Spotlight on Founders_012/Bram_OffTheRecord

The initial traction is usually really shitty work: you may have to personally email the first 4000 users, but you need to do it. ~Bram

What is Off the Record? How do you help startups?

With Off the Record we are helping startups to enhance their product story and growth. So our services range from defining a strategy or helping startups with the product development of an MVP at an earlier stage. We also want to enhance their growth strategy and tactics and basically get their funnel straight. Analyzing what they’re doing right and doing wrong. So we focus on early-stage startups and helping them optimize their natural growth.

I am focused on the problem-solution fit. While my partner Bas is focused on growth.

So what do you mean by problem-solution fit? What would a startup call you up for?

We mostly want to check how big the problem actually is in the market. So what startups are doing at the core is identifying a problem and creating a solution for it. What I do is figure out what the very essential problem is. Startups don’t launch with a final product; they usually start with solving one part of the problem and then addressing the rest as they grow and gain traction. So I identify what the most valuable problem is and where the startups can add the most value with their expertise. I also help with defining the launch strategy of startups.

That sounds really good! You have been helping startups, but where does your experience come from?

I worked at an investor in Amsterdam where I helped two startups with their launch and their strategy. Then I launched my own product, Startupstash.com. I’ve also worked for Product Hunt. Over the years I’ve just seen thousands of products…I think I’ve actually tried over a thousand products myself. It’s kind of like a designer who has seen a lot of designs, you end up knowing what the market wants and what works.

Startup Stash has been ranked as the #1 most upvoted product of all-time on Product Hunt? How did you come up with the idea?

I was always making lists of interesting tools I could use. I was always thinking: “If I start my own startup these are the tools I would be looking at to make my life easier”. I was making this list and I was also very active on Product Hunt. I was helping founders get attention for their products, then I figured: “Why not just do something myself?”. I thought about my own skills and what to do. So I came up with this directory to find the right tools for each phase of a startups growth path. It took me about 5 months to gather all the content and just one month to actually set up the website. What took the most time was the curation of tools, the website design itself was quite simple.

Say someone would call you up right now for help on getting onto the market. What would you typically do to help out?

So we would initially start off by asking them a big list of questions that they would then brief us on. We would then take the first step with a Brainstorm Day. Then we try to attack the challenges heads on. One thing I always get is “We have a great product!” and my response sometimes is “It doesn’t matter if nobody cares.” This may seem a bit harsh, but it all depends on the story: you have to be able to show that you can add real value to peoples lives. There is a lot of noise in the market, so there are probably other products that do something very similar but you have to be able to differentiate yourself. We then tailor a “market attack strategy” this can for example mean targeting specific channels and niche groups. Being the cheapest, best, fastest, or first is not essential anymore; it’s more about who you are and why you are trying to tackle this specific problem.

What is the single biggest problem you have seen with startups?

It’s not knowing who they are. So it all connects to not having a clear story. They focus too much on being faster, better, or cheaper but not what they stand for as a company or a team. Consumers nowadays are smarter and they will ask why they should use a product. It’s difficult to cut through the noise; having a unique and genuine story is the best way in my opinion. This is way more important now than it was 5 years ago.

People sometimes say: “Build it and it will come”. That doesn’t exist. The initial traction is usually really shitty work: you may have to personally email the first 4000 users, but you need to do it.

What are the aspects you really enjoy about helping startups?

I just really love seeing people work on their dream. I just love understanding why people want to do what they are doing. I really respect that, and it’s a learning process for me as well. It’s a way for me to get inspired: I want to start something myself one day. I am just very critical so I really set a high bar for myself, but that is part of my role.

What’s the difficulty of having your own business?

It’s not getting distracted by things that don’t bring you forward. I think this is something common to all businesses.

Any final advice for startups?

Just never forget why you created your product and share it!

What are your future ambitions? Any plans?

That’s something you can’t ask haha…I have no idea. One year ago I launched StartupStash and so much has happened since then. I’m not concerned with making plans for the future. However, I am always looking to make new connections that one day can help me out or meet new people that I can help out. Keadyn is really all about this and that’s why I want to stay connected with you guys. You understand the value of having great people around you.

Thanks a lot for your time! And I hope to see you at one of our next events.

Interested in what other ambitious founders have to say? Check it out on keadyn.com