Interview with Boris Veldhuijzen Van Zanten (founder of TNW)

As I was surfing the web last night, one click lead to another and all of a sudden I stumbled upon a great interview with Boris Veldhuijzen Van Zanten, one of the founders of

The interview is fun, cordial, candid and packed with inspiring facts, so I was amazed of how few people have actually watched it (only 176 as of this moment) … so I decided to give it a boost and promote it a bit. I hope you guys will enjoy it.


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Customer Understanding as part of the Problem-Solution Fit


For this interview, I had the pleasure to talk to Douwe Wester and Edouard Dopper, co-founders at and experts in lean startup methodology, agile methodology, scrum management and innovation models for large companies.

Douwe Wester             Edouard Dopper

I met both Douwe and Edouard a few months ago at an event which they organized together with Rockstart Amsterdam and Adam Berk, on product innovation, problem solving, and the customer development process. I remember I enjoyed their energy so I asked them if they would like to share some of their know -how with the Startup Maze community. To my great pleasure they both agreed, so… I got my recording gear and headed up to Douwe’s apartment, which is an amazing place situated smack bang in the middle of Amsterdam, in a building full of character and with a view to one of the many picturesque canals.

We spent almost an hour and a half talking about customer understanding, customer experience, and startup development strategy. I selected the most interesting parts of our chat and shared them in the podcast below. This week we will explore the first part of the problem-solution fit, the customer understanding In the next episode we will dive into early adopter acquisition. Basically how do you find your first customers.

Douwe and Edouard say that one of the most common mistakes in the startup world is to start with building a product without truly understanding the problem to be solved and the riskiest assumptions that are the foundation of your business model. So what is the a better way? Start with the customer understanding

Customer Understanding

  • Step 1: understand the problem you are trying to solve
  • Step 2: understand who has that problem, define the archetype(s) of the customer
  • Step 3: see if you can find more people that display similar archetype behavior
  • Step 4: do market sizing as a reality check
  • Step 5: create and iterate Influence maps

Your turn. What do you think about this approach? Let me know below.

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A startup that helps students and graduates to startup, with Mirena and Svilena

For today’s interview I had the pleasure to talk with Svilena and Mirena, two great girls that are on a mission to help others start their own business. Based out of Rotterdam, their platform combines business strategy and marketing coaching with crowd funding. So as pre-entrepreneur you get the knowhow and funding support.

Mirena RadulovaI think this is a fantastic platform for young people in university or recently graduates. Especially for those that don’t have a background in BA. I’m thinking art, sociology, IT, biology, …

At the moment is looking for new projects, so if you have an idea for a business or a big project that you want to undertake, you can get in contact with them and pitch your story. Mirena and Svilena will asses your idea, and if they think they can coach you and help you with the funding this could be the stSvilena Mateevaart of something awesome. And the cool part is that you will pay for the service only if you reach your funding goals.

In this interview we talk about their platform, but also about their journey to start a business together as expats in The Netherlands.

You can get in touch with Svilena and Mirena through their Facebook page , via email info [@] or website .


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Use this proven offensive army tactic to win at startups

Last week I had the great pleasure to interview Holger for the Startup Maze podcast. He is a serial entrepreneur, an ex Dutch army officer and currently the founder and CEO of (more on that here).

As we were discussing, he mentioned a tactic which he learned as an officer and which he adapted for his startup, so he can maximize ROI. I forgot the actual name, so I’ll call it: the 5-point attack with 1 reserve behind.

The 5-point attack with 1 reserve behind

It goes like this: whenever you’re not sure where’s the weakest point in your enemy’s defence line, a common tactic is sending out 5 small groups of soldiers to attack in 5 different points.

Meanwhile, the rest of your unit (the reserve) waits behind. As soon as the weakest point is discovered, the entire reserve steams ahead and crushes the enemy line through the weakest point.

Makes sense, right?

Holger took this tactic and used it to maximize the ROI for his startup. Whenever he is unsure where to put his money, he “deploys” a 5-point investment in the most promising opportunities. The one that proves to be the winner is the one he invests in.

What a great way to frame your challenges! What I like about it is that is pretty simple and quite intuitive, yet I never heard someone think like this before.

So, there you go. Use this tactic wisely and if you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends.

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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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KickStarter tips and tricks from Lola Akinsiku

For this interview I had the pleasure to talk to Lola Akinsiku, an aspiring entrepreneur that absolutely loves to work on her own ideas. With a full time job on her hands, she has to dedicate extra time so that her ideas can come to life. However, she told me this energizes her rather then draining more energy.

In a way Lola represents so many people out there that have this idea in there mind, a full time jobs on their hands and are not sure what is the first step or where to find enough time to work on their own venture. I think there are quite a few things we can learn from her.

Looa Utility Fabric

Her product is dedicated to those that like to read in bed, like good design and hate clutter. So far she had 2 KickStarter campaigns and even though she didn’t get the funding yet, she did learn a lo from the experience. In this interview you will find out more about those key-learning points.

With that in mind here’s the interview with Lola Akinsiku from LOOA Utility Fabric.



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Inspiring advice for aspiring entrepreneurs from Nick Waller of Global {M}

Global {M} LondonFor the first Startup Maze podcast I had the great pleasure to interview Nick Waller, the founder and Director of Global {M}, a fast growing London based startup that aims to improve tech recruitment around the world. Nick and his team bring a brand new vision to global recruitment. Instead of finding the right person for the job, they will help their clients find the right team for the job.

They will put together a team of pre-vetted individuals with proven track record that can work harmoniously together and bring the best results. This approach saves valuable time and significantly reduces administrative costs. And so far it seems to work. Among their clients you will find big international names like HP,, KAYAK or BARCLAYS.

Nick is full of energy, very passionate about his company and a true entrepreneur at heart. I found it very inspiring to chat with him and I hope you will also find value from listening to the interview.

Among the key takeaways from are our discussion are:

  • If you want to start something, put the first foot on the ground. Stop postponing things.
  • Stop overthinking things. Act, make mistakes and learn along the way. It’s doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to your destination. You will find all your answer on the way.
  • Keep your clients in mind. Understand who they are, what they need and where you can find them. Have an extreme focus on your clients.
  • You will need to take risks and move out of your comfort zone.
  • You should see problems as opportunities.

You can listen to the podcast below or you can listen it via you preferred podcast app.






For more info about Nick’s vision and Global {M}, you can check out:


Also you can also find Nick on LinkedIn and you follow Global {M} on Twitter or Facebook.

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2nd StartupMaze Workshop – What was it about?

EddieThis is a guest post by Eddie Gannon. He is young entrepreneur with Irish roots, currently based in Amsterdam. Eddie is passionate about tech and innovation. He is currently working as an IT consultant, and in his spare time he likes to explore how technology is changing business.


Here’s a quick rundown of the things we spoke about at the last Startupmaze event on April 26th, including the topics discussed, the projects we’re working on, the challenges we set for each other and the techniques we shared.

The theme of the meetup was to test the problem you intend to solve for your users. This follows on from the previous event about focussing in on the problem aspect of your idea instead of jumping straight to solution design. The idea for the group is that we can follow each other’s progress through the full startup cycle from ideation to testing to release.


The projects we’re working on:

Andi – Expanding the product offering of the online security company he works for into offline security products.

Mario – Creating an app that allows voters in his home country of Spain to explore which political parties most closely match their views.

Prabath – A startup that caters to the full range of administration needs of SaaS based companies.

Peter – Creating event management software that allows non-professionals to organise all aspects of an event.

Monica – A portable coffee mug that allows the coffee lovers a hassle-free way to reduce the waste they produce.

Eddie – An app that allows consumers to have more trust in the sustainability of their food.

We first discussed the pitfalls of solution-oriented thinking. If you get carried away too early with what you think is a great idea you can lose touch with the need to validate and explore the importance of the actual problem your idea is supposed to solve. This is the opposite of how to run “lean”. Part of the reason for this lies in our cognition; we are biased in favour of choices we have made in the past. A striking example of this solution oriented thinking is that of William Temple Hornaday. So Andi challenged us again to phrase our ideas using the template “I’m solving <<this problem>> for <<this group of users>> “.

We then spoke about what the core problem addressed by each of our ideas was, and how we could test if we are looking at reals need.

Andi’s plans to advance this further by driving online traffic to a landing page and testing the response and subscription rate.

Mario is currently conducting customer interviews to dig into the preferences of his target market.

Prabath’s idea is more developed as it is a related product to other successful solutions offered by his startup and he knows this space well, so he is currently testing the needs of his consumer base in this regard.

Peter has had similar success; he is further along the release cycle and actually has a beta version up and running already for his event management software.

Monica is in discussion with designers for her idea of a coffee cup that can be reused and then collapsed into a handier size for people on the go.

I am testing the interest from my target market with customer interviews and email subscription uptake to see if people are interested in an app that would give them more transparency about the provenance and production of the meat they buy.

There were some useful tools mentioned that can help founders at this stage of product innovation. Landing page builders like and In terms of driving traffic to those pages, Facebook ads were mentioned as a hassle-free and effective channel. Resources to help guide your thinking around customer development include the entrepreneur’s guide to customer development, the Lean Stack, and of course Eric Ries’ Lean Startup. We’ve added some resources to our group dropbox and there’ll be more added in future.

The next event will be soon so join us on We’re thinking about how to improve the format and structure so if you have any ideas let us know!

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How to convince premium subscribers not to cancel their subscription?

Here is a great example of how Spotify deals with it.

I love how they try to change your mind until the very last moment. They don’t make it difficult for you to cancel your account but they play with your emotions.

This is the message you see when your are about to take the last step to unsubscribe from Spotify. Check out the song 😀

Spotify - increase retention tips

How cool. I think this a is great example of how you can reduce churn/ increase retention among your users. Make it personal, play with their emotions, make it funny.

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Mark Pincus Quote

Mark Pincus Photo Quote“Get five or six of your smartest friends in a room and ask them to rate your idea.”  – Mark Pincus Zynga

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