Meet Mentor: Leon van der Poel

Published on Thursday, January 26, 2017

Meet Leon

At our e@UBC Lean Launch Pad programs, you are always sure to notice Leon’s presence in the room. His enthusiasm and humour complements his ability to give direct and critical feedback to our entrepreneurs. Having joined as a mentor since 2014, Leon is a mentor the e@UBC team can count on to be there just a phone call away, and we are excited for his new role with iHub social venture, The Alinker. Know more about Leon in our interview with him. 

1. What inspires you to work as a mentor at e@UBC?

I consider it my privilege to be able to help ventures. From my participation as a mentor through the Lean Launch Pad for the last 3-4 years, I‘ve met so many interesting people. Starting your venture is definitely not easy. We live in a society where we can get a job by keeping our heads down, not deviating from the norm. There are people who will say you are crazy for leaving the safer path.

You have to be brave. It’s a lot of frustration and hard work. The e@UBC programs are exceptional. The Lean Launch Pad is an intense program that allows the founding team to do proper customer discovery – the single most important thing to do as anyone starts to create their own venture. It is truly a task that takes everything out of you, not just financially or emotionally, to dive into something like that. I want to be able to share what I have learned in hopes that my entrepreneur-mentees can take the lessons to avoid some of the same mistakes that I have made.

2. Having worked with many startups and companies with your work, what are key milestones along the way that have stuck with you?

The first milestone is making the commitment to do it, to actually go make something. As of that moment, nothing is the same.

The second is realizing you found that product-market fit – you realize – holy cow – I got it! What I have, what I am doing, what I have done… there are a lot of people who care about it and are willing to pay for it.

The third – getting the first people to write you that first cheque. Until you get customers to pay you money, that first bit of revenue is a milestone you don’t forget. At that point, celebrate and think about everything you have done.

3. Aside from being a mentor at e@UBC’s Lean Launch Pad Program –  you are now also the COO of The Alinker. Can you share a little about how that came to be, and what you aspire to achieve?

Interesting story – I would not have met Barbara if it wasn’t because of e@UBC.

At the June venture showcase event hosted by e@UBC, I read about the presenting ventures, and The Alinker instantly caught my eye. For a venture that early on, they had so many customer testimonials – and a lot of those testimonials were from the Netherlands, where I happen to be from!  I was curious about the story behind this. How did Barbara make this all happen?

I made a point to speak with Barbara at the event and she mentioned that she was looking for a co-founder – but I never gave it a second thought. As persistent as she is, Barbara didn’t let the possibility of joining The Alinker get away from me. I came back from my summer vacation and shortly thereafter – I joined the team as co-founder and COO.

The mission of The Alinker highly appeals to me. If you look at the range of assistive tools we currently have – you have walkers, and then it jumps to scooters and wheelchairs. There is such a big gap in the product offerings of assistive device. I see a huge opportunity here to change the way we think about assistive devices.

Frankly, this industry is completely foreign to me – I’m a software guy! I look forward to the experience in providing me with growth opportunities to try new things. I am certainly attracted to it based on the social impact The Alinker can have. This venture can truly change people’s lives – I can see the effect that mobility can have on others. For this generation, it is a critical we start addressing the importance of being active now.

Leon at our LLP session