Corporate to a startup

From Corporate to a startup, my first 100 days

Let it go. Refresh, rethink, transform. Interesting wording in today’s economy. I believe, as many others, we are in a major shift. During last summer, the most important question to myself was: “Am I willing and able to comply to this new world of (digital) transformation or will I stay sitting comfortable in Corporate Environments?”

During my career, I worked for major software companies like Exact Software and Microsoft, and lastly six years in Telecommunications at Ziggo, part of Liberty Global International. Massive organizations, with great possibilities for personal development and growth. I learned a ton and I am deeply grateful for all the lessons I learned. At the same time, I realized 2 important things. First, I always had been building business successes with (for me) common prerequisites in place: Opex to run great campaigns, Capex to build cool products, money to develop and grow employees, etc. And second, I had become that guy that talks about customers in internal meetings, not so much talking with customers… the distance to the actual market, with real customers, had increased the more I climbed the corporate ladder.

While considering my next career move, most of my friends and most executive recruiters advised me to join another established software or telecommunications corporate. There are many opportunities out there. But I stretched myself to think beyond that possibility, to let go and jump into the unknown. Surprisingly the opportunity reached out to me. An early business connection called me and asked me if I would be interested to join a start-up called Dynasource, obviously ‘a startup with endless potential’. As almost of them have, but ‘this one is really gonna make it’.

What would I lose and what would I gain in this move to a start-up? I have always tried to be as entrepreneurial as possible within the big corporates. Growing businesses fast and driving volume. Trying to get things done in complex internal environments. I sometimes phrased it at home like: ‘Today I’m going to the battlefield again’. Fighting for priority, fighting to get my products out, fighting against thousands of forms to fill in, fighting against a massive KPI-set, fighting against a schedule up to 13 meetings a day. But I loved to do so, with a big smile, since my work felt like my hobby and was rewarding at the same time. Rewarding in terms of personal development and growth, rewarding in building high performing teams with great team spirit, but also in terms of salary, bonuses, retirement plans, and not to mention comfortably driving luxurious lease cars for 22 years.

So, easy to stay in this world, right? At the same time, I continued to challenge myself. To move out of my comfort zone of corporate life into this start-up world. The world is resetting, corporates look jealously to startups. Even in the press articles came across that if you are not an entrepreneur in the startup business you start becoming a looser! Reimagining and rethinking business models, driven by the endless possibilities of technology. Yes, I decided to jump and give it a shot. Goodbye lease car, good bye salary benefits, good bye big budgets, hello startup here I come.

So 100 days ago after I had my breakfast I didn’t jump into my lease car: I took my bike to the train station and commuted by public transportation to our Amsterdam office. I learned to get an electronic ticket the ‘ OV-Chipcard’ , which was a totally new experience for me. And: taking a train in The Netherlands is pretty ok. It even has strong Wi-Fi.

During my first day at Dynasource I met the total organization over a coffee. The number of employees in our organization is less than half the number of employees I had in my team at Ziggo Zakelijk.

Starting to team up and learn. Who are you, why do you like working here, what are we doing, do we do it the right way, what would you like to change immediately, how does our proposition look like, what sales and marketing do we run, what KPI’s have we set, and many more. Starting to get a sense of the ideas and plans.

Two weeks after I joined we had an offsite, which was a great opportunity to get to know each other, learn about the dreams, the crazy ideas, the plans. A great group of people, and at the same time I discovered I could help them with my corporate background.

I quickly decided to bring in more rhythm and structure. I felt a little lost not steering on actual data, as I was used to for years at corporates. Since in my opinion it’s about data and increasingly about big data. Goodbye gutfeel, hello data again. Starting weekly standing to inform everybody of the team. Weekly KPI reporting to see if we are making progress, but not a massive list of KPI’s. An agile roadmap process everybody understands, weekly recurring campaigns, webinars. So, using my experience to accelerate.

And new again is DIY, or Do It Yourself, like I did in my early years of my career. No secretaries, no expensive vendors, no big teams to let them produce all kinds of presentations with loads of slides. Back to basics again. And that’s fun, especially with a fun team. I always believed in the value of being capable of keeping overview and at the same time being able to drill down to the nitty gritty detail. That is what keeps me on track right now. Learning again to even go deeper. Actually, scrolling again through i.e. Google Analytics, instead of getting the reports. Talking to customers instead of getting reports, and so on. Finding out things yourself instead of having somebody to fix it for you. I am pretty sure this makes me even stronger than before.

Unleashing creativity driven by (almost) zero-budget marketing. Understanding again that not everything needs to be outsourced or produced by vendors. It’s fun again to create things yourself. Directly seeing the result of a quickly decided action. That’s cool.

And yes, sometimes I miss the great team I had, the big events and gatherings. The ease of having a big team which produced a lot of great stuff. The budgets which enabled us to have a big impact.

But now I am building capabilities and successes off the ground. Which is great fun as well, with lots of learnings and challenges. And successes! I am excited about my decision to join Dynasource a marketplace for sharing talent and expertise among (Microsoft) IT Businesses in our technology exploding world. As we like to call it; the Airbnb of IT professional services. We are growing, and I am reinventing myself.

Up to the next 100 days.

Tim Wolff | Chief Marketing Officer


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