From a pyramid scheme to a world renowned media brand
One of Boris’ acquaintances knew a student, that seemed quite smart, this student needed Boris his advice on a venture he was starting to chase. They were connected through the acquaintance…
The student was graduating and wanted to either become a Management trainee at Abn Amro, or chase—according to Boris—a sort of Nigerian spammer like pyramid scheme. Eventually Patrick did neither, but he did start to work with Boris.
Some of the world's most impressive ideas, companies, organizations have been created by more than one person, how do these people meet? What was their first conversation? I tell the story.
This was 13 years ago
Patrick manifested himself deeply in the world of Boris, he was interested, enthusiastic and above all willing; willing to start entrepreneurial adventures and execute on wild ideas. Boris was a serial-entrepreneur as he is today, he worked on a text messaging service for real estate agents to get more leads as people pass by houses.
As Patrick’s mom was an estate agent, he became enthusiastic about the idea, and wanted to hustle to make it a success. Boris made Patrick the boss, and they worked on it for a while where eventually they both lost interest — as the market was quite conservative and highly competitive.
While Patrick was doing the SMS thing, Boris was creating HubHop, a company providing WiFi hotspots all over the Netherlands. That company got acquired a little later, which meant Boris had time to chase another venture; Fleck, a tech company enabling annotations on the web.
This was super attractive, and here we (finally) started something real together! And that we did!
—Patrick and Boris
They went to conferences together, suited up in white suits which people could ‘annotate’ on the spot. It was all the rave, they went viral, everybody was talking about it!
Another way to promote your product, they thought, was to organize a conference! “This way we could show people that what we’re doing is great and everyone should use it.”—said Boris.
That conference actually became an ‘overnight success’. Which Boris and me jokingly laugh about, because as fellow entrepreneur, we know it’s never ever like that. Eventually they were focusing on TNW more and more which forced to them sell Fleck, which they did.
A 10 year age difference is helpful
The first encounter with Patrick was awkward, Boris recalls.
“He had long fluffy hair, he came across a bit naive, but his drive and personality was clear. Basically like a ‘wildcard’ (vreemde vogel) in a positive way.” —Boris
Boris likes to meet new people, he loves to meet people young and old that just contact him with some random questions. He likes to help people, properly advise people that want his help. He learns from that as well, that keeps him young.
I know this for a fact because this is not my first meeting with Boris. Two different ventures of his I was offered to be the driving force, meaning we sat down and I was asked to become the managing director. Boris likes to seriously ‘play around’ with opportunities. Passing them along and enabling other people to be successful.
I am a starter as well, so that’s why I did not accept the offers, the second time this happened I connected him with the right person though—connecting people, like I love to do.
This is the recipe to being a serial entrepreneur, starting things, connecting people with opportunity, delegating key roles in the company, enabling other people, and potentially starting something new again
It takes courage to start something, Boris says, it’s immensely hard to create a great culture on the long run. To make people feel comfortable at the workplace so they can thrive, is an ever-ongoing process.
Boris and I are sitting here in TQ, the coworking community Wildcard shares with the Amsterdam tech startup community. TQ was founded one year ago by TNW. This could happen because Boris gathers all these amazing people around him, he give them opportunities and enables them.
Patrick did not had much experience in the world of tech or internet, Boris did. That new perspective is where they clicked as well. The hustle is what you have to sense with people, Robert Gaal the managing director at TQ has no experience starting a coworking community, but he does with the hustle of starting something from scratch. Boris senses people’s drive when for example people are done with studying, working for a boss—or when you just came out of another venture.
The honeymoon, literally in bed with each other
When you’re partners, people sometimes say you’re in bed with each other. Well if you go traveling and you want to save some money then sometimes you have to actually get in bed with each other.
If you want save up on travel costs, to for example wine and dine more, than a misunderstanding at the hotel or AirBnB can get you one ‘romantic bed’ for two business partners.
After about 3 years in their partnership they went to Luxembourg to meet up with an investor, and at the reception they were congratulated and were asked to come along. They were set up with the bridal suite; which was improvisationally transformed into a romantic sleepover party, fueled by cognac and a groovy circular spinning bed (I made up that last part, because I visually imagined that when Boris told me this ha ha).
The morning after they asked the investor if they booked the honeymoon experience on purpose, which wasn’t the case.
They realized altogether that it is a great test for partners to sleep in the same bed.
In another lunch, another investor saw that the men ate the oysters from each others plate, where at some point the investor asked if that was normal; which was the case. Willing to share food, potentially shows a willingness to share more, and that makes a great partnership!
Working with such a large team
Now when they go traveling with the team, for example to organize the amazing TNW conferences in New York, they make sure everyone is one apartment, and things can go pretty wild then.
The best memory Boris had with Patrick was in São Paulo, they were 50 people working at TNW back then, they shared a penthouse with the two of them, so romantic, that’s where things really got to a point where they could freely talk about the ambitions they both have for the The Next Web and beyond. Because they’re so much more to come from their heads.
They travel less often for work now, things got busy, the team is bigger, and everyone is doing their own things. Less partying and drinks in the evening, but these times makes the the excitement for a sporadic trip together even better.
Like going to Cannes with a group, they still both take their running gear and go run together on the beach.