horizon of multiple industries, and indicate possible steps on how to get there.

Tony’s Chocolooney is a prime example – they are ‘crazy about chocolate’ and serious about people. They make good tasting chocolate with attractive packaging and now distributes their product in about 100 stores in Albert Heijn (Dutch chain supermarkets). They stand up against anti-slavery by buying cocoa directly from cocoa farmers – establishing a long-term relationship with them and buying their cocoa for a fair price over a long period of time. They are making real money and real impact in a scalable way.

Other firms that we are