Life after Startup – Mister Worldwide

Posing at the Websummit sign in Lisbon

Superconnectors goes international

As I step out of the plane in the late evening into the warm Portugese air in Lisbon, a feeling of excitement hits me. A small project that I started just 2 months earlier is already taking me across the border on my fifth event.

I consciously contacted superconnectors, event spaces and the RVO (the dutch government organisation for entrepreneurs) with their startups, to get this event done during a 70.000 people tech event called the Websummit.

And just like that, 40 people neatly fill the 40 perfectly arranged seats that we had prepared in a beautiful rooftop bar in Lisbon.

I dreamt it, I planned it, it happened. The sequence of any entrepreneurs dreams.

So why was my expansion driven megalomania not always my friend?

The Megalomania years

When I started my first company I had similar visions of megalomania, and with a holding company called “Empire of awesome” we made our intentions clear: we were going to conquer the world.

Me and my co-founder were 19 and 20 years old respectively when we started and by the time we had 15 employees I was 22.

We had built an impeccable animation production process which was still completely controlled by me and my business partner.

This gave me, (an already pretty confident guy) loads of extra confidence that we could do anything.

Funk-e was going to be a global company, and we were going to build an Empire of Awesome around it.

This meant that we did everything at the same time, we expanded the animation company to Germany after 4 years of running the animation business and at the same time started 3 other companies next to it, a pitch training business (Pitch-e) a medical animations business (Bod-e) and a skateboard company (Wheel-e).

At the size we were by that time (25 people in the Netherlands and 10 in Germany) this was quitte a lot to keep track of.

The price of overconfidence

This extreme level of drive to keep expanding meant that we also had spread ourselves thin, which made it hard to keep track of projects and quality in two countries.

The production process (making animations) was scalable, but still quitte human and required individual attention to ensure quality.

In order to ensure quality we needed to stop doing many things that I very much enjoyed, but also costed us too much energy. So the pitch training business, the skateboard company and the medical animation business all needed to stop.

Normal is crazy enough

In the Netherlands we have a very grounding saying called “doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg” or translated, “act normal, then you already act crazy enough”.

In this very short phrase you can clearly see what lays at the very core of our culture. Not making a big deal out of something that is still too early in its journeys.

Now I do believe Dutch people are great entrepreneurs, but there is also a counter culture of sober people that want things to be predictable.

After I had to close down all my crazy expansion spin-offs I fell into a period of deep focus restoring the business to stability.

The sober Dutch culture got to me and I became something that I now believe is just as dangerous: Conservative.

Mister Conservative

Mister conservative took less risks, mostly focused on managing costs, and decided to stick to 1 thing only.

Being conservative and focusing may feel similar at first. There is a tendency to do less, there is a tendency to stick to strategy and mission and it is easier for the team to follow what you are doing.

However the difference is that a focused business actually still takes very well calculated risks. Even very big ones.

A conservative business is focused but eventually will lose to more aggressive players.

Focus + expansion = extreme learning

As I am preparing my hit list of 20 cities for superconnectors events next year, I feel a moment of dejavu.

My most focused and successful time with Funk-e was when I prepared to make our company scalable. We had set our minds to the fact that we were going to build a flawless machine.

In that time I had an obsessive focus to repeat the process of making a single unit of output (an animation) as often as possible. Whatever the cost, we were going to keep improving the process so we could do the same again in less time.

I am noticing a similar focus now with Superconnectors, an obsession to become better, more efficient and more distributed over the world.

This facilitates a process of extreme learning, of which I know, the results can be exponential.

So just like the rapper Pitbull AKA Mister 305, and later on Mister Worldwide, let’s go worldwide!

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