Amsterdam, 19 April 2024 – Kees Aarts, CEO and founder of the innovative tech scaleup Protix, was announced as the winner of the Leading Entrepreneur in Tech (LET) Award 2024 yesterday evening. The award (organized by Techleap) is an annual accolade for top-performing Dutch scaleups and highlights their economic and social contributions.

Kees Aarts is the co-founder and CEO of Protix, an international insect farming business specializing in producing alternative animal proteins from insects, which are primarily used in pet food. 

Protix is committed to addressing major challenges in the current food system by using food waste to cultivate insects and converting residual streams into organic fertilizer, contributing to a circular food chain. At the end of 2023, the company raised €55 million and announced expansion plans in the United States.

The jury on Kees Aarts

“This year, Dutch scaleups once again demonstrate their critical role on both economic and societal levels. Kees Aarts deserved this award for his innovative approach and remarkable company growth. He actively works on solving global problems and promotes diversity and inclusion within his organization. Furthermore, Kees serves as a pivotal ambassador in the ecosystem, assisting other tech companies to advance. He is undoubtedly the deserving winner of the 2024 LET Award,” stated jury member Gillian Tans, former CEO of

Kees Aarts: “This has been more exhilarating than anything I’ve experienced over the past years. It’s not about selling my product or service now, but about receiving recognition from my fellow entrepreneurs, which is truly special. As an entrepreneur, you’re always innovating, creating environments for employees and customers that constantly demand advocacy, sometimes at great cost. Yet, the uniqueness of entrepreneurship is that you accomplish what others cannot.”

The jury included Matthijs Welle (founder and CEO of Mews and last year’s LET Award winner), Gillian Tans (advisor and investor), Job van der Voort (founder and CEO of Remote, former LOEY winner), and Laurens Groenendijk (co-founder of JustEat and Dutch Founders Fund).

Omar Zakaria Fouab wins NeXT Award

During the event, Omar Zakaria Fouab, founder of the fast-growing EdTech company Archipel Academy, was honored with the LET NeXT Award, a recognition for a promising startup experiencing phenomenal growth in its early stages.

Archipel Academy is a marketplace for the reskilling and upskilling of employees in a rapidly changing job market, offering access to over 500,000 training courses through a one-stop shop. “As an entrepreneur, working 80 hours a week, you often miss family time, so it’s profoundly gratifying to pause and be recognized for your impactful work. It’s our social responsibility to make education accessible to everyone. We’re already impacting over 3 million people and we’re not stopping,” said Omar Zakaria Fouab.

Constantijn van Oranje, Special Envoy of Techleap: “This year’s candidates were outstanding for the LET Award. At the same time, these awards show that there’s still a long way to go in terms of diversity among scaleup founders. We should be proud of these achievements, yet it’s critical to keep diversity high on the agenda.”

The awards were presented at the Techleap for Scaleups event, attended by 400 tech entrepreneurs.

Learn more about the LET Award

About Techleap

Techleap is a non-profit organisation, partly subsidised by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate. Techleap aims to accelerate the growth of Dutch tech startups and scaleups. The organisation, along with the government and other stakeholders, promotes the climate for technology companies to scale faster by gathering and sharing knowledge, improving conditions in areas such as valorisation, financing, talent, and market access, and strengthening an inclusive community of tech entrepreneurs. This will enable the Netherlands to better respond to major societal transitions, secure employment, and future earning potential.

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