Don’t forget the Dream
“Another dream really?? Come on.. just work and stop dreaming!”
This is the reaction most people get (including me) when you tell people “I have a dream”. But I believe the dream matters. More importantly, the pursuit of the dream. Let me explain;
When I was just 12 years old my first idea was about solving traffic jams through building magnetic high way lanes. Say what?? Yeah it sounds fancy but the idea come from a visit in Disneyland. I was driving in those little magnetic cars that could not bump into other cars. Most kids found this annoying but I thought it was great! Why? Cause I knew my dad was always late at home due to traffic jams.. And I thought if we all drive like this to our homes there won’t be any traffic jams…
It sounded simple and I was convinced that it will work. I told my dad about it and he advised me to write a ‘business plan’. No idea what it was but it sounded ‘important’. So I wrote my first plan “RTS Company” (rapid transport systems). It failed of course…little did I knew about politics, self driving cars and finance at the age of 12 :) What a bummer
The gut feeling
You dont need to talk to customers… you need to listen
Keeping your mouth shut and listen to your customers is one of the hardest things when you have a great ‘idea’. In 2008, I was constantly talking about how great my idea ‘FaceCareer’ was.. But did I validate my riskiest assumptions? Filled out the value proposition design and business model canvas..? No! Why? Nobody told me. I thought I just get money and build it. Together with Michael, Roel and Wietze we start writing our business plan and did managed to reach the semi-finals of the ‘business plan’ competition of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. We did not win the competition but it was a great trip!
At the end of graduation in 2010, everybody was talking about drinking coffee with alumni at nice companies. Back then Facebook and LinkedIn were on the rise and I thought why don’t we make use of the network of each University and show all the alumni + companies. Together with Wietze, we started the project AlumUnited and managed to give a nice presentation to the RUG Careers. We build a MVP in powerpoint and had a technical guy with us to convince them we could build it. They were asking for a price but little did I knew about pricing.. We priced it too high and failed… I finished my master at RSM Erasmus and did some research about knowledge sharing at Alibaba Group in Hangzhou in 2011.
After “crying” my project had failed, a close friend of mine said: “read the lean startup” Lean Startup..?? What the heck is that..? I had heard about Toyota lean process at University of Groningen but no idea it applied to startups as well. By now everybody knows Eric Ries and his book. But back in 2012, I thought that making Powerpoints matter but now I know better :)
Being lean is like eating your fruits and vegetables, we all know it… but it is hard to eat it everyday
Food on the table
During lean startup machine in Rotterdam, I quickly learned that you need to make a living out of your dream. Cause you do need to pay the bills and put food on the table. If you are just passionate about what you love somebody will eventually pay for it. So your first job is to find a business model…
I discovered that this “somebody” is called a customer or early adopter. Most of the time this is your mom, dad or friends. It doesn’t matter who they are.. if they pay for your product or service, you got a first customer! Celebrate this but after that it is time for making more customers happy (growth).
Making happy meals
After your customers are paying for what you love to do it is time to think about serving more customers. They only way to find more customers is to find out the “taste” of these people via experimenting. This is something I learned at ZEEF in 2013. Some call this data driven marketing or growth hacking but the whole idea is that you make happy meals for everybody based on data and give them custom gifts in their happy meal.
Pursue the dream
It is not about the dream..it is about the willingness to solve the problem and pursue the dream.
The moment you are serving many happy meals it is important you keep your smile. The process and pain of pursuing your dream is the hardest part… I have failed at this point and took some time off to rest, reflect and think about the “mistakes” I made. But after a time of rest a new time comes of doing it again.
Fail and learn
What I learned in 2015, is getting up and pursue a new dream takes time…I will never forget the story I read about a guy who was surfing in Australia and got attacked by a white shark. He survived it but his passion for surfing never got away. He got back on the board and surfed throughout his life. Even tough his loved ones rejected the idea. In his story he made a great comparison with boats;
Boats are “save” in the harbour but they are build for the sea
The story ends that he continued with surfing and overcame his fear. But he knows the signals of danger and how to react…
Friends, family and fools
Today, I always tell myself what is the worst thing that can happen if your dream fails. What if all goes wrong and you got nothing… What will happen? Well you lose material stuff..live at somebodies place and less “friends” on social media.. But you get over that…
I am reaching 30 in two years but I’ve learned that the people that stick around are the ones that matter. Luckily that is called Friends, Family and Fools :) I know that these people are important when pursuing a next dream… But I’ll never forget that the first investment is always done by me, myself and I…