Journey to Entrepreneurship

Although I studied Architecture and worked as an Architect, fate has pushed me towards Entrepreneurship. As a kid I have always been intrigued by the internal workings of complex products. An childhood anecdote that I never get tired hearing is that a toy gift for me only lasted one day in its original form. The second day of playing around with the remote controlled firetruck toy I brought the hammer into play, because the shiny and bright colors of the exterior were just not cutting it for me. I needed to know “what is inside” the firetruck. What was hidden from my eyes that was keeping this structure together and what were its mechanics.¬† Once the hammer broke the exterior I always felt I had opened the gateway to something special. The wires and the chips inside the toy filled me with wonder.

I needed to know “what is inside” that made the product work!PK

Even though it makes sense that I should have pursued electrical engineering I found out in my teenage years that I had a sensibility for drawing and design. Architecture seemed to be the profession where complexity of design, structure, physics and technology meet and thus satisfy my inquiry nature and cravings for creativity. During my study I also found out that designing a building was more then putting a complex structure together that looks appealing. I got interested in the story behind architecture. The theoretical part of Architecture fascinated me even more then the representation of it. I felt again as if I was looking behind the curtain and trying to figure out the soul of buildings.

The Why is what mattered most. The rest was the result of the logical and sensible.PK

After graduation I started working as a Junior Architect at a firm in Amsterdam that was mostly known for its luxury villa’s and renovations of villa’s. Here I learned quickly how important it was to be interdisciplinary. As an Architect you are the key figure that keeps the technical, aesthetic and spatial integrity together at midst of working with up to ten parties who are pulling their way. Here I learned to coordinate projects¬† in environments with a large variety of players who all speak their language and have their own agenda.

Complexity requires interdisciplinary knowledge.PK

Due to the economic recession in the construction industry, after two years, I was let go. At the moment the market was flooded with laid off experienced Architects which made it harder to compete as a junior Architect. I decided to apply for a grant for my own Architectural firm. My innovative idea had struck a cord and I was granted the subsidy. I was happy that I could stay active in my field and keep educating myself in Architecture but also in Entrepreneurship. While looking for ways to promote my company in 2010 I decided to firstly build a brand and use the newly available online tools. I started reading books and studying online inbound marketing. This opened up the world of content marketing, social media marketing and all new available channels to funnel your target group towards your conversion machine. In 2011 I managed to have 19.000 Facebook followers and become active in 9 different platforms generating daily and weekly fresh content.

I was fascinated by using online for acquisition by efficiently funneling the target-group towards my preset conversion machine.PK

In 2012 an opportunity came along to work on a side project with one of my best friends (Babak Monfared) from high school. He needed the help with designing a new App for his company. I helped him with creating a design and to rethink the setup of the interface. We also had thorough discussions on how to bring this new App to the market. Having been doing self taught in inbound marketing and being eager to help he decided to bring me in at the company to work part time. It was a renowned printing company that existed for 300 years and they had an innovation department that was focusing in bringing this product to the market. The product was intended to connect print with online with the help of embedded watermarc  in print that a smartphone could recognize. Being a small staff of 3 people, I was responsible for designing and building the website, designing the interface of the App, devising and implementing a marketing strategy, producing and distributing content. Again I was juggling with a multitude of roles and studying om my time off to stay on top of the latest developments with regards to marketing, design and product development.

Working in a small team forced me to juggle with a multitude of roles and experience the inter-connectivityPK

October the 8th 2013, me and my two colleagues in the innovation department took the opportunity to have a management by-out and become and independent company. We had to built the whole product from the start! Final designs of the new App and new back-end had to be delivered to the developers within 3 weeks. All my previous experience had lead me to this moment and I was able to complete the interaction design of the whole platform within the deadline. I found out that the overseeing eye of an Architect with its multidisciplinary knowledge can be transferred to any profession. The 6 years after the start of the company my combination of knowledge of leading complex projects, having design sensitivity, being technical, focusing on marketing and commercial goals, have served me well.

Entrepreneurship is about a good mix of listening and leading, dealing with continuous setbacks while relentlessly chasing your north star. PK

During these years I have had the chance to work on my soft skills as well. It simply is not enough to be knowledgeable because you can accomplish things when you are able to inspire people around you to pile up their vision on top of yours. With CEE Platform I am learning new lessons every day. Most of them are punches in the face but they are no longer leading to bruises, they only let me know which direction to go.

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