Meet Oscar Kneppers: our judge @SWUtrecht

11/14/2015 | By Monika Dainyte

This post originally appeared on

You have this wonderful business idea. What do you do? You get into Startup Weekend on Friday afternoon, you form an awesome team, you brainstorm more..develop & re-develop.. And here the glorious Sunday comes! You get on the stage and have exactly 5 minutes to pitch your freshly made business idea in front of those serial entrepreneurs. They look tough, it seems that it’s impossible to lean them towards your ideas.

Thus, we are happy to helping you out and give you some tips at what point those serial entrepreneurs look at while deciding id your ideas has a potential.  

Everyone, meet Oscar Kneppers, our honourable judge on Sunday, 15 November.

[caption id="attachment_32865" align="aligncenter" width="300" class=" "]Startup Yogi Oscar Kneppers Startup Yogi Oscar Kneppers[/caption]

Oscar launched, guided, developed and successfully sold a series of media companies (like Emerce and Bright), which eventually led to founding something different from corporates: Rockstart gives the best support for startups in their first 1000 days. Apart from that, Oscar is a licensed Level-1 Kundalini Yoga Teacher and teaches 3 classes a week, also on Thursdays at Rockstart.

We met at Rockstart Spaces, slumped at one of its comfy orange couches in the canteen, and started chatting about leadership and startups.

Oscar, to you mind, what are the main take-away for those first-comers to Startup Weekend?

It is the best way to consider something else than just a job in some company. If you can see how much you build in 54 hours - the idea, the team, the prototype - imagine what can happen in one year! It’s the best way to spend the weekend with sublime possibilities. It’s fun, it’s a lot of networking, creating, energizing. People quit their jobs next Monday! It’s all about unlocking the full human potential.

Who is your role model in terms of career and personal life?

No one in person. Since I was a boy of the age 12, I had this feeling that I can see the future, not in a clear perspective, but I always tried to stand on my toes and see what’s in there in the horizon of the future, and what can I do to get closer to that horizon. Since my job as a newspaper boy, I loved (and do love till now!) early mornings. It’s fascinating to rise up before anyone else, and to be ignited by the thoughts of what future can bring. Through the years (which i have gathered quite a lot by now), I have faced many people: fictional characters,, leaders of the companies, artists, all of them have that same optimistic vibe. I haven’t changed my boyish optimistic attitude, but any day anyone can be an influence to me. For instance, today I’m thinking about Dagny Taggart the book Atlas Shrugged.  

So what should people who are dying to become entrepreneurs read/see first before diving into a startup world?

First, they should definitely read two articles (Are you a Pirate? and The War for Entrepreneur) written by Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch. These articles are about people who instead of observing the action in the arena actually enter the arena themselves to nail something. I read them in 2010 and it led me thinking whether to sit and watch or to stand up and fight. This is how Rockstart Manifesto (all starting entrepreneurs should watch it here!) and eventually Rockstart idea were born. Also, they should check the book called Atlas Shrugged. I’ve been on it since August, whenever I have a free minute (and it has more than a thousand of pages!). It was written in 1957, the story is about people building railroads, which was very futuristic back then. However, those rail tracks are like the Internet today. This book has received some dubious feedback due to its inspiration for the neo-liberal movement, to which I don’t relate myself. But this is captures a bigger picture: it’s about primacy and leadership thinking.

Talking about leadership, what are the three necessary personal traits in order to launch and run a startup successfully?

First, you have to possess this urge for freedom, independence, ability to control your own life. You have to be self-sustainable to write your own destiny. Second, you definitely need to be disciplined. There is no such thing as an overnight unicorn success. It takes time to reach progress, for instance, in yoga, you can it’s only about a millimeter extension per month. You have to possess the ability to commit seriously, and create a path of habits you do every day towards that dot in the horizon. Last, I see that many newly established startups have problems in communicating their idea clearly, easily. It’s not about your perfect grammar. They say, if you really try, you can speak even not without your tongue, but you have to open to connect with people in seconds.

To your mind which startup or sector is going to be the next big unicorn?

To be very clear, I don’t believe in unicorns. Rockstart is not about the next unicorn. Unicorns are an obsession created by investors, not by entrepreneurs. Rockstart helps to create and build the fleet of vessels (many diverse size companies) instead of focusing only on oil tanks (i.e. unicorns). And then it might happen, when there is a proper startup culture, then the unicorn might rise.  

Why did you launch a startup?

There is nothing more exiting than to build something from nothing. Stop talking, start building, and help others to do something that has an impact.

How do you find/maintain work-life balance?

One word: discipline. If you are building a company, it’s not someone you are, it’s something you do. People tend to mix it up and become what they do. Build time for just for yourself, get up early, go for a swim or a run, do yoga. This time is only for yourself, clarifying and structuring your, analyzing any struggles you have at the moment. I’ve lost that discipline in the last two months, but planning to get back to it soon.

But even right now, are your Sundays sufficient enough for personal time?

My sleeping longer means getting up at 8 am. Then, I try to take a bath and dive into a full reading mode, go out for a morning run (on average 7-8 km), and be with my family.

A big namaste to Oscar for his beautiful insights on how our careers and personal lives should look like. Learning by doing, they say...

Meanwhile, see you all on Sunday at the pitches!