Handle Hands Headquarters at CIC Rotterdam
Rotterdam provides the launch-pad for unbridled ambition
From left to right: Koen Daamen (NFIA), Marcus Fernhout (Executive Director at CIC International), Annemie Fourie (Handle Hands), Maarten Struijvenberg (City of Rotterdam), Justin Fourie (Handle Hands), Phaedra Veenendaal (InnovationQuarter) en Jorn Douwstra (Rotterdam Partners).
A pair of young South African entrepreneurs, Annemie and Justin Fourie, recently elected to establish the European Headquarters for their company, Handle Hands, at CIC in Rotterdam. Handle Hands will develop and produce a range of products that help to optimize hand function, with multiple applications in the healthcare and medical segments, as well as the consumer market. Handle Hands’ first product is a patented, multi-award winning invention, namely, a removable universal gripping device that locks securely onto various objects, providing hand protection, added grip, and doing away with the need for gloves.
Focus on innovation
Explaining the rationale behind the choice of Rotterdam and CIC, she lists a number of factors that swung the deal: “With a strong focus on innovation here in the Netherlands, they know and understand the challenges associated with venturing out into the unknown and, consequently, we can benefit here from world-class research institutes, innovation incentives, and alliances like the TKI (Top Sector Alliance for Knowledge and Innovation) who look for ways to bring innovative products or services onto the market.”
She also went on to talk about the vision that they have for the brand: “Our ambition is to create a global brand. Locating the head office in Rotterdam, places us at the gateway to Europe – the perfect location from which to reach millions of customers in Europe and beyond, and, with the added advantages of a highly educated, multilingual workforce, a supportive corporate tax structure and a superior logistics and technology infrastructure, we can do just that.”
The two entrepreneurs learned of the fertile innovation environment in the Netherlands whilst they were conducting market research in Canada. There, they came in contact with the Canadian office of the NFIA and learned about the new ‘Start-up Visa’, launched in 2015, as well as receiving relevant information about setting up a business in the Netherlands. A ‘Fact-finding Trip’ to the Netherlands in June 2016, arranged by the NFIA, was a significant milestone for the Fouries in preparing the launch of their company.
The Fouries explained that a key success factor, in addition to the support received by NFIA and its regional partners – InnovationQuarter and Rotterdam Partners – is partnering with Venture Café and the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC Rotterdam). “The CIC and Venture Café, due to their experience in helping start-ups grow, combined with their international office network in North America, are the ideal mentors for us, facilitating our launch as a new innovative business under the Start-up Visa scheme.”