Michel Boerrigter is the founder of Plotwise, a Delft-based scaleup providing logistics operators with the tools they need to truly flourish within the on-demand delivery economy. With an ever-growing list of complexities in last-mile delivery and consumer demand higher than it ever has been, the traditional logistics industry has seen a dramatic shift, a trend which has only been amplified by COVID-19.

Michel’s non-traditional path from flip-flops to tech.

Through AI-based route optimisation, Plotwise allows logistics operators to solve these complex mobility challenges, improving performance and ultimately creating a better customer experience.

“For me, the urban space, just looking outside, seeing people move, seeing goods being transported, all of that was just a fascinating subject. I realised there was huge potential in applying modern technology within that urban space.“I have an engineering and product background. I love technology but I also realised there’s a big gap between technology and actually applying it in society – crossing that gap, that’s what drives me and that’s something I really love to do.

Michel also wanted to ensure the Plotwise business model did its part ethically, from both a personnel and environmental perspective.

“There are big problems that need to be solved on the economic side, but also on the environmental and the modern societal side, for example labour conditions. “That topic became really apparent in my thoughts. Thinking about technology, thinking about tools, building proof concepts, building a small team and trying to find the sweet spot where we can say ‘hey, here we can really impact society in a positive way’, and building a viable and sustainable business on top of that.”

Michel’s journey to Plotwise is by no means a ‘standard’ one. Prior to this scaleup he had spent time in South Africa spearheading Plakkies, a successful flip-flop brand which offered jobs to local townships and sparked economic impulse within the region. After just one year, Plakkies went on to achieve the biggest launch of a shoe brand on the Dutch market. He credits this experience with what truly ignited his passion for entrepreneurship, and one that prepared him for the highs and lows that came with founding a company.

“The experience of doing business in South Africa, all the complexity of the rollercoaster of building a company was basically condensed into one year. So that was extremely exciting and a huge learning curve. It also got me hooked for life on entrepreneurism.

Following that, Michel opted to return education with the goal of pursuing a career in an industry that was more aligned to his passions.

“I went back to university to finish my degree because I really wanted to focus on something closer to my heart, because the flip-flops, that’s not something I had dreamt about every day. It was a great product but I’m really intrigued by the whole concept of the digital space and how it makes the world turn round.”

Tackling the status quo of logistics

One of the most notable challenges Michel encountered, particularly in the early startup days of Plotwise, was the element of education that comes with building a new solution to a traditional problem.

“If you create something that basically changes the traditional approach to a problem, which is what we did, we basically went from a supply-driven supply chain, to a demand-driven supply chain, we offered a solution that would fit in this new space. That’s a great opportunity, but also requires some convincing of the market. “First of all convincing that this is the new way to go, they need to understand why this is the new vision, then they need to understand how they value this new offering and then they need to understand why you are the best supplier for such a solution.  “So these are quite big hurdles you need to take as a starting company, especially if you’re disrupting a space. I think we’re far from done with this challenge. With every client it becomes easier in terms of convincing, but it’s a complex matter.

“You need to jump so many hurdles and change so many mindsets. That’s really exciting, but a challenging and ongoing battle.With that being said, we’re also seeing an influx of new, young companies typically founded and led by tech-savvy, data-driven, internationally experienced disruptors. They are on a mission to set the new standard in last mile delivery, in order to do this they want to work with companies that have a similar DNA. These companies instinctively grasp what we’re doing and that cultural match leads to inspiration and innovation on both sides”

Michel also cited the sheer scale of the operation that Plotwise was dealing in despite being a scaleup, meaning there was a huge amount of pressure on his business to deliver a vital component of the logistics process.

“In our specific space, we took an enterprise approach, so that really works well if you have a significant volume of delivery orders, but that also meant that deal sizes for us, it’s big cash enterprise contracts and we’re at the core of operational processes for our customers. So you can imagine what we do, we optimise and orchestrate the last mile, and if that’s your core offering, then you will need to be 100% sure you have a really reliable partner.”

The people behind the technology

Despite his passion for technology, Michel pointed out that without the right people behind it, it’s only capable of so much. That’s why it’s imperative to dedicate time and effort to your hiring process.

“In the end it’s all about people. I’m a strong believer in technology and I love technology, but at the same time, technology is nothing by itself. So it’s crucial to have people that are able to do that [operate the technology], but far more importantly, that they are motivated and inspired to do so. It’s not only about ‘tech people’ either. In the early days it’s all about building an MVP and finding your product-market fit, but after that a whole new challenge arrives, one that requires different skills.

Lelian Net, our Ceo, is a great example. We met at the end of 2017 after she returned from working in Africa and Asia. I was impressed by her international experience in scaling tech companies and we immediately knew she was a great match. Lelian joined shortly after as our COO and that boosted our development. Together we managed to build a great management team, set up a scalable organisation and focus on this amazing last mile opportunity. This was all leading up to the moment we are in right now. A big shift towards full commercialisation which resulted in me asking her to take over the driver’s seat and luckily, she said yes. That enables me to focus on leveraging my creative and product skills for Plotwise, empowering her and the wider team in turning the business into a global success.

“I think in the long-run, as you approach building a team it’s about that, if you share the same common purpose, the same goal, the same motivation then it will work. But that’s crucial. During the highs it’s easy, but in the lows, that’s where your team makes the difference.”

COVID is another hurdle businesses have had to deal with when hiring talent. The process generally becomes tougher when you can’t meet people face-to-face, however Plotwise has successfully adapted their hiring strategy to suit the pandemic.

“We had to hire 12 people remotely last year, which means you have to hire remote, onboard remote and let them join the team remote. This is a leap of faith compared to what you did before. We always had people joining for lunch before we hired them and none of that could happen. The small window at the end of summer 2020, when we could all meet together at a restaurant in the Netherlands, that was the first time a lot of our people actually saw each other in person. For me, I was, I wouldn’t say worried, but I did wonder how this would go. Then we had that session, dinner with the team, some games and drinks afterwards and it was so much fun. I really remember that moment I realised we had actually managed to strengthen this culture despite hiring remotely.”

Every new person adds something to the existing culture, but should also fit into that culture. That’s not something you can measure, but an instinctive feeling you as an organisation should have about hiring people.

Michel Boerrigter, Founder @ Plotwise

The scaleup roller coaster

Creating that winning team ties in with one of the things Michel found most surprising about his entrepreneurial journey so far. He pointed out that while the ups and downs are a natural part of being a scaleup founder, the speed at which they come was something he didn’t necessarily expect.

“That for me is the beauty about the journey of building a company with impact, the roller coaster with the ups and downs. What really surprised me is how rapidly the highs and the lows can follow each other, literally within an hour it can be extreme high to extreme low.

“The other thing which I really enjoy; the rest of the world sees the highs, but the lows are really where the team and the people make the difference. Those are the tough and frustrating moments, but looking backwards, that’s where you really make the difference as an organisation. Those for me are the really inspiring and proud moments to look back on.”

“Culture starts at the door”

This team will also be vital in shaping the scaleup culture and long-term identity of the business. While each member should be a good cultural fit, they’ll naturally inject something extra themselves.

“Culture starts at the door. It’s about the people you hire.”

“Every new person adds something to the existing culture, but should also fit into that culture. That’s not something you can measure, but an instinctive feeling you as an organisation should have about hiring people.”

“It’s never perfect but it doesn’t really matter as long as the purpose and alignment are there, then together the people will help shape the culture. It’s good that it’s evolving but it’s an ongoing thing you have to put energy and effort into as an organisation.”

“It’s a living thing and it’s never done. For me, the common denominator about successful cultures is the way that all the details make sense. So it’s not about the big idea, it’s how you apply it in day-to-day details and again, that’s about people.”

“That purpose and alignment from the get-go are far more important than having a rockstar coder; they might be brilliant in their work, but if they don’t fit, it can be extremely costly.”

Embracing diversity is a surefire way to improve the culture of any business, whether that be diversity of background, gender, or nationality.

“If you want to have an open culture, it’s about having people with an open mindset. There are all kinds of small things you can do to stimulate that, in our case we have a really international team, I think 14/15 nationalities, so really diverse”

COVID’s impact on creativity

Naturally, COVID was something of an accelerant for Plotwise given the influx in online ordering. However, a big factor in the business succeeding was the creative environment the office brought with it, something which had been missing due to the pandemic. (Check our report: Impact of COVID-19 on the Dutch startup ecosystem)

“We were big believers in whiteboards, creative spaces where people can work together to solve complex problems. With the first lockdown, all of that was gone in the sense we switched to working remote. Luckily we had the luxury of a fully digital team, so the transition was a smooth one.

“The first couple of months we even saw productivity go up, which was an interesting insight. At the same time, after a further month or two, we realised that you miss these one-on-one interactions and the social aspects. If I’m looking at the productivity side, you miss that creative setting, I think we’re still experimenting in finding the right balance.”

The perpetuity of a funding strategy

When it comes to funding, Michel warns that the process shouldn’t be seen as a definitive goal, and that going into it with such a mindset is liable to backfire.

“Fundraising is not a goal, it is a means to an end. I think it’s important to realise that it’s an ongoing process. I don’t think there’s ever been a moment in my ten-year entrepreneurial career where I wasn’t involved in some sort of fundraising process.

“People who see it as a goal, I think typically make the mistake of underestimating the amount of time, energy and the ongoing aspect of it. If you’re not prepared for that it will hit you hard.”

Real impact takes time

That approach doesn’t just apply to funding options. Michel says one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs can make is not appreciating just how long things can actually take.

“I think in general, a big error is underestimating the amount of time it will take to get somewhere and I’m no exception to that. The media makes you believe there’s so much overnight success, but none of those stories if you dive into them are actually overnight. There are typically multiple years of journey prior to it.

“Interestingly when I started this journey, when I had that rollercoaster between 2008 and 2009, it was an extremely condensed period and really exciting – but I also realised this is not the way it will keep on going. Especially not if you want to create something bigger than that.

“When I started this [Plotwise], I said from the beginning that this is at least a ten-year journey. Even though I realised that from the start and I kept telling people this, even with that mindset, I made so many underestimations of how long it would take to get somewhere.

“On the one hand, it can be good, because it helps you break walls that are unbreakable and reach goals that are unrealistic. On the other hand, it can also lead to the wrong decisions.

“Everything will take longer than you expect, at the same time you need to stretch for amazing. Making an impact takes time, that realisation is quite obvious but at the same time it’s a really important one to have.”


Plotwise is just one of the many businesses benefiting from the RISE programme, an acceleration programme in the Netherlands dedicated to scaleup growth.

Michel said the programme offered a unique chance to collaborate with and learn from other scaleup founders, while offering a stepping stone for Plotwise to become a true leader in the logistics industry.

“We joined to bring personal experience as well as gain inspiration, learnings and sharings from peers and icons in the tech space in order to fast-track our goal of becoming the global leader in the uncontested market space of a Planning Service Provider for last-mile delivery while helping other tech scaleups reach theirs.”

Join our Rise programme

Rise is your one time opportunity to connect with other founders and create together a strong peer community where you can share learnings and get inspired by one another. During the programme, you’ll be able to ask all your questions to seasoned entrepreneurs and gather deep, honest insights about scaling a startup successfully.

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