Spotlight on Founders_14/Maarten_Mountview

I used to work with Paypal when it was a crappy product. ~Maarten

Hi Maarten! Great to see you. Can you tell us about how you can help out startups?

I am a marketer. So I can help with positioning a product in the market so that it is perceived as being unique by end users.

I work with both large and small companies. For example, I am currently working with a large company as Marketing Director. I am helping on two dimensions: I am collaborating with the front-end designers of the product as well as creating a compelling story for the product itself.

I am also currently working for a car sharing startup in the Netherlands where I am helping with their PR and messaging in the market: so essentially creating a strong brand presence.

Is there something you see startups getting consistently wrong with marketing?

It’s not only startups but its all types of companies that make this error. Many companies are really into their product because they have invested a lot of time into developing it. However, they forget to think about what their product can do for the customer: they lack customer perspective. I always try to challenge this problem by putting myself in the shoes of the customer and finding a compelling way to communicate the product to the final user.

You witness this everywhere, and startups are no exception as they tend to have a heavy weighting towards techies. They are great people that have built companies around their ideas but they sometimes forget about the customer along the way.

How did you end up working within marketing?

I’ve been doing this all the time in all of my positions. I’m not a programmer or a finance guy, but I have an understanding of what the drivers of growth and sales are from a customer perspective.

People are sometimes so into their work that they just want to develop a technologically superior product. The product may technically be the best, but a lot of success is driven by usability and positioning your product in an effective way. This seems like a simple task but I see this error being done over and over again, even by very smart people.

It’s just a normal tendency to have, if you are in a room for 6 months with smart people that are focused on developing a technically perfect product. You will believe in your product so much that you will lose sight of the end user. “Build it and they will come” can sometimes be a disease!

Let us in on some secrets. Do you have any good or bad examples of companies?

I’m not really aware of companies that have failed because of bad marketing…mainly because these are exactly the companies you would not have heard of. Most successful startups are getting their marketing spot on. Paypal, for example, was one of these: I used to work with Paypal when it was a crappy product. At the very beginning, the backend was a disaster but they nailed it when it came to fixing a customer problem, which at that time was cross-border payments. They had great marketing, a great concept but a not so great backend (they have significantly improved since their early years).

I also worked for KPN Play, basically a competitor for Netflix. I have to say they have great consumer focus but they are not able to deliver the product…they are having the opposite problem. They lack the experience and creativity to build a lasting tech product. That is where you see startups competing with them.

I’m glad Paypal has managed to work on their offering, especially now that I’m using it. Do you have any advice to startups?

It’s becoming a habit to release early and often. I like this mindset but companies have to realize that you only get one shot at it. Especially with mobile applications, the bar has been set so high that it’s easy to damage your reputation. I am a big supporter of this mindset but be careful with it.

What do you think about Keadyn?

I have been discussing a lot about the investor environment in the Netherlands and I think Keadyn is a good answer to the general unwillingness to invest in early stage teams. I really like that they invest in the teams and not solely the product. They provide not only the money, but they provide people and knowledge, which is what startups really need. That’s why I decided to work with them and we will see how it goes.

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