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Ruud van der Weide is the founder of FingerSpitzenGefühl – an online marketing company that seeks to help Dutch e-commerce entrepreneurs expand their businesses into the German market. Based in Berlin, FSG uses the cultural similarities between the two countries as well as their mix of German and Dutch staff to ensure a successful relationship between Dutch e-commerce firms and German consumers.
1. How did you come up with the idea of FingerSpitzenGefühl?
I was already living in Berlin when I came up with the idea, and was doing similar work for some contacts back in the Netherlands. They knew I was living in Germany, and they needed someone here to help them with tasks such as finding local contacts or optimising their advertising campaigns. I began to see that there was a demand for this kind of work.
2. You work to ensure the successful expansion of Dutch e-commerce firms into the German market. Why is this important, and how can either side – both Dutch entrepreneurs and German consumers – benefit from this specific relationship?
All the companies I work for are already relatively successful in the Netherlands, and they all wish to enter the German market. The German market is about five times the size of the Dutch market, so there is plenty of potential there. My customers realize that, in order to do that, they would need local expertise, which is what I offer, and that’s the people in my team. The freelancers I work with are all German, and they bring their expertise to the table. Online marketing has a lot to do with language and culture, and that’s why we work specifically with German people.
3. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced along the way as a young startup?
One of the things I find is that a lot of people tend to view expanding into Germany as something easier than it is, when it is, in fact, quite a big step to take. So I need to convince my customers that they really have to know what they are doing and develop a cross-border strategy. That is the biggest challenge. It’s not just about translating a website, but also really thinking about who you are, what you are selling, who your customers are, and so on.
4. Why did you choose betahaus as your base? What do you like about betahaus, and what do you feel could be improved?
I was working at home in the beginning, and what I didn’t like about that was that there was no clear border between my private life and my work. So I looked for a place where I could go and work, and I found betahaus. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised. What I really like about the environment here is that I feel like I have an office I can go to, and I’m surrounded by entrepreneurially-minded people who are all working. I feel like we are really going somewhere as a company - even though we are just three people and a bunch of freelancers, we have all the facilities of a large office, and we are surrounded by a lot of people. What I like the most is all the different kinds of expertise you can find in all the people who work here.
5. What kind of advice would you give those who wish to create their own startup?
Worry about your financial planning from day one! Mind you, it’s not all about making money, but it’s good to keep a close eye on costs and revenues in the beginning, because it’s too easy to burn money very quickly at first, and then fall short later on.
6. What can we expect from FingerSpitzenGefühl in the future?
We hope to grow to a point where we can have anywhere between 15 and 20 customers, which is our major goal right now. I would like to work with a dedicated team of about 10 people, and really try to be successful when working with the customers we bring to Germany.
Interview conducted by Deepa Sury