Looking back: What I learned in 2013


One of the things I like best about blogging is to write down experiences. By writing things down, I learn from them once more. As such, I could not pass on the opportunity to reflect on some of the things I learned the past year. Some learnings are more personal, some are more professional. Being a founder I’ve never really been able to separate the two anyway. So why start today? I hope that some of my learnings are useful for you too.

Mind your cashflow.

I’m not a firm believer that having a lot of money makes you happy. But I’ve also learned this year that too little money most definitely makes you unhappy. Hitting rock bottom on a monthly basis makes for quite some stress. Much more than I expected when starting out as an entrepreneur. In addition, you give up bandwidth for long(er) term projects because you’re too worried about short term (financial) survival. I actually read a great post (in Dutch) about this in which the author explains why poor people tend to make foolish decisions. Great insight, which I believe is very much true.

Ignoring the news is bliss.

There still seem to be people out there who think you learn something from the news. Unless you’re a day trader, I don’t think you learn anything truly beneficial from watching the news in continuous flow. I actually believe that following news might be pretty bad for you. For me the news has become just another remedy to the lifestyle disease called boredom. And I’ve found that digging for deeper interests is a much better solution against it. Since the end of 2012, I’ve started to read some incredible fantasy books and picked up playing Magic the Gathering once again. It has surprised me how much joy this has given me so far. What I particularly like about developing interests in the hobby sphere is how it allows for a certain peace of mind. It gives you stuff to daydream about. In a sense, I believe that hobbies are very similar to the function of meditation for many people. Both in meditation and hobbies you try to reach a common goal: A flow of happiness. So if this kind of stuff is on your bucket list for 2014, pursuing new interests is definitely something I would recommend.

Don’t forget to enjoy the here and now.

I noticed how my parents had in some aspects mixed feelings about 2013. Several of their friends and acquaintances from the same generation are suffering from deteriorating health. Despite that both are currently in good health, the feeling of time running out has become much more real for them. I can completely imagine though how hard it must be is when you feel like time is running out for you. This state of mind was strengthened for me when a former housemate passed away out of the blue this summer. It taught me to fully enjoy the here and now. Life can elude you before you know it. Enjoy the moment while it lasts and don’t regret it when it’s gone. One of my hopes for the year is that my parents and their friends will pick up where they left off two years ago and find the strength and fortune to embrace life once more.

Dance monkey, dance.

In March this year we launched our product at a publicly listed company here in the Netherlands. For me it has been a very positive lesson that there are still cool corporates out there willing to work with scrappy startups. Unfortunately though, I’ve also learned they are very rare. Too often I’ve found myself doing our stupid monkey dance in front of a room filled with middle-management with zero authority. Especially when you’re delivering your sales pitch to groups of 5-10 people, you know you’re fucked: Pitches for such large groups tend to go nowhere.

If you’re a startup founder looking to do b2b sales this year, I wouldn’t recommend you to focus solely on large corporates. Even if you’re successful, the full cycle can easily take up 12 months or more. This is usually time your startup doesn’t have. Instead, focus on signing up five small or medium sized businesses. I think it will take far less time than fighting your way through five management layers at a large corporate. One thing I know for sure: By spreading your chances, your stupid monkey dance is far less likely to have been in vain.

Embrace, don’t segregate.

A short while ago, I wrote a very critical post about a specific journalist on this blog. Although at the time it felt like the right thing to do, I’m not so sure in hindsight. The world is too small to make enemies, and this is not the way to make it a better place. It was a valuable lesson for me when the person I criticised proved to be the better man, by responding to my post. A post that was character assassination only and not constructive in any way. A brave thing to do that definitely deservers a mention here.

Stay agile. Keep learning.

I’m a person who enjoys the comforting idea that you can just learn yourself a trick and hit repeat. And its not just me. It’s how the modern resume works. Because you’ve successfully pulled a trick before, people qualify you to do it successfully again. Of course there’s truth in the reasoning that capability increases with experience. But I also learned there’s a risk in sticking to your good old trick too often. You can easily get trapped into your comfort zone. If you’re not careful, there’s a good chance that your trick eventually becomes outdated.


My key takeaway from this is: There is never just one way to get things done. It’s the true beauty of creativity and the essence of entrepreneurship. It’s what technology really is all about: Doing things better then we used to do them. Despite how much you love or hate how certain things go today, they’ll probably be done much different 10 years from now. I find this to be a very encouraging thought.

Wrapping up.

So these were some of my important learnings this year. To conclude, I’d like to give a special thanks to a number of people for making 2013 great:

I wish you all a fantastic 2014. Make it count.


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