From army officer to successful entrepreneur: Holger Breukink

While serving as an Officer in the Royal Netherlands Army, with 43 people under his command, Holger realized that this is not what he wants to do with his life. Work was good, salary was good but he just wasn’t satisfied.

So he quit, went aboard to learn Spanish and ended up working in a bar. But being a true entrepreneur at heart, he immediately spotted an opportunity. He saw a very cool looking discount pass for students and thought: “I should create one in The Netherlands”. So he came back to NL and spent 3 years building, pitching, selling and convincing everybody, including his family, that he was not crazy and this product will be successful.

Holger BreukinkKnaek logo

Even though few people believed in his idea at the beginning, now his student discount pass is available in 25 cities, in both The Netherlands and Belgium, he employs 32 people, works with and is respected by top consumer brands like Apple, Jupiler, AlbertHein and Philips, and students can’t wait to get their hands on the discount pass at the beginning of the year. Kanek distributes ˜350,000 Cards per year, has ˜50,000 app installs per year and at the moment they have a database of over 1.5 Million young people.

How did Holger manage to achieve that? His story is truly inspiring and it was a great pleasure to talk to him.

Below is the full interview with Holger Johan Breukink, of


And here are some cool lessons I distilled from our conversation:

In the beginning nobody believes in your idea, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be successful. Very few people believed in his idea but that didn’t stop him. You should not be discouraged by what other people think it would work or not. You should test your ideas and trust the results not the opinions of others.

Learn how to bluff. In the beginning you have to appear bigger, stronger, faster than you actually are so you have to project that image in the eyes of your clients. At times you will have sell your product first and build it later. In the interview Holger tells how he applied this to get his first customer.

Focus on bringing value to your customers, money will come from that.

These are only a few of the learning points. Make sure you listen to the full interview to hear them all.

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