A €1000 failure in 24hrs

The reasons why…

Martijn Gorree
Nov 29, 2014 · 6 min read

“I’m going to make €1000 profit in 24 hours!” I proudly proclaimed at the second pitch round for the infamous w00tcamp @ Q42. My plan was to emulate Noah Kagan of AppSumo and his sumo-jerky experiment.

I had two rules: we do it using the internet and what we do is legal.

As it turns out; quite hard. This article tells the story of what we did, how we did it and where we went wrong.

So let’s begin.

If you read the Sumo Jerky story, the first thing Noah states is:

The BEST way I’ve found to start a business is to solve your own problem.

So our first step; find some problems. We decided to spend an hour brainstorming.

This is what we came up with:

  • Do something funny with Vine
  • Make an advertisement for a famous brand and try to get paid afterwards
  • Do something with ebola, because, ebola.
  • Do something with women’s football
  • Try to organize a cheap trip to Chernobyl
  • Do a disaster tourist tour thing
  • Create a curated fetish business where we buy used underwear and sell them to perverts
  • Make a youtube channel called “Gansta Kitty” and call out the rivalry with Snoop Dog. Because, kittens
  • Hook into the whole “Zwarte Piet” public debate in the Netherlands and try to ride the wave to infinite riches
  • Make a “Looking for Zlatan” project for my Zlatan look-a-like brother and try to raise money for him to meet the real Zlatan.
  • Do something with affiliate deals for the Christmas shopping period
  • Setup a live feed and do a “pay us and we’ll do anything”-thing.

Going through our options three of them seem remotely doable: the Chernobyl trip, the fetish thing and the Zwarte Piet thing.

Our brainstorm board after 15 minutes

Chernobyl trip

Wouter starts looking into Chernobyl but soon finds out that #1 There are tours who do this allready and #2 Its a fuckton of work to make it happen.

The Zwart piet thing

I looked into the whole Zwarte piet debate and how to make money there. Zwarte Piet is part of a typical Dutch tradition. He is to Sinterklaas what the elfs are to Santa. Recently there was much discussion in the Netherlands if the whole tradition is racist or not. It has gotten messy.

Just a few days prior, I read an article on Vice about people stamping predator drones on American money as a political statement. So I wanted to do something similar. Why not make a “Zwarte piet” stamp and try to sell these via social media so that people could show their support for keeping “Zwarte piet” alive.

To be able to sell something we had to choose a side in the discussion. We choose pro. But to be honest, we couldn’t care either way.

We created a computer model of the stamp for a 3D printer and registered a domain.

The actual steps in this process took about 2 hours:

  • Make a 3D model of the stamp to be used by 3D printers
  • Contact print shop for a price check
  • Create a balance sheet to calculate our margins and the actual price
  • Register a domain (stempelpiet.nl)
  • Register a paypal account
  • Fix the hosting (on my own linux server at transip.nl)
  • Hack up a simpel one-pager to use
  • Register a new gmail address (stempelpiet@gmail.com)
  • Register a facebook account and create a page
  • Register a twitter account (@stempelpiet)
  • Create profile and cover images
  • Create realistic examples of how to use the stamp
  • Write some copy and try to engage people on social media
  • … and then … wait until it rains

We are still waiting…

The fetish thing

Another concept for which we roughly completed the same steps as above, was the curated fetish thing. Behold this awesome, yet somewhat shady creation: http://curatedfetish.nl

After some research we decided to put this thing on hold. Because none of us has any experience in the fetish community (or has the guts to admit it), and these people seem not to publish their perversions publicly. Suprise!

Basicly it all came down to: we couldn’t find any perverts.

What we learned…

Lessons of day 1

By now most of the day was already behind us and we were not 1 euro closer to our goal before we set off.

‘Stempel Piet’ thusfar was our safest bet, but nobody was biting. Zero sales so far and it wasn’t looking good.

In hindsight this is where we went wrong:

First rule of SumoJerky is; solve your own problem.

Our concept didn’t mirror an actual problem either one of us shared. We didn’t care about the topic, our hearts weren’t in it and we were not willing to pick a side in a public debate which we found to be useless. If you are not willing to use your personal facebook/twitter/etc. account to take a stance, then something is inherently wrong with what you are doing. You should be able to stand up, use your own name and say “This is me! This is what I stand for”. Otherwise it just doesn’t work. People need to feel what you feel, if you’re in it just for the money, then there is little point.

The next lesson we learned was

If you start on a Friday and the clock hits 17:00, that’s it. No more suppliers or partners you can call. You either get all that done beforehand or you make sure not to be dependent on it. Speed and momentum determine your fate. If you come up with something promising and it’s 21:00 on a Friday night while the idea hinges on a supplier making a timely delivery, then the chances are slim that it will succeed.

In addition, we were a week too late getting into the debate. The storm had allready passed and nobody really cared anymore (untill next year).

If you do a thing like this, be extremely relevant and if possible: start on Monday.

And lesson number three:

99% of the stuff you come up with has already been done. By a lot of people, who are better at it then you and have already spent loads of time on it.

By this point we were tired, a little drunk and only able to come up with stuff that was illegal. So we went home to sleep on it. The next day we decided to write this article.

So!

tl;dr

  • Go for something you believe in and are proud of, so you can talk about it with your friends. The whole ‘Stempel Piet’ thing forced us into a public debate we actually didn’t feel the urge to join in on.
  • Take timing into account when choosing a topic. It can make or break your idea.
  • Make sure to come up with something original and check it up front.
  • 99% of the most promising stuff is illegal. Quite sadly so. We weren’t allowed to give it a try, maybe you can.

Good luck!

Team MakeItRain: Wouter, Roey,Esther, Thomas en Martijn and a special thanks to everybody at w00tcamp

    Martijn Gorree

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