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November 23, 2016 - No Comments!

5 things I learned from starting a start-up

I just graduated 4 months ago. I did my graduation project at a creative agency in the Netherlands. After I graduated this creative agency gave me the opportunity to further develop the application I created, from an idea into startup, and a healthy company. And that is what I’ve been doing the last two months.

In these two months we finished our first working MVP. Currently we are using this MVP to test with our potential users. We’re testing to see if the product we are creating is something that the market wants to use and buy, and achieve product/market fit.
These past two months have been an extremely incredible ride. No roller-coaster ride or drug can top this (as far as I know). I went from a student to graduate student, to product designer, to founder, to COO and I have learned a lot.
For all of you who wish to learn from my experience. Please read on!

1. Have a vision, live it, and stick with it.
1 year ago. I was a student. I was a motivated student who wanted to learn design, innovation and everything that comes with it.
How could I become so valuable that a company could not resist to hire me. And at the same time take steps that will lead me to my ultimate dream:
“I want to solve problems in a creative way and meet and work with awesome likeminded people in order to help people all around the world.”
One video in particular helped me a lot with moving towards this vision. ( Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYkseI)
The thing I took with me from this speech was: Just get closer to the mountain, meaning: Just make decisions that will bring you closer to your goal.
So I did. I got my first 6 month internship at Fabrique, and became a better designer. There I found a problem. I asked if I could solve this problem during my graduation project. They told me I could, and I did my second internship there. In this graduation internship I created Crofter.

In the last weeks of my graduation project, I’d have meetings with Fabrique to see if we could develop Crofter further. And a few months later I started working in a partnership with Fabrique; solving a problem in a creative way and meeting awesome likeminded people in order to help people all around the world.
It is very well possible that sometimes the steps you’re taking don’t look like direct steps closer to the mountain. It’s not always clear what you have to do next. But a part of the steps might take you closer the mountain. And then, all of a sudden you might find yourself halfway onto the top of the mountain.
(Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYkseI)

2. (Be courageous and) Strike while the iron is hot.
Sometimes you’re just thinking, and it hits you. This amazing idea, out of nowhere. But something inside you tells you, this might be that one idea that could stir up a lot of things. When this happens. I think you have to act on it. Because for me, these moments were the most important in the past year.

The situation would always look kind of like the following for me:
Step 1: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if … “
Step 2: Then a lot of thoughts come up about why it couldn’t work.
But my advice would be to skip step 2 and go straight to step 3.
Step 3: Just try.

I have learned that for me, when these ideas come to you, it is exactly the right time to act on them.
For me the most important moments were:
1. Applying for an internship at Fabrique. Although they did not have any vacancies: “What if I would just email them”
2. When I found a problem during my first internship: ”What if I could solve this problem for my graduation project.”
3. After finishing the product up ‘till development: “ What if I could get partners for this project and make it into a healthy startup”
4. Testing where people would say it would not work. “What if I would just walk into that company or school and ask if I could test there?”
What really helped me while trying to strike the iron while it’s hot. Is being courageous. And the way to do this for me is acknowledging one simple fact. “My reality can be different than someone else’s.”

For me this just means that when someone will say something, about an idea that you have, you could think: “It might be a stupid, unreachable idea in your reality. But your reality is not the same as mine, and I’m just going to try. “
So be courageous, just try. And strike while the iron is hot.
(The following book helped me a lot on it too: Think and Grow rich, by Napoleon Hill. Also these two videos, one by Pharell Williams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pCfR6i58BY. And one by Steve jobs video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYfNvmF0Bqw) ).

3. Keep a balance
When I started working on Crofter I thought to myself: This is my chance and I have to take it. So after 8 hours of work at the studio I would get home and wanted to work some more. Ahyyeaaah! Grind! Right?

Well.. kind of. For me I noticed that balance is more important than the grind. I am not yet a million dollar business owner but for me in this stage of life I found out: balance is more important. If you need to rest because you’re not inspired, rest. If you need to work at 4 am because you feel really inspired, work!

I think this is really important because it makes me happier in the process. I think I can only be as successful as I am happy. And I’ve noticed that me being in a good place, makes a lot things just flow easier.

4. Your energy is your business card
I have noticed during this past year that I thought A LOT about what would make me valuable for Fabrique as a company. And what would make Crofter valuable as a business. Hoping that what I would deliver, would be valuable.
During testing with Crofter I have learned that the tone of voice of a product is a really important thing. Does it match the company who is going to buy it. How do they react when something goes wrong? How do they talk to their customers?
I was quite surprised when I found out that the tone of voice of a company could be a lot more important than awesome features. Even though product A works better, sometimes people buy product B simply because it’s tone of voice, customer service, way of doing business suits the buying company better.
So you could say the overall vibe the company who sells product B has, made it the winner and not what it could do. And I think for you as a person these same rules apply. I think it is one thing to be valuable and do lot of things really good. But another thing that is at least equally important is, just be an awesome person.

I’ve learned that companies that deliver quality work and have a good culture will check two things:
1. Do you (at least almost) have the skills we are looking for?
2. Are you an awesome person?

I think this might come as a surprise for some people. Especially, the ones that focus so hard on being valuable by having more skills. No one wants to hire a frustrated skilled person. And I think nobody wants to be a frustrated skilled person. The vibe you give off is felt by everyone you interact with. And I think it is a very important thing that you could learn, so you can feel/check for yourself: what kind of vibe am I giving off?
Because I think the vibe you give off will make people want to work with you, help you, advice you and pay you… or not.

5. Get all the help you need.
I could not be where I am now without the help that I got. This might not come as a surprise. But for some people receiving help is not always easy.
I consider myself very lucky to have found an environment and people so helpful and considerate. But even then receiving help COULD be difficult. Because, what do you give in return?

The past year has learned me a lot on this subject. Accepting help when it is genuinely offered is an incredible feeling. When you have nothing physical to give back, offering back your help when it is needed can be more than enough. People who genuinely give, don’t need anything in return.

Without the help I got Crofter would be nowhere. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. And ofcourse.. Be the genuine helper when you meet someone that could use a hand.
Thank you so much for reading my first Medium post. Let me know what your thoughts on these subjects are.

Thank you for liking and recommending. This let’s me know it inspired you.
And take a look at what we’re creating: www.crofter.io