Startup-Stories: ArtEZ University of the Arts

In conversation with Cily Smulders about Thomas van den Bliek and TG Signum.


Cily Smulders, head of the start-up programme of the ArtEZ Business Centre of ArtEZ University of the Arts, talks about two unique start-ups. These entrepreneurs started from an intrinsic motivation and a social point of view to sell their design or service. According to Cily, this makes them valuable and exceptional entrepreneurs, but it also makes it a challenge for them to valorise their product or service.

Studio Thomas van den Bliek


Product designer Thomas van den Bliek has designed a digital piggy bank. This digital money system is a social development that will cause people to value physical money less. With Thomas' speculative designs, he makes people aware of the value of money. During the ArtEZ Finals, Cily came into contact with him and she helped him with the Startup Programme and the Startup Voucher.


What is your product worth? And how do you translate the research that precedes the design into a serious earnings model? Thomas figured this out during Orion's Start-up Programme. He also engaged a coach, Luuk Wiehink, with whom he mapped out the commercial side of the product. Together with Luuk, he was able to test his product at various companies in order to perfect the piggy bank. He also worked with Luuk on a pitch that he wants to present to companies or potential partners.


Thomas immediately invested the Starters Voucher he received in a coach and a promotional film. And hopefully we will be able to buy the piggy bank soon!


Kijk voor meer informatie op de website van Thomas van den Bliek.


Fonge Frieling of TG Signum

TG Signum makes innovative theatre with great social value. They make bilingual theatre, for the hearing and the deaf. The audience is mixed and sees the performance simultaneously. In addition, deaf and hard of hearing actors are given a place within the theatre company. The performances are much appreciated but it is difficult to remain businesslike because TG Signum plays from a personal drive with a social message.


TG Signum was already active in the search for key partners, applying for subsidies, generating income from tickets and advertising. The Business Model Canvas has given them a clear business insight into their activities. Where they used to operate intuitively, they have now learned to set goals. They have set up a strategy which gives them a better overview of the business.


The special story of TG Signum stood out, as they received a Starters Voucher. However, the process with Orion is not yet finished. What connections can we make with the Radboud University, for example? Are there studies related to sign language in which TG Signum can immerse itself? Within Orion this can be a nice case for the Business Development Team. Here the story of TG Signum is shared with all partners to make contact with education, schools or social investors.


Many ArtEZ alumni take their first step at Orion; they are assigned a coach with whom they discuss everything and from whom they decide what the next step will be. Within Orion there are many paths to follow and there is always one that fits. This is also the case for TG Signum.


Kijk voor meer informatie op de website van TG Signum.