StartOut Blog

Checking in with Growth Lab Grads: Bastiaan Ellen and Mr. Hudson

When Bastiaan Ellen and his co-founder decided to apply their company, Mr. Hudson, for the StartOut Growth Lab’s 9th cohort, they were hesitant.

Bastiaan (he/him) was nervous that the accelerator would pull the pair away from the business they were increasingly busy with. But after being accepted and spending a few weeks with their new cohort, Bastiaan realized that the program was wealth worth the time.

Their company comprises a team of expert trip designers who “inspire and help book unique and luxurious vacations for sophisticated travelers that prioritize style and beautiful design.”

With Cohort 11 applications for the StartOut Growth Lab in full gear, we’re catching up with founders like Bastiaan, who collectively have helped raise $763M+ in funding and created over 3,650+ new jobs – a true testament to the impact of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

Bastiaan, what brought you and your co-founder to StartOut and applying for the Growth Lab?
At the time, my co-founder was based in NYC, and we were actively talking about applying for accelerators and incubators to help Mr. Hudson grow better. He came across StartOut, and we thought it was pretty cool that the organization focused exclusively on LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs – especially because our entire startup is Gay owned-and-operated. He spoke with Ryan, and we decided to apply.

What qualities of an accelerator were you looking for?
Our main objective was to find more access to funding. And once we discovered that being in a cohort with other like-minded LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs was possible, we wanted to be part of it.

The kind of accelerator we didn’t want was where we’d get groomed for specific investments. We wanted a program in tune to what we wanted and needed as a startup. Growth Lab offered flexibility and didn’t pressure us to raise certain amounts of money as other accelerators do.

What was one of your favorite parts of Cohort 9?
The best experience for us was the bi-weekly office hours, where we spent about three to four hours talking through where we were in our startup journey. We’d discuss the successes we had, the challenges we had, and what we wanted to keep doing.

It was so valuable to know what other founders were going through at the same time as us. We built a community and helped each other through our challenges and ups and downs.

Do you still keep in touch with your cohort?
Yes! We’re still in close contact with two other founders. We like to meet up virtually every month just to talk about our businesses and what we have going on. One is actually a client of ours as well.

What advice do you have for founders launching their startups in 2023?
Always take a step back and consider if there is truly a market for your product. When you’re a founder, you’re passionate about something but don’t always consider who you’re building for. You should ensure you’re having the right conversations with the right audiences before doing anything.

The odds are stacked against any founder, especially if you’re a minority. Always do your homework and get involved with organizations like StartOut that could help you navigate the process and foster connections.

What advice would you give to folks wanting to apply for Growth Lab?
If you’re a founder like me and you find it difficult to ask for help, get over it. Being a founder is lonely and keeping your sanity and mental health in line is hard. But there are organizations like StartOut that exist purely to support you, so you should take advantage of that!

Talk to people and go for it. You’ll thank yourself later.

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