For the past few months, I have been working as a Startup Development & Marketing intern at BW Ventures. This was an incredibly fun and instructive period. I got to experience different facets of entrepreneurship, as Maarten van Kroonenburg closely involved me in his company. In this article, I will tell you what my main learning moments were and what I did during my internship.
Among other things, the first two weeks of my internship introduced me to Inbound Marketing, which is a method where you engage your customers by offering valuable content via the internet. This makes people want to follow the company, so you build more loyal customers and grow naturally. This method was also applied at Get Real, a platform for entrepreneurs and investors, which was launched by BW Ventures a few months after I started my internship.
Three weeks later, BW Ventures’ accelerator (XLR) started: a programme that guides startups to scale up in a short time. I learned that many accelerators tend to blow themselves up. They build an extensive ecosystem, give great presentations and show the outside world how great they are. But this takes attention away from what really matters: building sustainable and scalable business models. At BW Ventures, they don’t look at that pretty picture, but at the startups’ revenue. This prevents startups from being overvalued and going bankrupt by scaling up their business too early.
Bij aanvang van de XLR werden de Pirate Metrics uitgelegd. Met de Pirate Metrics kun je de klantenreis in vijf stappen formuleren, waardoor je op een doeltreffende manier het succes van je klantenreis kunt meten. Als je bijvoorbeeld weet dat veel mensen op je advertentie klikken (Acquisition), veel bezoekers een formulier op je website invullen (Activation), maar vervolgens vrijwel niemand terugkomt op de website (Retention), dan weet je dat je moet werken aan het terug laten keren van leads naar je website. Door de klantenreis met Pirate Metrics inzichtelijk te maken, kun je precies weten waar je aan moet sleutelen om groei binnen de organisatie te stimuleren.
At the start of the XLR, the Pirate Metrics were explained. The Pirate Metrics allow you to formulate the customer journey in five steps, allowing you to effectively measure the success of your customer journey. For example, if you know that many people click on your ad (Acquisition), many visitors fill out a form on your website (Activation), but then hardly anyone returns to the website (Retention), then you know you need to work on getting leads to return to your website. By providing insight into the customer journey with Pirate Metrics, you can know exactly where you need to tinker to drive growth within the organisation.
The growth formula was then explained. The growth formula is a formula that lists all the measures that affect the growth of a product. For example, a growth formula of Ebay is: number of sellers × number of products listed × number of buyers × number of successful transactions = growth. In every growth formula, one metric is the North Star Metric: the most important metric against which all growth activities are aligned. You set up such a North Star Metric because many startups tend to optimise everything. That way, you avoid losing productivity due to lack of focus.
Later in the accelerator, I helped startups set up marketing automation software called HubSpot. I found working with HubSpot incredibly fun to do because I found that marketing could be done a lot more effectively. The software sends relevant content to potential customers and saves a lot of time. Moreover, HubSpot allows you to develop landing pages, among other things, which allows you to test startups’ propositions with minimal effort.
Besides the accelerator, I joined Maarten-facilitated growth hacking workshops. Here, I operationally helped set up growth experiments. I found it surprising to see that established companies were less well organised than I had initially expected. For instance, fearing reputational damage, they found it difficult to test concepts quickly.
What I found most instructive about the workshops were the financial metrics. Dutch companies are not quick to spend a lot of money on marketing. I learned that it can definitely be worth the money, especially if you can estimate in advance how much revenue you will get in return. Using Lifetime Value (LTV) and Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC), you can calculate exactly how much you can spend on marketing costs. The best ratio to grow exponentially as an organisation is 3:1 (LTV:CAC), which causes a cycle in which you can easily accelerate as an organisation.
Two weeks after the first growth hacking workshop, a pre-accelerator began with other participants. In the pre-accelerator, startups validate their business model to then build their business. This programme goes
With my own startup Jopper, I had already gone through a pre-accelerator (PreXLR), so I expected to remember all the material. This turned out not to be the case. I understood the basics of the programme, but certain definitions were no longer clear to me. Then I tend to be more passive, which makes it harder to understand things. Because I was struggling with this, Maarten gave me the opportunity to get personal coaching sessions from Kees Blok and Floris van der Lee.
In these sessions, I learned to be more confident in my shoes. By stepping forward more often in the pre-accelerator, I ended up daring to ask for more. This made me less afraid to make mistakes, and learn more. I also worked with them on discovering my personal ambitions. I looked with them at the most impactful stories of my life and then clarified in one sentence what I get out of bed for every day: I want to use my love for other people to make them feel safe.
Besides the valuable coaching sessions from Kees and Floris, it was extraordinary to see what kind of success can come out of such a pre-accelerator. One startup, for example, managed to sign dozens of €200-a-month letters of intent without having a product. They managed to do this because the programme allowed them to understand the customer so well that the promise matched their needs perfectly. Because the startup had these letters of intent in place, it was easy to raise an investment. I was amazed at how well and disciplined the founder of this startup had gone through the programme, even though he himself was sceptical about his achievement.
After the pre-accelerator, I also helped with an innovation project at a corporate. Although this was incredibly interesting, I regularly ran into myself. By making high demands on myself, I caused feelings of guilt about the things that didn’t work out. I had an increasing tendency not to complete my tasks and avoid all kinds of things. Fortunately, I was able to discuss this, which helped me change my approach. Even though you cannot completely change your behaviour in one go, during my internship I made many steps in the right direction.
Not only did my internship give me a better idea of where my qualities and pitfalls lie, I also know better who I am and what I can do. I also gained a lot of knowledge about growth hacking and the Lean Startup methodology, among other things. As a result, I now understand a lot better how to set up an innovative company, which is exactly what I wanted to learn. Finally, I think it is important to thank Maarten for the opportunities I got as an intern at BW Ventures. It was a great period! 🙂
Click here to download my final grade (8.5) including feedback from Maarten (in Dutch)