The Magic Ingredient for your Startup
Lessons Learned from Dutchstartupjobs
In the beginning of this year, I was setting up Dutchstartupjobs, together with Pól O’Conaill, a designer from Ireland. The website was addressing a quite intensive market need – there seemed to be a whole in the market – at least that was what we thought. We possessed the idealistic passion and basic skills to make it happen and create this idea; we knew the market was asking for it. Yet I would like to tell you about one important fact which we were ignoring… actually a pretty simple fact that every startup has to consider before putting hours into it.
Setting up DSJ
In May 2013, I started to work with Paul, thanks to the kind introduction of Gregor Noltes (from Rockstart). From the beginning on I was very motivated to create this job platform for Dutch startups. Why? I guess because I always liked to help and connect people. Moreover, I liked to create new things; things that really matter and are demanded in the market.
So we knew that such a platform was needed by the Dutch startup environment. This was because too many times I heard startup people searching for talent and not being able to find it. I was contacted several times a week by startups to post out jobs on my Facebook wall for them as I was known for connecting people. Dutchstartupjobs would take a lot of work from me and would create an automated “Connection System”. “That is wonderful”, I thought, “a system that will help idealistic startup people to find fitting team members”.
Anyways, creating the platform took a lot of time, not only from my side – but also from Paul, who was doing all the design and programming work. I was taking care of the people part (CRM), as I always do. This meant talking to startups, customers, potential partners and job applicants. Although I did not get paid, I really liked this kind of work as people were often sharing their appreciation for our platform with me. Yet, I was not conscious of how many hours I was actually spending on DSJ, for no payment at all.
After several months of work, a well running and visited website, no financial return, but a lot of “Love” from customers, we decided to make startups pay for our service. We could not invest that many hours into a project and just live from “Love”. So we were asking 25 Euros for posting a job for 2 weeks. From that moment onwards, the number of job post went down. And sorry for what is coming now, but in this story there is no happy ending in the way that after several month, it was getting big again and conquering the world…Yet, Dutchstartupjob is still up and running. Yet, it is not a “business” that is able to pay more than one person. This is one of the reasons why I left Dutchstartupjobs.
I cannot tell that I was the happiest person on earth for taking that decision. Yet, I was fine with it as it made me realize something important: During the whole time, I was ignoring reality. I knew from the beginning onwards that this platform would not be able to create a lot of revenue (in the way it was set up). I mean I calculated the potential revenue in the beginning and the numbers already showed that there would not be a lot of financial hope. Yet, my idealism and passion for this idea still kept me going (maybe it was even some kind of ego involved, telling me I wanna be part of something cool).
I do not want to tell you to do everything for money. Yet this essential part was missing in our idea and I totally ignored it. It was later when a friend of mine was drawing me the following image. He was telling that if you want to start a company, you should be aware of the following:
Be passionate about the idea
You need to have the skills to build it. Make sure you are creating a product or service people want to pay for. I guess the last part was exactly the one factor I ignored (although I knew it)…
I do not want to tell you that these are the only ingredients for making a startup successful – I guess much more startups wouldn’t have failed if it would be that easy. Yet, I would like to make you aware of the mistake I made:
It was about ignoring reality. Even though the numbers in front of me showed that this project would not be financially profitable in the way we were working on it – but I still went on. I guess this is one proof that human beings are no rational beings and are often making irrational choices. So whatever you want to create, make sure you do not lose track of reality. Sometimes it is very motivating to stay in “our bubble”, in our startup where everybody has the same hope. But at some point reality will catch you….