The “WHY” of your company

Want to build a better business? Focus on the "why you do what you do" part of your company.

Funs Jacobs knows branding and startups like none other. As he calls it: Branding is the most underutilized power that almost all startups overlook.

Funs comes from the entertainment industry and that makes his take on companies and the formation of companies fresh and unorthodox. The following insights are based on a conversation we had a few weeks back.

Back to the conversation I had with Funs

We were at the launch of the new Call of Duty WW2.
The event was nice but we could not keep ourselves from talking business, branding, and startups.

So the story went from great subject to subject until Funs told me about a young company from a girl he helped at the University of Amsterdam.

The girl had a small direct to consumer company that sold shoelaces. Her proposition was crystal clear; “We sell recycled shoelaces made from plastic in fun bright colors.”
Sounds like a cool idea with some decent potential I thought.
It’s good for the environment I thought and that is potentially why she positioned herself the following way: Buy our shoelaces and help save the environment, help save the planet.

I told Funs I thought it could be a hit but he disagreed. At first, I did not understand why he did not think the company would do good.

Let me explain why he thought the company would not do great in its current state: The mission is decent he said and the “save the planet” vibe is oke but it will not take the company to the stratosphere.

So why not, I asked.

And that is when he blew me away with his fresh insight:
At first, people will buy the shoe laces and they will feel like they have contributed to a cleaner earth. When they do their marketing, launch, and PR correct they could get a major spike in sales he told me, but after the first initial spike in sales, it’s over for them…

Why I asked, and he said it’s simple.

People will contribute and buy their first pair of laces possible but they will not buy a second or a third pair that quickly. It’s basic psychology. In their minds, they have made an effort and they made a contribution by buying a pair of colorful shoelaces. So why would they buy another of your pair? They will not because they already contributed to buying the first pair. The consumer lacks the need to keep on purchasing. Their incentive is met from the single purchase.

I was astonished by this insight because it is so true. Why would I buy a second or a third pair I asked myself when I already got the dopamine shot in my brain after buying the first pair. It makes a lot of sense.

So how do you fix this paradox I asked Funs and he told me the following:

It’s because the “WHY” is not strong enough. The WHY of a company he explained to me is based on the talk from Simon Sinek. The “why you do what you do” as a company is the most important factor for people to buy your product.

Saving the planet is good for a one time purchase. You as a consumer did your contribution and now you can go on to the next thing. But when the WHY is in check, people will come back and buy your product over and over.
Funs always tells me this is why he keeps on buying an iPhone even know he knows about a phone with better specs. It’s because Apple has it’s WHY on point. The reason they do what they do is in check.

You might be thinking, is the girl and her laces company doomed? Hell no! In fact, he helped her to reposition her companies “WHY” in the 15-minute session they had together. And to this day she is still working from the WHY perspective they constructed together.

What is her why?

He looked at her product: Recycled shoelaces in many bright colors. After asking her about her product he came to the conclusion that only a rebel is not satisfied with the shoelaces they get with a pair of shoes they buy in the store.

A true rebel chooses her/his own shoelaces. A rebel does not take their shoelaces they get for granted.

To me, the be a rebel approach sounded like a bold claim based on guesswork. But this was not the case. He made a compelling argument based on his own experience when his younger brother came to Amsterdam to visit him over the weekend.

In his words:

“When my little brother, 15 years old from a small town in the Netherland called Venlo, came to Amsterdam to hang out with me for the weekend I noticed something. The whole weekend he kept on bugging me if we could go to this specific fashion store. So oke, I went with him to the store expecting him to buy a cool shirt or a pair of sneakers but this was not the case. Once we were there he bought himself a bandana… A freaking bandana. I almost starting laughing, why would you buy that I asked him? It’s not that you are going to wear this to school right, you’re joking right I asked my brother?
Oh hell yeah I’m going to wear this to school he responded. He didn’t care what his cool brother, who is 12-years older than him and lives in the “cool, big city” Amsterdam, thought. These kids, like my little brother, do what they want and buy/wear what they want. This generation takes pride in being unique, being a rebel, an icon, someone that wants to take risks and be themselves.”

But he made another valid point:

“Consumer buying trends are moving away from the massive, corporate companies with their bloated marketing budgets. People don’t want their lives controlled by mega cooperations with billions of money to ensure their target groups do what they want them to do. This fact and the story of my little bro gave me the insight to come up with the answer for the shoelaces company. Why should we wear the shoelaces that Nike or Adidas decide for us, the standard shoelaces that come with the shoes we want. I (me, the rebel) want to decide which shoelaces I wear, that’s not up to the major companies.”


And just like that, I was convinced, being a REBEL is cool these days.


Long story long

In 15 minutes they changed the whole wording of the company: Why should you be happy with the standard shoelaces you get? Our company empowers our customers to make their own choices. We empower you to be yourself. BOOM. I was amazed.

From a simple colorful shoelace, they made a product that empowers rebels to be themselves and to not take the status quo for granted.

So they repositioned to the rebel millennial target audience and the positioned their product in a way that it would attract early adopters and first movers in the fashion industry. Very smart if you ask me.


Every product or company can get it’s WHY is check. It’s just a matter of some fresh insights and some clever thinking.

Do not be that startup that overlooks branding and thinks it’s something for large corporates and direct to consumer brands. Even you can come up with a strong message. Funs understands this and knows how to get this out of a founder.

I hope to learn many more insights on branding and positioning from Funs in the future.

Good luck and take a look at your own WHY.
Why do you do what you do?

What to think of when pitching your company: Your Crowd

How these beliefs came about

I see pitching as a sales-channel. For our Company Parkeagle Jan (our CEO) and I do a lot of pitching. That is because we’ve noticed that pitching brings us a substantial amount of new customers. Still to this day (our company is quite young, but still), pitching has been seen as the most efficient way for bringing in new clientele. Currently, we are at a conversion rate of 1/3. For every three events we pitch at, we convert one medium sized client. Now you growth hackers tell me that is not a decent hit-rate.

So to be clear, for me, pitching is a must have utility in your toolkit as an entrepreneur in the age we live in. Anyone that argues that knowing how to pitching is not necessary is either a lemming or just has no ff’ing clue what it’s like to sell something. That is why I try to perfect the art of speaking, on stage presence, body

That is why I try to perfect the art of speaking, on-stage presence, body language, and slides. So how do you develop a skill? I did so by adding two principles together. The first principle is from Josh Waitskin: “Always try to separate the micro from the macro.” The second is from Timothy Ferris, who says: “Everything can be deconstructed.”

Both principles, in general, mean the same. Can you find the smallest denominator when looking at the pitch as a stack of micro skills? Well, I think you can.

In recent months I have spent some time thinking about my pitching process and the macro and the micro when it comes to pitching. It took me some time to produce some basic written text on my thoughts. Below you can find the results.  Some might seem obvious but most of them I consider as real nuggets. Have a look and tell me what you think of them.

Over the coming days, I will put out some posts on the macros and micros of pitching. Some of these might seem obvious but most of them I consider as real nuggets. Have a look and tell me what you think of them. This weeks nugget/trivial/awesome piece of information is about preparation and the art of knowing your crowd. Preparing for a particular audience will let you own 9/10 others when doing your pitch.

Below this article, you’ll be able to see a pitch I did for our companies at the Smart City StartupBootcamp DemoDay.

Know your crowd

The one who is prepared, has a higher likelyhood of survival, it’s just that simple. You want to be the strongest startup in the jungle, so fucking prepare.

Before even writing down a single word in your pitch script it’s key to understand who’s in front of you when doing your pitch. Writing your pitch for the wrong audience will make you fail hard. So spend some time to think about who those people are you will be standing in front of. 90% of people won’t do so which makes you come ahead before you’ve even stood on a stage plus you’ll perform better than nine out of ten other founders on stage.

For me, there are only four types of crowds you come across.

  • The customer crowd (Where more than 60% is made up of potential customers)
  • The investor crowd(Where more than 30% is made up of potential customers)
  • The media crowd (Where more than 20% of people are in the position to spread your message across. Comprised of journalists, influencers, bloggers, you name it)
  • The blended crowd  (This is a mixed crowd. Or this is a crowd where you’re not really sure what time of defined crowd it might be. No worries, this is perfectly fine and something you can prepare for.)

Like I said above, sometimes your audience in the room is a combination of some or all of the above. And sometimes it’s only one group. It doesn’t really matter.

Your pitch is always constructed and build for the ears of one of the three categories. That means you need three different types of pitches. Never try to hit the likes of all of them, you will fail. Pick one and stick with it.

But what if you have a blended crowd?

Then you pick on of the three. Just think for 1 minute and try to think of the people that will show up to the event. Are those people likely to be customers, investors or news spreaders? See, just ask yourself the simple question and you’ll know which pitch to pick from your arsenal.

If you’re still having troubles picking one of the three, think of the following reasons why you should focus on only one of the three types of crowds.

  • The customer: This is a sales pitch. This pitch is constructed around a premise that your product, service or solution is going to bring relief or take away a problem for your audience.
    So why would you want a pitch like this in your repertoire of pitches? I can think of many reasons, but here some of the obvious ones: 1) You need to sell your product to validate your business model; 2) You need to grow your customer base; 3) You need to collect product feedback; 4) Or you just need to boost your revenue to keep investors happy. Once you know why you’ll be able to craft a strong call to action at the end of your pitch. Later, more on the call-to-action.
  • The investor: This is a semi-sales pitch. But what you’re selling here is not your product, no, it’s your company. You’re selling your vision, team, the growing/virgin market you guys operate etc..
    Again, why would you want a pitch like this in your portfolio? 1) You are not selling enough of your product and therefore you need investor cash to keep your business afloat, or you need to get capital to expand into a bigger section of your respected market.
  • The media: This is a pitch where you sell your story. People do not like facts; they like stories. They like stories because they want to be like the people in the stories, they want to get inspired by those people in the stories. Tell an inspiring, awesome, unique, funny story and people will share it.
    Why would you need a pitch for the media? Well, everyone can build a great product these days. Those golden days of Just build something amazing and they will come are over. These days, building a company requires cold harder sniper style niche marketing. Yup, that is a lot of growth hacking buzz words, shame on me I guess. But hey, just believe me. You don’t want to be that founder that blew all his money on the product without thinking about a launching strategy or marketing strategy. So here are some simple reasons why you need a pitch for the media: 1) You are launching a new product/feature/addon/side-project; 2) You’re celebrating a big win; 3) You’re trying to grow your organic reach; 4) You need to strengthen your market position by showing off etc..

So as you can see, it’s kind of obvious why should have all of those different types of pitches in your pitching pouch. Just pick one and construct your story in a way that suits this group. But keep in mind some basic rules:

  1. The customer: The number one rule when talking to customers is this:
    Try to connect with your audience, get on their level, make yourself look like them and be human, with human issues and problems. Spell out their pains and talk about the problems your product solves for them.So make your product the number one solution for them. How?

    1. Talk about the benefits of your product.
    2. Talk about the experience others had with your product.
    3. Talk about your best features and why people use it.
    4. Talk about the emotions people feel when using your product. People buy stuff based on emotions. You as a pitcher need to get those emotional juices going within your audience.
    5. Very importantly, you need them to trust you. They are handing you their hard earned dollar bills for a product that might not even be live yet. So understand trust and know what trust feels like, so you can be trusted.
  2. The investor: These folks want to know your business, so tell them about your business. But don’t forget that the investor also needs a snapshot of your pitch to potenital customers. You need to get the investors excited about your product before they can become excited about your company. So make a destilled version of your customer pitch and add that to the beginning of your investor pitch.How to convince an investor of your awesome business?
    1. Tell them about the people who build the business and why they will be the ones to make this business a success. Also tell them about your failures and why you have learned from this
    2. Tell them how you are going to make money for them. Explain to them how this will make a great return for them. Make this explanation as easy as possible. Literally, I know everyone says it, but construct in way that your grandmother would understand you in an instant. She needs to think: “Ah yeah, that sound complicated, but completely obvious.”
    3. A good rule of thumbs is this: We sell X product for a price of Y and we do this 20 times a week which gives us a total top revenue of Z, now give us your money!
    4. Tell them about the size of your market. Always paint this piece of the story in a way where it looks as if your market is GROWING FAST. Most Investors have a medical condition called FOMO (stupid joke, i know), so use this. Make them feel like they might miss the train in this market if they don’t jump on your steam train.
    5. Tell them how you have validated your business model. This proves to them that you’re not just making up funny numbers, prices and market sizes. By showing them some validation and the beginning of some traction you make their mind come to rest.
    6. MOST IMPORTANT SENTENCE :To wrap it all up, you need to be able to say it like this: We make money by selling product A to customer B for a price of C in a market size as large as D from which we will take E% within F years doing a G strategy. A-B-C is your business model D-E-F is your target market and finally, G shows them your go to market or selling strategy. I know a guy that received his companies funding of more than 500k by saying the above sentence at a gala to an investor. Learn the above sentence by heart!
    7. I know I spell it out like it’s no big deal, but it’s not. In the end, every investor reacts differently and likes different types of exaggerations, some even hate it when you make stuff bloated. Coming across different personalities is what makes doing business fun, plus you’ll learn from it. Raising money is hard, don’t give up!
  3. The media: The one thing the media guys and the rest have in common is that they sit there solely for themselves. The customer wants to solve his/her problem, and the investor wants to make a return and be the guys that invested in a unicorn. The same counts for the media folks. These guys are sitting in the audience for the following: They don’t care about your business model. They just want to make more add revenue on their blogs, get more likes on their posts, retweets or hearts; it does not matter. So basically they achieve this, they need you to tell them a compelling story, which their readers will like, easy said and done right, not really. So stick to the rules below to make it a little simpler for yourself.
    1. Remember, you’re telling a story, so make it personal. Make it relatable. Tell them about your highs and your lows. The media just want to hear you telling them how you came from the gutter and built something amazing from your parent’s garage.
    2. Read some blogs about entrepreneurship. Collect the stories you like the most and look for commonalities and patterns. What do they have in common that you can use yourself? Is it the structure, the flow, the personality, the character, the unique circumstances the entrepreneur was in? Use this treasure-trove of information on the web to construct your story.
    3. And lastly, give away your product to the media guys for free. Let them use it, make them love it. Once they love your product, they will write about it. Most of the time those tech bloggers/influencers got huge by writing about the stuff the love the most: tech. So make it simple for them, just make them love your product.


Let’s wrap it up

  • Thinking about who’s going to be in front of you is something which is underestimated and underutilized, use the laziness of other to your advantage and get pitching.
  • Every entrepreneur needs at least three pitches in his/her repertoire.
  • These pitches should be made for the potential customer, the investor and the media influencer/blogger/journalist.
  • Tell the customer about your problem and what problem it solves for them and why others love your product too. Tell the investor in the one killer sentence how you are going to make them filthy rich. And tell media guys a story their audiences would love to read; those guys just want to generate more ad revenues, plain and simple.
  • Be real and work your but off! Good luck.

Bonus material:

A pitch I did some time back.