In my previous article, I talked about connecting the dots backwards. Pretty much about using past experience as building blocks for the next thing you do and trusting one learning will lead to the next one.
This week that all became very concrete. After having spoken to Microlab, the co-working space where I have an office, about some plans for creating more of a community, I had to think about an old business project that I had built some years ago.
And before you know it the Pizza Pitch night is coming back on the 14th of June.
(You can get a ticket here and with Promo Code: Micro14 you get €5 off!)
How it started
In 2014 I came back all energized from a business trip to San Francisco where I felt I had seen the light.
After 5 years of explaining how products worked in 1 minute videos I had developed quite a skill for getting to the core of a story in a very short amount of time. We had developed a small bible with methodologies so we could train other copywriters to do the same.
But when we attended the yearly TechCrunch hackathon in San Francisco, that skill got a completely new twist in my head.
Make Dutch pitches, great again
Americans are known for being great storytellers and at the 24 hour event, designers, developers and Business developers would pull an all-nighter to dream up a new app and provide it with the ultimate pitch to win prizes and gain the attention of the large multinationals that were sponsoring this all.
The pitches were often really well structured and delivered with that typical fearless American stage presence.
And then.. a Dutch person found their way to the stage.. the pitch went something along the lines of “.. well hello, my name eh.. Henk, and we made Ferry goet software, and now wie neet 5 million Euros” (ok, it might not have been as dramatic, but that is how I remembered it).
The discrepancy between the smooth American story and the pragmatic Dutch summing up of bullet points could not be any bigger and it was painful to watch. So in that moment I felt like all the planets aligned, this was a new problem I could solve with the skills I had built over the past years: make Dutch pitches great again!
Starting a new business
As soon as our plane landed back in Amsterdam, I was a man on a mission. I had a clear idea of what was needed. I was going to set up a pitch training for people with no clue where to get started in writing the story for their idea.
In San Francisco we had used a platform called Meetup to scout for cool (free) events around the city, so that seemed like a logical place to get started. 4 weeks later we had organized the very first Pizza Pitch night.
The idea was simple: within 3 hours we would feed you pizza and teach you about good pitch structures for your business. And after the first few events, the group of attendees would grow from 4 to 20 each month. Also we noticed that entrepreneurs would start coming back to keep practicing their pitch.
The atmosphere at the pitch nights was great. Enthusiastic and ambitious people would passionately try to get their ideas across and the more they came to practice the more confident and excited they became.
The big contextual misfit
After a year of organizing these trainings pretty much for nothing, my co-founder started asking some critical questions:
– How are we going to make money?
– Who are you trying to reach?
– When are we successful?
All very legitimate questions that I wasn’t really focusing on, since I was too fascinated by the problem, and doing the trainings simply felt good. If I was able to help 1 person be a better professional in a training, that would make my day.
At the time Funk-e was growing up quickly and the pitch training side hustle (by then called Pitch-e) was starting to take too much of my time. The harsh reality was that my time at funk-e yielded 15-20 times more money than my time selling and executing pitch trainings.
I had a big vision behind the training business. It was not only supposed to be about pitches, it was supposed to be about giving the best skills of working professionals to the people that need it the most. So instead of “Those who can do, and those who can’t teach” find a way to have the daily practitioners teach.
This was something I also ran into during my trip in the San Francisco. General Assembly had found a formula that worked well and I wanted to bring that to the Netherlands.
But the more I pursued that new big vision, the more I struggled to keep up with also running Funk-e, so after 3 years, I had to make the painful choice to focus on Funk-e and leave Pitch-e (the training company) behind.
The past as building blocks for the future
Even though we were breaking even within the first 3 years, I simply could not focus on the new company, meaning it would stagnate. The idea to be so close to making a difference in the life of optimistic dreamers like me, has stuck with me.
When the opportunity came about to bring back the monthly pizza pitch night, I jumped at the idea of trying it again. Now that there is less daily dependency on me in my company I can spend more time experimenting and improving an idea I always enjoyed.
It’s very reassuring that even if something doesn’t work at one point in time, it will always remain there to pick up, remix and try again and make something new out of it.
So what ever you do, try or fail at over time, see it all as building blocks, you never know when they might come in handy again.