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Growth begins with words

Growth Supply - Ali Mese

When you first start your own business, you open up worlds you previously didn’t even know existed — for instance, how do you apply project management tactics as a freelancer? 

What do you have to consider when you start a business, which pitfalls can you avoid and which topics need emphasis?

In this series, you read about various themes that are important to new entrepreneurs. Not taken from ‘These are the 9 Things you Absolutely have to do’-articles, but from people. Our people. Six entrepreneurs from StartDock talk about their company and their industry so that you can learn from them. In this part we talk to Ali, he is a storyteller and has half a million followers on his Medium-page: The Startup.

What storytelling actually is

Storytelling is becoming a bit of a buzzword. If you want people to know about your product, use storytelling. But how many people can actually explain what it is and how to apply it beyond explaining what the word literally means: telling compelling stories.

Ali: ‘Growth begins with words. Stories they move. And moving people is good for business. One powerful way to move people through storytelling is to add the human element to your overall messaging. Think of it as the Golden Triangle with three components: the brand, the product and the people. Many companies end up talking just about their brand or their product, but they miss the third angle. If you talk about your business, you have to make it human.’

Making a company about humans also needs an approach that is not solely focused on the thing they sell. Ali: ‘When we work with a new client we start interviewing the founder, the head of marketing, the head of product, and the designers. We interview everyone we can find because there are so many stories and so much knowledge within the minds of these people. We try to extract all that knowledge, get them to speak about what they know best and turn that wisdom into compelling stories. Customers love that.’

Growth Supply

“Growth begins with words” is the tagline of Growth Supply, Ali’s company. Nowadays he has a team of 9 people all working in a different country. The team exists of experts who all have a background in writing, though the emphasis between them differs a bit, from a journalist to a writer and from an editor to a content creator. What connects them is their obsession with words. Ali: ‘Growth Supply is a storytelling studio that grows technology companies through words. We don’t do design or development. We do content - from writing your homepage, onboarding emails, blog and social media posts. We are all words, no pictures. Our job is to turn boring into a compelling story.’

Since Growth Supply grew over the years it created a position of power for itself. Ali: ‘We only accept a few clients at a time and we do have a long waiting list. Such oversubscribed business helps us to focus on delivering quality as our growth is mainly driven by word of mouth. Early on, we realized delivering top-notch work pays off big time - this is one of the reasons we accept only a few clients at a time, we make sure we devote enough time to each client. We saw that if we really spend hours on a single story, we really can make it go viral. We work with about three clients at a time and we do charge premium prices so we can hire the very best talent out there. Our clients are usually big Silicon Valley startups. And our writers also usually work on one client at a time so they can understand how the client works and can build a long-term relationship as our clients stay with us at least quite a few years.

Even if you’re the market leader, there is a lot to improve

One of the clients of Growth Supply is JotForm, they are the market leader in the online form business with two major competitors: Typeform and Google Forms. Ali: ‘I had never heard about JotForm before they contacted me. It was really weird because I soon figured they were the leader in a market where even Google stepped into the ring, a market where competitors like Typeform were announcing million-dollar investment round after another. What’s most interesting is that JotForm reached 5 million users without a single dime in outside funding.’ 

Ali: ‘They asked our help for the same reason I was surprised in the first place: to spread the news about JotForm so people beyond their customers could also discover them. After months of working together, we uncovered hundreds of interesting stories with their team which brought them millions of readers in our first year alone. Now imagine how many millions of dollars they had to spend if they wanted to bring that traffic from ads. The beautiful side of storytelling is that it compounds, i.e., it turns into your unstoppable growth engine after a few months of consistent content creation.’

Don’t go in storytelling in early stage

If you anxiously think at this point: ‘I need to start writing stories right now’, take a deep breath. You can only do one thing at the same time. Ali: ‘There is so much to tackle in the early stage of your company that you might have to reconsider whether investing in storytelling is right for you at this stage. You need to find a product market fit in the first place and there are so many other things you need to test and figure out. Say, you’ve got only €100 - you might be better off spending that €100 on Facebook ads which will give you a quicker idea on which of your homepage versions performs better. Now compare that to spending €100 on hiring a freelance writer and expecting some immediate traffic after you publish an article - before taking a blind leap, remember storytelling is a long game. Over time you’ll hopefully have the resources. If you still need to kick it off in the early stages, I recommend setting aside one hour per day for writing as a founder.’

 


5 people in a table working. Each has a laptop or notebooks and seem to be focused on their work.

5 workouts that you could do without leaving your (office) chair

To work out, you don’t have to drag yourself to the gym if it isn’t something that excites you. However, working on some desk-friendly exercises never hurts. We, at StartDock, have summarized 5 simple
workouts for you. These simple desk exercises improve your blood circulation, reduce stress levels, and increase productivity and focus in the office.

1. Arm stretch

When sitting, raise your left arm to the sky, then bend the elbow so your elbow is pointed toward the ceiling and you are patting yourself on the back, by your shoulder blades. Try to reach as far as possible to the left, with your right arm. You could use your left elbow to support your right arm. Repeat 8 times, and then switch sides.

2. Glutes Clench

Again, when sitting, clench your glutes (buttocks) together and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times or until your glutes get too sour!

3. Abs

Stay still and sit upright in your chair. From the upright position, start turning your upper body as far to the left as possible. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then switch to the right. Repeat 5 times or more.

4. Leg lifts

Again, sit in an upright position in your chair. Lift your left foot of the floor and raise your right leg straight out in front of you. Make sure that your leg is parallel to the floor! Hold this position for 5 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat these steps 10 times (per leg)!

5. Calve stretch

When sitting upright in your chair, slowly tiptoe both feet and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times and you will surely feel it in your calves!

This concludes our list of easy but effective exercises. You can always do more reps, this depends on your own personal preferences. Of course, there are a lot more options, like taking a nice stroll through the neighborhood you’re working in. A lot of our Dockers from StartDock Rotterdam like to do so! This also reduces stress, especially in such a lovely neighborhood as the Scheepvaartkwartier!

 


social proof what it is and why its great for marketing

Social Proof: What It Is and Why It's Great for Marketing

GoodReviews - Saul Edwards

When you first start your own business, you open up worlds you previously didn’t even know existed — do you know, for example, what factoring is and whether you will need it? What do you have to consider when you start a business, which pitfalls can you avoid and which topics need emphasis?

In this series, you read about various themes that are important to new entrepreneurs. Not taken from ‘These are the 9 Things you Absolutely have to do’-articles, but from people. Our people. Five entrepreneurs from StartDock talk about their company and their industry so that you can learn from them. In this part, Saul talks about social proof as marketing and the way his company GoodReviews solves a problem for starting entrepreneurs.

Why should your company exist?

Why do you start a company? This is a question you can answer in two different ways; personal and business-wise. For what reason are you starting a business? And for what reason is it a valid business? Let’s start with the latter question.

Saul: ‘The first thing a starting business needs to do, is identify a problem and then create a solution for that problem. Over my career, I’ve worked with hundreds of companies, ranging from small businesses to big enterprises, from a local plumber to global franchise businesses that runs in multiple countries. I helped all these companies with digital marketing and one question kept coming back to me. That question was the foundation of my company.’

Why does GoodReviews exists?

‘On the enterprise level, there are many marketing solutions in terms of reviews, such as review platforms that help companies gather and leverage reviews. In contrast, for small to medium size businesses these options are lacking. The more conversations I had with these clients, the more I heard the need for a software solution. When this happened, I always had to point them towards software that costs $500 to $3000 per month. And that is a shitload of money for 99% of businesses out there. The problem that GoodReviews is trying to solve is creating a review platform for small to medium size businesses so they can collect and leverage reviews.’

What is social proof?

When a company says their service, tool or product is the best there is, you generally become a bit skeptical. They have a lot to gain when you believe that they are the best, so they say they are best to make you believe it. This is not the most elegant of ways. When other people – who have no benefit to it at all – say that product it the best, you will be more likely to believe it. This type of social review is precious for companies.

Saul: ‘Nine out of 10 purchasing decisions are made because, or influenced by reviews. Be it word-of-mouth or online reviews. Offline reviews happen in a whole manner of different ways. A long queue for a coffee shop or a fully booked restaurant can be a review because it makes people think: “that place must be good”. If you look close enough, a whole lot of things can be a review.’

‘In this scenario, the queue is social proof. The queue builds credibility and trust for a brand. When we moved into the digital world of things, society or consumerism has had to come up with ways to create trust and credibility for an online medium. Those indicators of social proof come from testimonials on a webpage, the clients or the number of clients we have. If you see a website nowadays, it usually starts with a ‘Call to Action’-button, then a bit about the product, followed by various forms of social proof.’

There are different ways you can implement social proof as a starting entrepreneur. With a bit of common sense, you can go a long way. Written testimonials, video testimonials, a mention in a credible media or a news publication, and your number of clients are all different examples you can use as social proof.

Saul: ‘People actively leave reviews, because people like helping people. You can see this trend on Yelp or TripAdvisor for example. On the other hand, if you ask for a review, by sending an easy to use email format, 60 to 70 per cent of the people will respond, which is huge.’

Near future of GoodReviews

Saul: ‘Currently we are in near completion of a Review tool that is going to do the job. The next step at the end of June is doing a beta test with 15 companies to debug the software and to see the statistics. Which we can later use as social proof. The 15 companies signed up for free for 2 months and after that, they will pay our normal fee. The pay depends on the number of unique visitors per month and ranges from €25 to €75 per month. What I hope to achieve is that I can say something in the line of: “with our app, you will get 5 more conversions per week, plus your website conversion rate will go up by 7%.'

GoodReviews

This is a screenshot of a beauty salon. In the left bottom, you see the GoodReviews widget.
If you click on it, more reviews from other people will pop up.

Authenticity as a marketing tool

You will attract people, not because you sell what you sell, but because why you sell it. This comes directly from Start With Why from Simon Sinek. Saul: ‘The best marketing advice I can give you is: read Start With Why. I noticed that companies that clearly defined who they are and why they do what they do, had more success in the long run.’

‘If you lie to someone, they won’t trust you. You are there to solve a problem. If your way of solving that problem is authentic, you will already start building trust. Building trust comes down to the fundamental definition of why you exist in the world of business.’ Why you exist in the world of business is the answer to the question about why you started your business on a personal level. If you can clearly define why you do what you do, you will start your business as an authentic endeavor. You are not authentic just for the sake of being authentic, it has a huge business advantage. Saul: 'Building credibility and trust for your brand from a high-level marketing perspective can be done through a mission and vision statement to the foundations as to why you exist as a company.’

‘To put this in context, a review is a component of social proof, which in turn is a component of the authenticity you show as a company.’

You will attract people, not because you sell what you sell, but because why you sell it. Saul: ‘Look at Apple with their Think Different campaign or Nike with Just Do It. Businesses attract people who have similar mindsets to them. Those campaigns made a huge impact and it all comes down to social proof.’

‘If you want to have sustained longevity it’s about formulating your business to always have credibility in whatever you do and then by giving indicators that show social proof is a helper towards that.’

A business is more than just good marketing, you need a product or a service, your finances have to be in check, you need to know how you do sales and more. Or as Saul says it: ‘Marketing is just one piece of the puzzle, you need all the pieces to see the full picture.’


What is coworking

What is coworking

Being alone together, with a twist. In short, coworking is like working with like-minded people in a shared space. Coworking used to be a location, now it is more of a mindset. The counter-movement that it was – people on bean bags with bare feet in large empty spaces – has now grown into mainstream acceptance. Coworking is for all of us.

It was just a guy that was unhappy with the situation

‘It was me' says the inventor of coworking in an interview with himself on his own blog. ‘It was me who invented the coworking space. Whatever you read on Wikipedia.'

Just like many other inventions, coworking started out of personal frustration. Frustration that was apparently shared by many. Ultimately one person took the first step and did something about it. He rented a room and made it available to other people with the same frustrations as himself. This was the very beginning of coworking. Twenty years later – and with it many developments, bean bags and ferns – we have arrived at the current concept of coworking. Actually, it's very logical that we ended up here. The same logic that prescribes that coworking is not a place for hipsters who just want to rebel against the norm, but it is something for everyone.

Dissatisfaction about

  • Having your own business and as a result, have to work alone
  • Loneliness
  • The lack of ownership over your own work routines

Working traditionally doesn't always work

Flex spaces

An employee traditionally works at a company. This company shapes the direct environment in such a way that people can work well and perform. For a long time, this was effective or at least created the illusion that it was effective. But, society is changing. Someone no longer works for one company throughout his career, people are more outspoken about what they want and they also feel comfortable to be stubborn. Brick by brick, the foundation of traditional work crumbles. Companies can no longer tell their employees how to work and when to do it. Today, if you ask what is the place where people can work best, 'at work' is not an answer that scores well in the polls and the answer to when people deliver the best work is not necessarily 'during working hours'.

The traditional way of working is therefore slowly losing its charm. Companies try to solve this by creating flex spaces. With which they try to shake things up a little. This way they ‘force' people to work in other places in order to initiate some change.

Inefficient work

  • Loss of productivity due to the environment
  • No autonomy for your own work hours

The logic of coworking

Logic of coworking

A dozen years ago ‘Alternative Workplace Strategies' emerged. Employees often demanded to work at home. This was an indication that the forced environment and forced hours were not too conducive. In addition to employees, this also applies to freelancers. The recognition of this indication was good, the solution created a new problem: loneliness and a decline in productivity. As a result, we all moved to coffee shops, where we placed ourselves among people. But appearances are deceptive. Simply sitting between people does not solve loneliness. Have you ever attended a party where no one talked to you? In addition, very thorough research has shown that the sound of a milk steamer clattering at you from a distance of 5 meters does not work wonders for your productivity.

Three quasi-solutions further, the right ingredients could be cherrypicked. A good ingredient: people around you, but people with whom you have meaningful contact. Another good ingredient: a change of workplace, but not forced. The best ingredient: serendipity, this is finding something beneficial by coincidence while looking for something else. Serendipity a side-effect of the best ingredient of coworking spaces: the community. Perhaps this is the reason why the number of coworking spaces in the world will skyrocket by 400% between 2015 and 2022.

Coworking spaces strive for

  • Meaningful contact
  • Substantive help from fellow co-workers
  • Autonomy of the workplace
  • Increasing unexpected successes

The community manager: God of coworking

Community

The coworking concept has been around for some time, but the community manager is a fairly recent phenomenon. Like a real lean start-up, coworking spaces advance through trial and error. This way the community has become an important aspect of the coworking space. Here the users see real value for money.

Evolution works by random development, after which the strains that can best adapt to the environment continue to exist and become successful. Coworking spaces have seen that the benefits of the community are emerging. In contrast to the arbitrariness of evolution, the community manager is the God of co-working: he pushes the buttons of the community. He recognizes, cherishes and actively pursues the benefits of the community, so the members can fully exploit them. He decides which ideas live and which die. Sometimes he is invisible, sometimes with a random appearance and sometimes as the (rightful?) cause of a miracle; the community manager is very similar to our Creator.

Benefits of the community manager

  • Someone who spends all his or her time on optimizing working conditions for you
  • Someone who devotes all his or her time strengthening your network
  • An outlet and point of contact for the community
  • Events specially organized to the interests and wishes of the community

Even more benefits of coworking

Benefits of coworking

The community in a coworking space is not a zero-sum game, as it can be at a company. Your promotion gets in the way of your neighbour's because you are fighting for the same place. Of course, you can help each other, but progression for one group means stagnation for the other, ultimately that is the bottom line. If a coworking space is set up well, progression for one can also mean progression for the other, without competing with each other. Everyone can get better.

You have to work smarter, not harder. A coworking space has been set up to facilitate this. There are different types of workplaces, such as often a large open space, but also more closed spaces. There are separate offices, special calling areas and closed meeting rooms. In addition, it is also possible as an employee of an existing company to choose to sit at a coworking space, while the company you are part of is located elsewhere.

Benefits of coworking

  • Your network will benefit from you getting better
  • A network that becomes stronger for you if they are doing better
  • Different types of workplaces

The disadvantages of coworking

Cons of coworking

You work with others in a building. If you are used to working from home – where you can do what you want – you may have to adjust. The advantage that there are people around you can therefore also be a disadvantage for you.

In addition, receiving customers can be difficult. There are coworking spaces where you can rent meeting rooms and there are also packages where this is included in the subscription, but there are also locations that do not have this. You could also sit in the general area, but you do not always have the privacy that you would like or it’s going to be overly crowded when it's lunchtime.

All coworking spaces are different. You have to look carefully to see if a coworking space suits you. There can be a mismatch between you and the people who work there. That may be because that particular coworking space attracts a very specific type of person or only houses people from a certain kind of industry. This is not something you see at first sight, so pay close attention, because the otherwise helpful neighbour might cause great distress for you. As a designer among salesmen, you can be the odd one out.

Coworking spaces cost money. This makes sense because you rent a workspace. Compared to working from home it can suddenly be a big extra expense. You have to ask yourself whether the costs outweigh the benefits and how you define value for yourself in this case. Working more productively, getting more satisfaction from your work and building a strong network would not, in theory, yield you a direct monetary impulse, but perhaps in the long term, it does. In addition, psychological health and satisfaction may be worth more than just a few bucks.

Cons of coworking

  • Others can be distracting
  • Receiving customers or partners can be difficult
  • There may be a mismatch between you and the coworking space
  • It costs money

The costs of coworking

Costs of coworking

It can vary how much you spend on your workplace. For a freelancer, there are subscriptions where you can work one day a week, where you spend less than 70 euros a month. On the other end of the spectrum, you can rent your own desk in an enclosed space for every day of the week you should look towards 350 euros per month. As a company, you can also join a coworking space. There are coworking spaces that rent entire offices on their premises. As a result, you and your company still move between freelancers and other start-ups. This way you can benefit from the community, but you can also choose for the privacy of your own office and withdraw yourself with your immediate colleagues to focus on your business.

A trial day

Most coworking spaces offer a ‘trial day'. You are welcome to work on location for free for a day to see if there is a match between you and the workplace, with everything that goes with it. You usually get a short tour after which you can choose your place for the day.

Some advice in advance: schedule this day on a Friday. Those that work in coworking spaces are also just people. They usually end a working week with Friday afternoon drinks with a cold beer in their hand. Capitalize on that knowledge.


7 must-read books for entrepreneurs

7 must-read books for entrepreneurs

You never finish learning, especially as an entrepreneur. By standing on the shoulders of giants, you can see farther. That is why we started a book club at StartDock.
In this article you will find seven books every entrepreneur should definitely read!

Table of contents

Start With Why - Simon Sinek

Why did you buy the computer that you own? The first thought you probably had while purchasing it was: Apple or not Apple. That is quite strange, isn't it? Apple computers have less than 10 percent of the market share, not really a figure of market dominance. Why is this the first choice someone - consciously or unconsciously - makes? I bet the choice between Apple and not Apple was an easy one for you to make. You either love or (perhaps secretly) hate Apple. If you don't choose Apple, then the real fun begins. Which brand of computer should you in God’s name choose, and why?

Why is making the choice between Apple and not Apple such an easy one, but between Dell, HP, Acer, or any of the others, such a difficult one?

Apple stands for something. They know why they do what they do. They have a vision, their own set of values, and are very good at communicating them. So, it's very clear to you to decide whether you agree with this vision and these values, and then make your choice: Apple or not. The product doesn't actually have much to do with it, they happen to make computers. On the other hand, every brand makes good computers. You don't buy a product, you join a way of thinking, a set of values, an identity.

At Apple, they know WHAT they're doing, HOW they're doing it, but they also know WHY they're doing it. Sinek calls this: The Golden Circle. People don't buy what you do, but why you do it.

  • WHY: Apple wants to challenge the status quo and they applaud the creativity of the individual. The slogan: 'think different' illustrates this beautifully.
  • HOW: They do this by making sleek products that are easy to use.
  • WHAT: They make computers.

For all other brands the WHY and HOW are a lot more difficult to formulate and so they are a lot more difficult for you to differentiate between. The WHAT is the same everywhere: they make computers. Apple's WHY is a belief they have. The HOW is the actions they take to achieve that belief. And the WHAT is the result of that. That is Apple's order. The other computer companies are starting from the wrong end. They start with WHAT they do: they make computers, and HOW to make the best. That's why it seems so strange to you when Dell or Acer starts making watches, whereas it is a very logical step for Apple. They are not a computer company, they are challenging the status quo.

These steps also apply to you as an entrepreneur. Why do you do what you do? And how do you do it? When you have this in mind it is a lot easier to promote your product or service. This is the reason that people come to you as a customer. Not because you have the fastest, the best, or the most beautiful thing.

Sinek outlines what the world will be like if companies do not start with WHY and then explains the principle of the Golden Circle. He even makes a link to the biology of the human brain and how we make our decisions - on the basis of reasoning and emotion. With a number of illustrative descriptions of successful companies (yes, Apple is relatively prevalent in them) Sinek shows that when you start with WHY, and HOW you communicate WHAT you do, success often follows.

The Golden Circle theory has given me a better understanding of why I'm attracted to certain companies, and why other companies don't do anything for me. A good example is Oatly, the oatmeal drink. A few months ago, I hadn’t heard of it, until I saw the screaming, brutal advertising billboards hanging in the centre of Amsterdam. They appealed to me. I had to laugh at the hyper-transparent way of manipulating the audience in which they explain exactly how they want to influence me. They, too, go against the status quo.

I even started following Oatly on Facebook and Instagram, where I found out that sustainability and human health are paramount, this is their WHY. HOW to them is through the constant playful way they tell their message - maybe in the case of Oatly the HOW is a bit too strong relative to their WHY, but the combination appeals to me. You would almost forget, but they happen to also make an oatmeal drink, it seems almost superfluous. People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY - and also a little HOW - you do it.

Outliers — Malcolm Gladwell

There is no single formula for success. Everyone has their own story, their own way, and yes, their own luck. There are, however, a number of basic principles that can be universally applied in order to explain the success that someone has demonstrated. In Outliers, Gladwell recounts these principles and reveals the antecedents of exceptional performance.

We may not want to hear it, because we like to be self-made and have our fate in our own hands, but luck plays a big role in the success of the very best of all time. It makes a difference where and when you were born. Being born between 1831 and 1840 in America, for example, would have created a lot of opportunities for you. The richest 20% of people ever (from the Egyptian Pharaohs to the present day, adjusted for inflation) were born in one generation, in one country. This generation was the perfect age when Wall Street came into being and the American railways were built; a golden opportunity. There is a crucial time frame for the origin of every major undertaking. For computers, these are the people born around 1955, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and a huge number of other computer billionaires. Gates also had the luck that he went to a progressive school that had some of the very first computers. This created the possibility for Gates to program as a 14-year-old in the stone age of computers. Perhaps the right time to be born for the blockchain is in the nineties to ride the wave of current (and future) success.

For opportunity, you don't have to buy anything. You just have to spend some time on it. About 10,000 hours. When we see someone excelling with the utmost ease, we think: 'what a naturally talented person, it comes to him/her just like that'. But what we don't think of is that this achievement is the only one visible and that the countless hours of practice and training behind it remain hidden. Because Bill Gates had the ability to program at such an early age, and he made the effort to spend time on it, he was approaching 10,000 hours when he launched his 20th Microsoft.

It sounds boring: luck and time, but Gladwell is a natural storyteller and could probably even make the description of paint drying interesting. He would have practiced it for a long time, because as Macklemore sings in his song Ten Thousand Hours: ‘the greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats where great because they paint a lot.’

Thank You for Being Late - Thomas Friedman

Do you ever feel like you’re running on a treadmill and if you stop, you’ll fall off? Put on your seatbelt, this edition dives into Thomas Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late – An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations to explain why.

Friedman, a well-known columnist for the New York Times, combined his years of experience, research and interviews into a seamless work on living in “the age of accelerations”. Friedman weaves together the tale of three accelerations that are occurring at the same time in technology, globalization and climate change.

These three factors are now accelerating at such a dramatic speed that the world is plummeting into an unknown future, like a space ship re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. But Friedman is optimistic for the future. The advances in technology, mostly due to Moore’s Law, and the globalization of world markets have enabled entrepreneurs around the world to make previously unthinkable advancements; open source coding has allowed programmers to build on each other’s work; and massive open online courses have brought education to previously un-reachable corners of the earth.

Thank You for Being Late is a vital read for any freelancer working in what Friedman calls the world’s “flows”. As we hurtle toward the future with the accelerations that are now outside of our control, trying to stop the flow will cause more inertia and instability. The way to survive is to jump in and, like white-water kayaking, keep paddling.

Governmental and societal structures have not been able to adapt to the rate of change. Many companies and business models are based on old societal norms, making them less agile in this new environment. But for entrepreneurs, it is the perfect time to be creative, solve problems and provide skills that are outside the current structure. Here at Startdock, we have a network of entrepreneurs that support each other in tackling these challenges. According to Friedman, if you keep paddling, you will be able to enjoy the ride.

Zero to One — Peter Thiel

Creating something is more difficult than copying something, because you are doing something that has never been done before. Peter Thiel's Zero to One is about companies that make something new instead of making something that exists better. Peter Thiel is the co-founder of PayPal and after selling the company for more than 1.5 billion euros in 2002, each of the 7 founders has set up a new company that is worth more than a billion euros (think: Space X, Tesla, LinkedIn, Youtube and Yelp). For this reason, they are now known in Silicon Valley as the PayPal Mafia.

The most important thing you can do to go from zero to one is to create a monopoly. Unlike a world in which you have competition and everyone tries to grab a piece of the same cake, you make your own cake. If you compete like a madman you will undoubtedly become good at what you are competing in, but your scope will narrow and focus on defeating the people in your immediate surroundings. The downside of this is that you no longer see what is important or valuable.

If your company has the ability to make something ten times better, faster or easier than the current solution, you have a potential monopoly. You can achieve this by becoming extremely good in a small niche, so that you are quickly the best in that niche. As a result, you dominate the market you are in. From there you can expand. Just look at Amazon. They began by offering ten times more books than a normal bookstore and then expanded to CDs and games and now it seems as if they are on their way to becoming just about the biggest provider in everything.

Do not be afraid, however, that all monopolies are already taken. Every now-known idea was once unknown and thus a secret. And there are still enough secrets left in the world.

Leaders Eat Last — Simon Sinek

When we feel safe in a team, our natural response is to express trust and cooperation. This is necessary for the team to become better than the sum of its parts. When the safety disappears and insecurity sets in, these feelings change into cynicism, paranoia and self-interest. A leader's job is to create a safe environment. But what characteristics do you need for this?

Sinek has stopped with the differentiation between a good and a bad leader, it's more black and white: you're a leader, or you're not. There are people who lead, and there are leaders, and that is a world of difference.

Leaders are willing to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the team. They ensure that others feel safe so that they can rise above themselves. The title of this book is very literal. In the army, the officers eat last. They are willing to step aside and take care of their men first, before they take care of themselves. Leadership and self-interest do not go hand in hand. The main reason that soldiers don’t hesitate to put themselves in danger to save their fellow soldiers is because they all know that the others would do it for them as well. This is absolute trust.

When we used to live in small tribes, the alpha male always had the first choice: the most beautiful woman, the best place to sleep, the tastiest piece of meat. But there were also conditions attached to this social contract. If there was a threat, everyone expected him to be the one running towards the threat to protect the rest of the group. This is the price of being the alpha: being willing to sacrifice yourself to protect the group in case of danger. That is why the bonuses of bankers are so blatantly shocking to us. They leave the sinking ship not last, when all employees are safe, but first, with a big bag of money in their hand.

The most beautiful definition of love Sinek has ever heard is: ‘giving someone the power to destroy you and trusting them they won’t use it.’ And that's how it is in a company. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of you. After all, “it is not the genius at the top giving directions that makes people look great. It is the great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius.”

Willpower — Roy Baumeister en John Tierney

A few dubious experiments in the early years of psychology have made unethical studies almost inconceivable. Nevertheless, psychologists like to play a bit. In his study, Baumeister allowed test subjects to enter a room with a bowl of freshly baked chocolate cookies and a bowl of radishes. They were asked to eat only the food that was assigned to them (either chocolate cookies or radishes), on the pretext that they were doing a taste test. Having to resist eating the tempting chocolate cookies costs self-control, or in other words: willpower. This self-control was needed for the second task: an unsolvable puzzle. The test subjects who expressed self-control by suppressing the urge to eat the chocolate cookies stopped trying to solve the puzzle more than twice as quickly, than participants who were allowed to eat the cookies.

You can see your willpower as a kind of muscle. The more you use it, the more your muscle gets tired and the less power it has. As it were, your willpower runs out as the day progresses. This has implications for how you organize your day. As an entrepreneur, you often have the opportunity to decide for yourself what you do and when, and this is a great advantage. It can also be a pitfall. If you decide to move that difficult task forward to the end of the day, there is a chance that when you start thinking about it, you will think: 'well, I'll do it tomorrow'. This is because of the small amount of willpower that remains after a day of doing mentally tiring tasks. Why do you think it's so difficult to make the decision to go to the gym at the end of the day?

Just like a muscle that you train regularly, your willpower also gets stronger the more you use it. This can help you achieve long term goals compared to short term distractions. The world-famous marshmallow experiment is a good example of this - here, too, the “teasing” of test subjects by psychologists resurfaces. In the marshmallow experiment, children are put in a room with nothing but a large, tempting marshmallow in front of their nose. The challenge: don't eat the marshmallow and you'll get another in 15 minutes. For this - certainly for a child - there is an enormous amount of self-control required. The results of this study are remarkable. The children were followed decades after the research was completed, and what became apparent? Those who left the marshmallow, among other things, achieved better school results, exhibited less addictive behaviour, had better social skills and were better able to cope with stress, i.e., they were more successful. So, what is your marshmallow?

Blink — Malcolm Gladwell

Two seconds. That is what Blink is about. What happens in the first few moments of a meeting, decision or judgment? Within those first two seconds we often have an idea or opinion about what we think; this comes to us in one way or another, but it is not a conscious process. Unconscious thoughts come into being in a closed space in our head, a space that we ourselves find difficult to access. What happens in this closed space? And how can we recognise and perhaps exclude our own bias? By training one's own behaviour and interpreting and deciphering it, the door of this room can be opened carefully.

Not only a decision made consciously is one to trust, but a quick, unconscious decision can be just as trustworthy, if not better. Call it intuition. Gladwell shows at which moments intuition can best be listened to and at which moments awareness of one's own bias can prevent a failure. Perhaps the most important lesson he wants to convey is the fact that initial impressions and snap decisions can be trained and improved.

As an entrepreneur, you make decisions all day long. Sometimes this happens subconsciously, but when making an important decision you sometimes have to consider and weigh how you can achieve the best end result. What do you base important choices like this on? And how is that process going for you?

We usually want to base a consciously-made decision on as much information as possible. When we have more information, we think that we will improve the quality of our decision. However, a snap decision is based on the essential available information and reduces it all to the minimum amount necessary. This is called thin slicing and is a crucial part of rapid cognition. A slice of information is all you need to make an intuitive and informed decision. For example, when assessing how good they find a teacher they have never seen before, students come to the same conclusion after a two second silent film, as if they had followed a full semester course. Or, after seeing a discussion between a couple for a quarter of an hour, an American psychologist can say with 90% certainty whether they will still be together after fifteen years. Another example shows that a short sound bite of a conversation between a doctor and a patient can be used to predict which doctors will be charged after they have committed a medical blunder. More information is not always better. Relevant information is better, and your intuition knows that.


StartDock number one coworking space of Amsterdam!

The nomination for the Coworker’s Members’ Choice Awards of the largest coworking website Coworker.com, came as a pleasant surprise on January 31st. That we can now (three and a half months and two rounds of voting later) officially call ourselves the # 1 coworking space of Amsterdam, also makes us the most proud coworking space of Amsterdam!

Coworker’s Members’ Choice Awards

The Coworker Members’ Choice Awards is a worldwide competition that returns annually. An award can be won by performance over two voting rounds: A voting round via Facebook and a review round on the Coworker platform.

From day one, the close coworking community of StartDock was on top of the voting buttons and the Awards were the talk of the town. StartDock has left behind 42 Amsterdam coworking spaces, and can therefore call itself the # 1 coworking space of Amsterdam for a year.

Global top-3 position

For a long time we thought we could end up in the global top 3 of coworking spaces of the Members’ Choice Awards. Since a number of fraud cases rapidly paid themselves into the top 10 (yes, you read this correctly), Coworker.com has decided not to name global winners. Coworker has indicated to tackle these fraud cases more harshly next year, in order to also name a global top 3. Unfortunately for us this year, but we are very proud that we’re 2018 Amsterdam’s best coworking space!

The fact that we managed to compete for the global top-3 without committing fraud, is entirely due to our close and extremely hard voting community! We thank everyone who voted with us and who left a review. In order to celebrate our Award, StartDock organizes an open party later this year. More information will follow soon, so keep an eye on our channels!


StartDock about to be the #1 coworking space in the world!

We could not have imagined this, when we started StartDock: Becoming the #1 coworking space, in a global competition of the biggest coworking website Coworker. But still, at this very moment, there’s a very feasible chance that we actually will become the #1!

Nomination and voting round one

StartDock was nominated two months ago, for the Coworker Members’ Choice Awards. These awards are a competition to rank coworking spaces across the globe. In the first voting round, StartDock achieved to become worldwide 2nd, thanks to all the dedicated voters!

Voting round two

Currently the competition is in it’s second (and last) round, which is the review-round. Everybody who has a certain connection to StartDock, is allowed to write a review. You can write us a review via this link.

We are very happy with all the positive support we have already reached so far, and we hope you will help us too in this round. For all of your support, we will keep doing what we do: Be the best, warmest and most open coworking space in the world.

Oh, by the way.. Winning this global competition means throwing a party. Thank you all once again for your lovely support!!

Curious about the results of the first voting round? Visit this website and set the dropdown menu following “Sort Order” on “Most Votes”.


Second StartDock address!

On the first of January 2016, our company was founded on a beautiful location on Herengracht 420. We started with 600m2 full of happy Dockers, fast growing businesses and lovely events. It began with our three young founders, who wanted to have the most awesome office space one could imagine. While not being able to find this space in the outside world, they decided to create StartDock Coworking.

Fastforward two years later. The plan is to grow fast in 2018 and roll out the wonderful concept of StartDock Coworking. For growing fast, StartDock needs more space, to create more happy Dockers and fast growing businesses. So.. Drumroll!

From the 1st of June 2018 and onwards, StartDock will grow from one address to two addresses on the royal Herengracht! StartDock will have 200m2 more on Herengracht 418, and therefore more enthusiastic people to add to the StartDock community! Now that’s news, ain’t it?!

There will be 40 more workspots on Herengracht 418, divided over two rooms, with an extra separate kitchen. This only is the first baby-growthstep StartDock makes in 2018, but this is definitely not the final destination. Watch our website and your mailbox, more news to be announced soon!

For 'The new StartDock Amsterdam', we are looking for a Community Manager. Are you interested, or do you know the right person for this fulltime job? Contact us!


From freelancer to successful entrepreneur in 6 steps

Starting a business has never been easier: with a good laptop and a website, you are often only a visit to the Chamber of Commerce away from your very own company.

The life of a young entrepreneur is often envied by peers. You can work from home or a coffee shop around the corner, and if you don't want to set an alarm clock once, you can do just that. But the most important reason to start your own business is perhaps that you will never again have to work for a boss.

Nevertheless, entrepreneurship brings with it a lot of uncertainty. You are one hundred percent responsible for your own success (and income), so you are constantly under pressure to perform. After all, customers don’t come knocking on their own.

Or do they? Professionalising your business may be easier than you think. With these 6 steps you can transform your business into a truly successful company.

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