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  • Chris Yerbey:

Creating transparency in the global trade of industrial raw materials

Chris Yerbey is a serial entrepreneur and has always been interested in waste and recycling. After starting and selling multiple companies in this industry, he moved to the Netherlands. Shortly after joining an accelerator, he launched a platform called Scrap Connection. It has not always been smooth sailing and there were times of struggle. Fortunately, those days are over. Scrap Connection is now well funded and Chris is ready to scale up the business.

This tech-savvy entrepreneur is not afraid to fail and try again. Chris is born and raised in Alabama (U.S.) and has owned multiple companies. “In the summer of 1997, I realised that I was in a mid-college crisis. I started questioning my studies in engineering. In my senior year, I came to the conclusion that engineering was not for me. I started reading about different startup possibilities and discovered a consultancy company concept that I could buy and set up. So, I did, I left college to start my own consultancy company in waste and recycling. The business became very successful and I never looked back.”

Relocating a business to the Netherlands

Chris had his own trading company dealing in recycled metals before he moved to the Netherlands in 2010. “Relocating to the Netherlands was an easy choice because my girlfriend at the time, now wife, is Dutch and she was offered the opportunity to work here. Of course, it was a decision we made together, but for me, it made a lot of sense to be located in the Netherlands with my business. The reason why is that I can deal with the different time zones in Asia and the U.S. quite easily from here. In the morning I work with my colleagues in Asia and in the afternoon with my people in the U.S.”

Launching a startup

Chris and his team joined Startup BootcampExternal link in 2012, which is an accelerator program in the Netherlands. After the program, Scrap Connection was born. This is a marketplace for producers, traders, brokers and consumers of scrap metal. When Chris started Scrap Connection he closed the trading company and transferred the people that worked for him in the old business into the new one. So he immediately had an office in India, Pakistan and the U.S. Scrap Connection is a U.S. holding company with a Dutch subsidiary. Chris has seven people working for him. “Joining an accelerator program as a tech company is a clever thing to do because you meet possible investors, get a lot of awareness and professional help from mentors.”

The business climate in the Netherlands

“It is a really exciting time right now because startups are becoming more common and you see a lot of success stories. I think it is amazing that the population of the Netherlands is so diverse. You can find really great people to work for you. For example, If I want to hire five people that speak the language in Pakistan, India or China, I can find those people here. So that is what I am quite excited about. On the other hand, my experience is that Dutch investors are cautious and do not easily invest in concepts. That’s unfortunate because starting a business is rough and you need money to really get off the ground. I do see that changing, though.”

Shaking up an industry

Scrap Connection creates transparency in the trade of industrial raw materials. In the beginning, companies were reluctant to embrace transparency because it created a lot more competition. It was difficult to sell a technology solution in a conservative industry where companies wanted to see everybody else using it first. Chris and his team had some good times and some bad ones.”We ran out of money twice and I had to rebuild teams because people left the company when their salary stopped coming in. Those days are behind us. We have over 3000 members and are well funded, now.”

Plans for the future

“The European market is a lot more complicated than the U.S. market. The U.S. is a homogeneous market, so there is a lot of potential for rapid growth. Our plan now is to scale up first in the U.S. After we have got the hang of a scalable process, we plan to expand the Dutch office with more employees, so we can scale up in Europe and possibly also other parts of Asia.”

Tips for entrepreneurs

“It is pretty simple to start a business in the Netherlands. So, just do it! If you are a tech company I would recommend joining an accelerator program. Various organisations here organise meet-ups, talks and events for entrepreneurs. Try to build your network by visiting different events.”