Founder and managing director BungalowSpecials.co.uk
Founder and managing director HotelSpecials.nl
BookerZzz is the parent company of HotelSpecials and BungalowSpecials. With eighty employees, 2021 transaction sales exceeded €100 million
You have been entrepreneurial for more than twenty years. What determines the success of a start-up in your eyes?
I see a number of factors that are important. First, the character of the entrepreneur. Someone must be from West Friesland. This is meant to be funny, but also has serious undertones. You must be able and willing to work hard. Especially in the beginning, you have to do a lot yourself. You must be eager to learn and flexible. Because one thing is certain: you will fail several times along the way. What matters is not how many times you fall, but how you get back up. You have to be able to deal with disappointments. You don’t know where the ship is going to run aground. And you also need a little luck (market timing).
What matters is not how many times you fall, but how you get back up.
As for entrepreneurship, you didn’t study for that. You can’t actually learn that either; you have to be born for it. Entrepreneur you cannot become, you are.
Suppose I had a good idea for a new venture, I would go find someone to run the place. In the job description, I would put:
- Wanted: a go-getter.
- Intrinsically motivated to understand and do something.
- No nine-to-five mentality.
Real entrepreneurs don’t quit at night or on weekends. They are always busy. The most successful entrepreneurs start during their studies and don’t finish them – I myself took ten years to study financial economics, haha.
Entrepreneur you cannot become, you are.
What is also important to realize is that very few successful companies are still doing the same things they were doing when they started. You must have the strength and flexibility to let go of ideas. Check out HotelSpecials. We started with the idea of building an advertising site for hotel packages. That didn’t run smoothly, because hotels didn’t want to pay for it, they didn’t understand anything about the Internet. Then we made the turn, the pivot to the ability to request arrangements online. We were then paid by the hotel per reservation. The hotel received an email with the consumer’s request and could respond with “yes” or “no. On a “yes,” we then received a commission of €25. What we noticed was that hotels frequently answered “no” to the request because there was simply no availability. That prompted us to build a booking engine with real-time availability of hotel packages on our site. In a few years, for example, HotelSpecials.nl had totally changed its appearance and revenue model.
To what extent should a start-up be unique?
You can learn a lot from others. Your revenue model does not have to be unique. If you are the first, that is often a disadvantage because you have yet to create the market. Facebook was not the first social medium. Adyen not the first payment provider. And Google not the first search engine. You can apply new initiatives to other geographical areas; think Zalando, which was inspired by Zappos.com from America. Nor is it a bad thing to look away from other initiatives. If you were to start a new bank now, you’re not going to start a second ABN AMRO. Neither did Bunq. Picnic is not unique; many supermarkets already existed. You can, however, choose a different geography, a different communication channel or a different customer group. Finally, Coolblue was not unique either, there were already many electronics stores in the Netherlands. But they did manage to find a new angle, the online distribution and obsessive focus on customer satisfaction.
In my view, it is better not to launch a “too new” idea. Sometimes it succeeds, but market timing matters. Entrepreneurship is super difficult, and especially with a new idea. Often you are too early and there is no market yet. Then it’s not going to happen. Better to do something that you know is in demand and with which you add a little twist to the existing. Don’t develop a full copy, then you’ll end up in the red ocean. But don’t develop something completely new, either. Also interesting: often a new idea is not so unique after all. You soon find out that someone else came up with the exact same thing at the same time.
What was new for HotelSpecials was that consumers could book a package through a Web site instead of going to a corner travel agency.
The entrepreneur’s challenge is to find a new twist for an existing service or product.
Find a new twist for an existing service or product.
Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs?
Find the balance. In your work, don’t get distracted, don’t get mad. It’s sometimes with a plate in front of your head just keep going. Be sure to check for traction. Do you see underlying successes in sales or customer behavior? You can’t keep “going stupid” forever either. Set yourself clear goals and take another turn if the chosen path becomes a dead end. Success is not guaranteed, but entrepreneurship is the greatest thing there is.
Success factors of start-ups that emerge
- Ambition and dedication
- Self-awareness and coachability
- Market demand and timing
- Distinctive product
- Competitive Advantage