Think big

What is the difference between top entrepreneurs, CEO’s, government leaders, artists … and the “ordinary man”? Why is it that some people have lots of self confidence, are attracting success and money as a magnet, without any fears or obstacles, win respect everywhere, are very popular, while others live like a gray mouse?

Is there IQ several time higher?

Did they study 5 times more than other people?
Nope. “Being successful” is not taught at school.

Are they physically stronger then average people?
Hmmnope… not really.

Do they work 20 hours per day?

They eat Kellogg’s special K more than other people?
Please, no!

They are not smarter, bigger, stronger, higher educated or what else, they dare to think bigger. Where the average person would start panicking when they face a huge problem, they look the problem straight in the face and go for it. If they can’t handle it, they at least tried. Failing is better then not trying at all for them. Where Mr. Average’s knees start shaking when he has to speak in public, Mr. Think Big keeps in the back of his head that this audience of thousands of people are all just human beings that put on their underwear in the morning, just like everybody does. Why would he be afraid? While “normal” people try to grow their revenue by 5% next year, big thinkers try to get 200 times more revenue. Maybe they’ll never reach × 200, but for sure they’ll have more than the one who aims 5%.

Sure, it is more easy to think small. You feel more comfortable doing the typical things, no? Why would you, you of all people, have the right to have such a success? Why would you be the elected one that would get famous and rich? You don’t deserve it, right? You are just one of those 7 billion people on this earth, so why oh why would you have the right to be a top sporter, a rich entrepreneur, a famous artist or be able to speak 20 languages? Most people believe they have the duty to settle for mediocre. They take it for granted.

The thing is that most people think small. Believe it or not, there is more competition for a “low level” job offer then there is for a CEO position. Why? Since most people believe they are not worth more than the average things. Very few people think big enough to hunt big results. So everyone is going for the typical jobs, the typical house, the typical career path, the typical number of children.

If you have big dreams, then think big and go for it! Successful people don’t think big because they are successful. They are successful because they dare to think big. That’s a huge difference! People with lots of motivation and persistence, a hands on mentality, and do-ers, that dare to think big, will get there eventually. The ones that aim for the typical and wait for success to come their way, will be waiting forever.

Think about which big dreams you have and pursue them. Climbing a mountain, start up a company, run a marathon, double your salary, quit smoking, sail around the world, learn 10 languages, or become a good jazz musician. Anything. If you are already convinced upfront you can’t make it, then you will certainly not make it. If you don’t allow your mind to think big, then how would your body come to big actions? In fact, it’s all in the mind. If you allow your mind to think big, and really believe in it, you can move mountains.

If you’re going to be thinking, you may as well think big.” – Donald Trump

Some random entrepreneur lessons learned over the past 2 years

Some random lessons learned over the past 2 years since I told my boss I would not work for him any longer and start up my own company. Random order, random subjects:

  • Don’t try to make things perfect. Ship the “good enough” and move to the next thing.
  • Don’t do everything yourself. Outsource, you only have 24 hours a day.
  • Ask for your money when you worked hard for it.
  • Don’t try to be the cheapest in the market, you attract toxic clients and you are worth more then being the cheapest.
  • Blog, produce content. Some of my blog articles I wrote years ago still bring in clients TODAY.
  • Build in recurring revenue. Small bits of recurring revenue, like annual licences, hosting, support, … You are building up an empire of money.
  • Patience. You can’t start your business now, and be a millionaire and employ 2000 people tomorrow.
  • Keep it simple. All things that you own, need your attention later on. The less you have, the less you have to manage and spend time on.
  • Decide and move on, don’t over-discuss topics.
  • Market first. Sell, then build.
  • You can not plan how things go. We started by making online event registration software, and ended up making niche web software for Renault car dealers (which is selling quite well these days) and some other niche products and software development services
  • Focus on the next small thing you have to do. Don’t focus on what might be needed to be done in 2 years from now.
  • Business plans are bullshit.
  • Time is your most valuable asset. Don’t sell your time for money. Invest your time in scalable things.
  • Lazer focus on very small niches. Don’t try to solve all things for everyone.
  • Put your signature (telephone, twitter account, website and blog) under every email you send out.
  • Pivot your business every week or few weeks. You learn something new every few days.
  • Don’t work too much. You have a family and your health to take care of. It’s not worth it to loose one of them.
  • Do some sport and have some hobbies.
  • Go out speak on conferences. I did it a few times, and every time (!) I had a new client within 24 hours after my talk. For some reason people see you as an guru when you are on stage and they want to sign a deal with you.
  • You don’t have to be the best in what you do, you have to show others that you are the best. That is called marketing. Technical people forget to market themselves.
  • A project is never finished. Live with it.
  • Hire great people. Be super strict on that, it’s super important for your company. You don’t have time to deal with a demotivated, lazy person.
  • Avoid as much as possible recurring costs. Keep control over your costs and watch cash flow closely.
  • Evaluate from time to time seriously what you are doing. Think deep. Is it what you really want? If no, then quit. If yes, you’ll be even more motivated.
  • Building something is not difficult. Selling it, is more difficult.
  • Don’t count on “luck” as a strategy.
  • Don’t hope for “getting viral”.
  • Use open source software, and contribute to it.
  • Say NO. If you don’t say NO to things, then clients will keep on negotiating for a lower price, people will keep on calling you for silly support, and that one person will keep on asking you to translate your software in his dialect.
  • You own the company, the company should not own you. There is ALWAYS something to do, but prioritize and organise.
  • Think big. Nothing ever great was achieved without thinking big.
  • Get enough sleep. Aim for 8 hours or more. I’m convinced that people that sleep a lot, are waaay more productive and creative.
  • Act, don’t think. Having an idea is great, but you won’t be paid for that.
  • Subscribe to this RSS feed.

How do you know an idea is worth implementing?

Ideas are just that. Ideas. They live in your brain. I can easily come up with a thousand ideas. I guess thousands of people claim that they “had exactly the same idea as Mark Zuckerberg“.

But an idea is nothing more then a thought. Who does pay you for having an idea? No one. Nobody will ever pay you for your thoughts. Coming up with a new idea takes 10 minutes. Implementing that idea, the execution (development, marketing, making it real, hiring staff, bootstrapping it or get funded, …), takes weeks, months, or years.

Graphically speaking…

So, from that endless pile of ideas you have, given there is a huge cost/time needed to execute them well, how do you pick the ideas worth implementing?

The golden rule

Basically, it all comes down to this golden rule that every entrepreneur should carve into his heart.


Which ideas are worth implementing? The ones that people are willing to pay money for. The ones that you can sell.

What’s the risk if you first implement and then try to sell your idea? Guess? Yep. You will be building something for months, in order to realize that no one is going to buy it from you. Damn. You just lost half a year of your life!

The worst ideas we see at Y Combinator are from young founders making things they think other people will want.” –


Go hunt customers, and sell your “product” (even if there is no product yet to sell!). There are several ways to do this. This is my top 3 (no order).

1 – Cold calling.

Call up 50 potential customers, explain your (fictive) product, the (fictive) price of it, and ask them if they are interested. Explain them what pain you solve for them, and how much you would charge them. Try to fix a meeting with them to sell them your product, or try to sell it over the phone. Ideally, go as far as the moment just before they would hand you over the money by bluffing. People can pretend that your idea is genius, but when they have to pull out their wallet, they often change their mind. Don’t ask if they would pay you, make them pay you (but stop the process right before). They will not be angry if they learn that your solution is not yet in place. If they have a pain, they will be happy to wait for a few months more. The pain will still be there, and their wallet also.

2 – A product sales website.

Whether you want sell apples, cars, software or tea cups, first sell it, then execute it. Set up a product sales website, include good copy and pictures, and let people “buy” your product on that site. In reality, they won’t be able to buy anything of course. You are right now just figuring out if there is any demand for your product. When they click the “buy” button on your site, you tell them you are out of stock / almost live / working hard on your future product / … and you provide them a field where they can leave their email address in order to be kept informed about your progress. This has 2 advantages. You can (1) see how many people click the “buy now” button (this gives you an indication if there is any demand for your product) and (2) you collect email adresses for the day when you launch (I heard that Dropbox has 250K email adresses of interested users before they launched!). This list of email adresses is worth pure gold the day you launch.

3 – “Naked” Google Ads

You just buy some Google Ads (you know, those things that appear on the right when you search on Google) for one of the ideas you have. You even don’t have to build a website or what so ever. Just set up ads. This will measure demand, since you’ll quickly see how many times people are searching for your idea, and how many people click on the ad. You can point the ad to a blank page. It doesn’t really matter. Your goal is still to measure demand. And this is a very easy way to do so. It will cost you some money, but building something for months without knowing if there is any demand for it, could cost you much more (money, or your health!).

Is this blah blah blah?” No.

Is it easy to measure demand in this way?” Super easy.

Is it a cheap way to see if there is any potential in your product?” Super cheap. A few phone calls or a WordPress site and lots patience and stamina.

Is it motivating if you see that your idea is selling?” Very motivating! Knowing that you have already clients while building your product gives some adrenaline shots.

Do other entrepreneurs do this also?” Yep, sure.

How you know this works?” Since I’m using the same technique.

Currently, I’m marketing/selling a few ideas I have in this way. It’s too soon to tell something on what the ideas are about, but I’ll keep you posted during the coming months on how things go. In detail (dollars made, clients convinced, hours spent.). Scout promise! Subscribe to the RSS in order to stay tuned.

I’m not the only one telling this. Recently, I joined a program, which is about cold calling in order to sell your idea (before implementing it!). Mixergy is founded by Andrew Warner, who used some of his own money in his 20s to bootstrap a $30mil / year (in sales) internet business.

Rob Walling is another successful software bootstrapper that is promoting the “market first” approach a lot in his startup book. I certainly advice any (software) bootstrapper to read it. It pays itself back right away since it will save you lots of hours/days/weeks of worthless development.

What is your experience? Did you ever build something in order to realize no one was waiting for your software? Are you currently bootstrapping something? (I’m looking for guest posts about other startups, successful yet or not, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!)

make ONE sale, just ONE

How do you know you are going to make a lot of money with your idea?

Simple. By making a little money first. By making one sale. 1 single sale.

If you can’t make one single sale of your product, then tell me how you are going to make thousands of sales? If you can not find one single person on this earth that agrees that your idea is worth it’s 20$, then how will you find those other thousands of customers?

Don’t ask your mother if she would buy your product. Of course she thinks it’s a genius idea. Don’t ask your best friend neither. Don’t even ask anyone “if they would buy” your product. Sell it, for real! Even if you don’t have any product yet, pretend that you have it, and sell it.

Go as far as the moment when they pull their credit card out of their pocket. THAT’S A SIGN. Words are just words. Everyone will like your idea. They say they do. But how many people would buy for real? How many? How many? You don’t know it, do you? Did you try to make a sale?

If you didn’t, you might very likely be loosing months of your life on something that nobody would ever pay for. You assume that they would pay, but you don’t know it since you didn’t figure it out.

First sell it, then build it.

I hear you. “But how can I sell something that I don’t have yet?” Well, we’ll come to that in the next post. Meanwhile, I would be happy if you could share this blogpost (sharing buttons here just below!) or leave a comment. Until then.

Work ON your business, not IN your business

There is always something to do in your day to day business. Your mobile rings, an urgent email comes in, your computer proposes some updates, you have to hunt a non paying customer, the printer refuses to work, you have to answer an urgent RFP, your accountant needs some information from you, you urgently need to clean up your desk and there are some unopened letters waiting for you.

It’s tempting to be absorbed in the day to day rush. Especially if it’s your company. Even with an army of employees that know their job really good, it’s still very very tempting to dive into your business. At the end, you know best, don’t you? You founded this company, so you are a pro in every aspect of your company. You know best how to bake the bread, serve the meal, write the code or repair the engine.

Eh eh. You shouldn’t.

If you did start up a company in order to work into it, then why the hell did you start up a company? You are much better off as an employee in that case. No risk, no worries at night, no cash flow to monitor, no upset customers and no payroll. Just bake the bread, serve the meal, write the code or repair the engine. And that’s perfectly fine if that is what drives you. If you want to work in a company, never start up one, go work into an existing one.

If you start up a company, you should work on it. Not in it. Working on your business like: growing your business. Marketing. Monitoring cash flow. Bookkeeping. Differentiation. Taking a step backwards and rethinking your business. Blogging. Trying out new ideas. Calling customers for feedback. Hiring top talent. Updating your website. Improving on a day to day basis. Changing your products in this changing world. Taking risks. Setting up procedures. Speaking on conferences. Cold calling. Traveling. Analyzing new opportunities. All of that. But please, don’t bake bread whole day!


Simple. Act as if you are a 100 times bigger. Are you a startup with 2 people +  yourself? Then act as if you are 200. It’s very very very tempting to bake bread all day with those 2 people. But if you do so, you’ll remain exactly that: a company of 2 + 1. If the 3 of you bake break, nobody is growing your business. If you act as if you are 200 people, eventually, you’ll grow to 200 people. You can help 2 people, but you can’t help 200 people on a day to day basis. They will have to bake the bread on their own, while you grow the business! By acting 100 times bigger, you can become 100 times bigger. Think big. Your company is now scalable. As long as you are absorbed by the day to day business of your company, you will never grow.

Do you want to found a company? Then realize that you won’t bake a lot of bread yourself anymore (if you want your company to grow). Do you like baking break so much? Then unsubscribe from this blog, and read a blog on how to bake bread.

Time does not scale

Everyone has just 24 hours a day. So why do some people earn a million $ per month, while some earn near to zero? Why do some people keep on growing, while others “get stuck”? Because the first group has understood one key thing in life. It’s probably one of the biggest differences between successful, ever growing and rich people, and the others. It’s a recipe that can help you in all aspects of your live. It’s plain common sense. But few people actually do it. Here it is:

Successful people spend nearly all of their time on scalable things.

Scalable things, what’s that? Scalable things can keep on growing without or with very little effort. Like money on your bank account that brings yearly interest. Like a blog where the number of readers can grow infinitely. Like an eBook that can sell 1 million times. Like a house that you rent out, and will bring you monthly recurring revenue for the rest of your life. Like an iPhone application with several thousands of downloads. Like the number of visitors on your eCommerce website. For scalable things, once it’s in place, whether you have 1 or 100 or 1 billion of users/customers/clients/fans/followers/…, the extra effort is small. Blogging for 10,000 readers does not require more effort then blogging for 1.

Successful people don’t work more then average people. They work smarter. The use the same number of hours per day, to do much more valuable things. Same input, more output.

Yes, sure. You can earn more money by working more hours. If you work 10 hours in stead of 8, you will earn 25% more. If you work 12 hours instead of 8, you will earn 50% more. But then? Where does it stop? Will you work 20 hours per day? Time does not scale. Instead of working more, work smarter. Spend your hours on things that scale.

Now, here is the other side if the coin. Scaling things takes time, effort, stamina, risk, sweat, and so on. And that scares people off. The more easy way is to go for the quick and direct return (the non scalable things). Growing a business for example, means a huge upfront time investment. It’s not easy. Or blogging. The first 6 months to 1 year, you are blogging for 2 people (probably your mom and your best friend). That’s not really motivating. Neither it brings in any money. That’s why there are so many blogs started without being continued after a few months. But there you can make the difference. That’s an opportunity! The few ones who keep on going and spend their time in something scalable, will eventually start scaling. If every 3 months your nr of followers would double, then you would have 16 followers after 1 year of blogging. Hmm, not so exciting. But 4096 readers after 3 years of blogging…and 65536 readers after 4 years of blogging. Sounds better, eh?! (OK, this example is just plain math, but you get the idea of scaling and the upfront time investment). And 65K people that are interested in what you have to say on your blog…well, that’s the wet dream of every marketeer! You just scaled to something you can monetize!

People want quick success stories, preferably without too much effort. Quick money or an instant list of tens of thousands of followers on Twitter. That won’t happen. (Anyone who claims to have the secret recipe to make quick money without much effort, is lying to you.) But you can start now by investing your time in things that might scale over time. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, it will ask lots of your effort and short term loss in income and status, but I believe anyone can scale something.

Pssst…if you liked this blog post, I would be very thankful if you could share it! It takes you just a click here below.

25 things that are NOT needed to go live with your product

You want to launch a (software) product. Great. Here below 25 things that are not needed to go live with your product and find paying customers. “Not needed”, “go live” and “paying customers” in the same sentence? Yep!

  1. Advanced search functionality. Keep it simple. You are not Google.
  2. A captcha. Integrate this thing once you have spam. Moreover, a captcha blocks your first users from signing up.
  3. Fancy ajax because “that is faster and Google does it“. Don’t worry: performance will not be a problem the first months. Once you have 10K users, you might hit your first performance issues. First focus is finding those users, not solving potential future performance problems.
  4. A funny “404 page not found”. Put time and effort in value adding things for which people are willing to pay money. They won’t pay you for a funny 404 page.
  5. A perfect layout. A “good enough” layout will do for now. Sure, your app needs to look decent enough, but an OK UI and standard css frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap will bring you already very far. Don’t focus too much on pixels, focus on which problem you solve. Done is better than perfect.
  6. Video upload. If your users need to be able to post a video, let them include an HTML snippet from Youtube or Vimeo. Done you are, and live you go!
  7. Sign up with Twitter or Facebook. If you solve a real problem, people will take the time to make a new account for your software.
  8. Automatic billing. Do that manually the first few months. Start automating once it becomes a pain in the *ss. The first few months, you’ll have so few invoices to send out that automating this would be silly.
  9. A mobile version of your site or mobile app (except if mobile is your main business of course). Everyone wants an iPone app for their product. You also. But do it once you have a user base.
  10. 100% unit tested code. Of course, tests are useful. But is that the thing where you want to spend time on, when you are even not sure yet if people are willing to pay for your product? Get 100 users, and then go for the perfect test suite.
  11. A super sexy API. Is a nice to have, and you can (and probably should) add that, but after going live first.
  12. A/B testing. Not needed to go live.
  13. User preferences and settings. Try to get users first, before giving them settings.
  14. Keyboard shortcuts like Gmail does.
  15. A 100% integrated blog. Go for WordPress or Tumblr.
  16. Custom icon sets, tailor made for your app. Just get any of these.
  17. A logo. Indeed, NOT needed to go live. Twitspark, a promising Belgian startup, didn’t have any logo long after they went live. They had their logo designed after having the first customers! It’s not about your logo, it’s about solving a problem that people are willing to pay for.
  18. HTTPS and SSL. Do it soon after going live since it’s important, but it should not postpone a go live (and so the chance to get sign ups and being paid already).
  19. Drag and drop functionality. Super sexy…but really needed?
  20. An office. Our web and mobile software development company Zorros still does not have an office 2 years after go live. But we do have a lot of paying customers. That’s what count at the end.
  21. Multi language application. Translating your app seems less time consuming than one could imagine, but it’s a lot of work. Moreover, your app is less flexible and agile, since every new feature or change needs to be rolled out in different languages.
  22. HTML5 and CSS3: is not a must, is nice to have. Customers won’t sign up because you add a sexy shading. They will sign up if you solve their problem.
  23. A WordPress plugin. Not needed.
  24. An Amazon S3 server in order to scale: not needed.
  25. Custom analytic solutions: not needed. Just use plain Google Analytics to get started.

No doubt, it would be nice to have all those things. And that’s just it: they are nice to have. Not a must to have. Focus number 1 is finding paying customers. And in order to do that, you’d better go live and find those customers, before spending all your time and effort on these nice to haves. Now go live!

Any examples of things where you did spend time on, but were not necessary to go live? Leave a comment!

Make a living from what you love

You only live once. You work 5 days per week.


My hobby (I have others too of course…): building, designing, growing, bootstrapping web and mobile software. I love to solve a particular problem using software. Making things simple for other people and solving peoples day to day problems via the use of the internet, hell yeah! After having worked for months on something, my head spins off its axis if people are using software I invented, wrote, designed and put on this world. That’s why I decided to make my living from this. On a daily basis, I’m paid to do my hobby. Ain’t that nice?!

Turn your hobby into a job” does sound so cliché. But clichés are often just plain truth. People who are occupied with something they like on a daily basis, are just more happy people. More joy of life, passion, they are happy to get up in the morning. They don’t have to, they want to.

Think about any of your interests/hobbies/passions. Horse riding, cooking, salsa dancing, programming, learning other languages. Anything. Now…imagine someone pays you for something related to your hobby/interest/passion. HOW FREAKING AWSOME WOULD THAT BE?!!!

Isn’t it silly to have to oblige yourself every morning to get up, brush your teeths, push yourself in your car, drive to work and watching the clock several times during the working day? Isn’t it insane to long for those ‘2 weeks vacation’ per year, and afterwards work again for a whole year, longing for the next vacations?

Not any hobby/interest/passion is OK to turn into a business though. Nobody will pay me for “watching Friends TV series” just because it’s my hobby. In short:

The best business to be into, is the common space between what you like, and what people are willing to pay for. There are many things that I love to do, but nobody will every pay me for it. There are many things that people want to pay for, but I don’t like them at all. But there are quite some things that I’m passionate about, and people are willing to pay me for that.

If you start a business, make sure your are passionate about it. Starting a business is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It takes time and persistence. You’ll go through difficult times, working on sunny sunday afternoons while everyone is BBQ-ing, earning fewer money then all of your friends. Without love for your business, it will be difficult to keep going.

What’s your hobby? Can you make a business around it? Are people willing to pay you for anything related?

Why I should have switched sooner to English

5 days ago I started blogging in English in stead of Dutch (my native language) after some people told me I should do so. I should have done this way sooner. Look at this:


Moreover, I got over 10 new Twitter followers since that day (hey, you should too!) and quite some Feedburner RSS subscriptions.

What I’ll do over the next month is to translate the 10 most popular Dutch articles from this blog into English, so they reach a bigger audience than the few Dutch speaking people on this earth.

Thank you to read this blog, and don’t forget to share it on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn if you like it, get in touch if you need anything from me (except money) and leave a comment if you want to share something.

10 tips to make your product launch a big failure


Wondering how to make your product launch a huge failure? Read on… [WARNING: IRONIC ARTICLE]

  1. Don’t worry about marketing, your product will go viral. A good product is enough, the word will spread automatically. Just develop it, put it online, and then wait. You will soon see thousands if not billions of sign ups.
  2. Just build your product without any upfront marketing research. Ideally, your product is not solving any pain or any problem, but is just a piece of code hosted on a server.
  3. Strive for the perfect product: put every pixel of your product on it’s perfect position before launching, go for a 100% test coverage, and refactor all of your code several times. Also, make sure you use all of the latest sexy web technologies everywhere you can, ideally without asking yourself if they add any value to your customers.
  4. Don’t charge any money for your product, and attract the cheap clients that want a lot from you, but don’t want to pay for it. Give it away for free, and don’t ask yourself how you will ever make money from it.
  5. Don’t blog about your product prior to go live! It might result in your blog or product name appearing in the search results of Google, which of course you absolutely want to avoid! Just build the product in silence, and don’t blog about topics that might interest potential users.
  6. Don’t build an audience on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn! Best is to hide away in silence. Be a black cat in a dark forrest, so by preference nobody will ever notice you.
  7. Please add tons of features: add settings, optional fields, graphs, ajax, … add every feature that will scare off someone that is looking for a simple solution. Simple solutions are no good.
  8. Go for the big markets like “online ERP software” or “general project management software”. Compete with Microsoft, Oracle, Groupon or 37signals!
  9. Spend a loooot of time on your logo, your company name, your domain name. Ideally in long brainstorm sessions and meetings. Don’t worry if your product actually solves any problem for any niche market, but optimise, finetuine and brainstorm for weeks (or months) about your logo, name and domain name!
  10. Try to reach everyone on this earth with your product. Don’t be specific. Keep it generic, and solve every single pain in this world with your huge product. Avoid narrowing down to any particular “niche” or subgroup of people in this world. Try to be the next Facebook. Aim high. You are not happy with a small tiny product that brings you 30K in monthly recurring revenue, right? A bubble of stock market shares and a worldwide user coverage, that’s what you should target!

Do you have any more recipes for the ideal product failure? Leave them in a comment!