SiR Northern Netherlands: creating connections with Joinby

Shared transport is becoming increasingly popular, but how can we make sure transportation hubs become more than places people use for transfers? Startup in Residence participant Joinby is working together with Hub | Groningen & Drenthe, a program of the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe, for more than 50 hubs. How are things going so far? We catch up with founder Bas Kremer Hovinga, to talk about the program, the pilot and the future.

Whether it’s sharing rides, joining activities, or just meeting new people in a low-key way, there’s an app for that! Joinby wants to bring people together, foster connections and create a sense of community. “We develop custom community apps that allow organizations to connect their target audience," says founder Bas Kremer Hovinga. "In our app, users can find activities to participate in and get to know like-minded people.” 

TED talk

The idea for Joinby came about after seeing a TED talk about how good social relationships are the only predictor of a long and happy life. “I’m just fascinated by human behavior”, Bas explains. “We’re all looking for meaningful connections with others, but taking the first step is often scary or difficult. And it’s just really cool to come up with a digital solution to make that first step easier, by focusing on the things we have in common, for example.”

From The Hague to the Northern Netherlands

For Joinby, this is the second Startup in Residence program they participated in. During the program in The Hague, they developed a social platform for young adults with learning disabilities. “We like to work with organizations that have a social purpose and not necessarily a commercial one” Bas says. “So the Startup in Residence program is a great opportunity to do some good together with a big public organization.” 

“It’s not easy and very time-consuming to get a foot in the door with large organizations”, Bas continues. “You need the find the right person in the right department and be able to convince a lot of different people. That’s one of the things that’s so cool about the Startup in Residence program because these organizations have a pre-defined problem, they know what they’re looking for and have dedicated people on it. They’re already interested in what you can offer and are willing to make it happen.”

The pilot

For the Northern Netherlands program, Joinby is working together with Hub | Groningen & Drenthe, an organization responsible for 57 hubs, from large to small, from rural to inner-city, and with a varying range of mobility and facilities. “When I first saw the challenge, I wasn’t sure whether Joinby could provide the right solution”, Bas says. “But the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced we were a good fit, in helping to turn these hubs into more lively spaces.”

“We’re still sorting out the final details before we can actually start the pilot this December or January 2023 ”, Bas continues. “But our plan is to create a platform for a volunteer organization working with Hub | Groningen & Drenthe. They provide ride-sharing for locals in the village of Grolloo and its surroundings, but it’s all done the old-fashioned way. where people looking for a ride call the village coordinator, who in turn has to make a lot of phone calls to find a volunteer.” 

We’re developing an app and platform to automate everything. So locals who don’t have a car can get in touch with volunteers offering a ride, with hub taxis as a fallback. And this will give the village coordinator more time for actual personal contact with locals, which is the most important and valuable part of our work. The other part of the pilot is to create a digital overview of local activities, instead of all the different paper flyers and folders people get in the mail.”

The future

So ideally, what will the near future look like for Joinby? “Hopefully, the two use cases for the pilot will set a local standard that doesn’t have to rely on advertising or selling data. That we can show this actually works and helps people get out more, and will grow into a bigger network of hubs in Groningen and Drenthe. And for me personally, I’ve always wanted to have an actual physical component next to our digital platform. You know, a place where people can physically meet and do all sorts of activities after they connected through our app. If we could have locations like that in several cities, that would be the dream!”