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
In addition to the betahaus locations, we've formed a close relationship with some of the world's best coworking spaces. With your betahaus membership, you can work from any of our partner spaces for 1 day per month.
Republikken // Copenhagen, Denmark // Vesterbrogade 26, 1620 København V, Denmark
Le Laptop // Paris, France // 6 Rue Arthur Rozier, 75019 Paris, France
utopic_US // Madrid, Spain // Calle de la Colegiata, 9, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Nest 71 // Saravejo, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Milana Preloga 12, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Toolbox // Milan, Italy // Via Agostino da Montefeltro, 2, 10134 Torino, Italy
Edspace // London, England // Block D, Hackney Community College, Falkirk St, London, UK
Bios // Athens, Greece // Pireos 84, Athina 104 35, Greece
CoWorx // Kristiansand, Norway // Markens Gate 8, 4611 Kristiansand, Norway
CRU – Loja / Cowork // Porto, Portugal // Rua do Rosário 211, 4050-524 Porto, Portugal
SPARK // Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Bleiburških žrtava, Mostar 88000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
StartUp Armenia Foundation // Yerevan, Armenia // 0019, 1 Marshal Baghramyan Ave, Yerevan 0019, Armenia
Tøyen Startup Village // Oslo, Norway // Hagegata 23, 0653 Oslo, Norway
Smart Coworking // Prague, Czech Republic // Václavské nám. 806/62, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
Lighthouse // Tel Aviv, Israel // HaHaroshet 14-16 Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Isreal
Fueled // New York City, USA // 11, 568 Broadway, FL 11, New York, NY 10012, United States **Maximum 3 Days
Capital Factory // Austin, USA // 701 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701, United States
Público // Mexico City, Mexico // Puebla 403, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Area Tres // Buenos Aires, Argentina // El Salvador: El Salvador 5218, C1414BPV CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina // Soho: Malabia 1720, C1414DMJ CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
HubBOG // Bogota, Colombia // Cl. 98 #18-71, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
CIT // Taipei, Taiwan // 10452, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongshan District, 玉門街1號
Of10 // Mumbai, India // Prudential, Ground Floor, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400076, India
Kibar // Jakarta, Indonesia // Jl. Prof. Moh. Yamin No.1, RT.7/RW.5, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10310, Indonesia
Midori.so // Tokyo, Japan // Midori.so Nakameguro: 3 Chome-3-11 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0042, Japan // Midori.so Nagatacho: 2 Chome-5 Hirakawachō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 102-0093 // Midori.so2: 3 Chome-13 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 107-0062, Japan
Launchgarage Innovation Hub // Manila, Philippines // Level 2, Industria Mall, Circulo Verde, Calle Industria, Bagumbayan, Quezon City, 1110 Metro Manila, Philippines
Independent Studios // Melbourne, Australia // 39/40 Porter St, Prahran VIC 3181, Australia
Urban Station EGYPT // Cairo, Egypt // 2 Wadi El Nil Mohandeseen, Cairo, Egypt
Nairobi Garage // Nairobi, Kenya // Nairobi Garage, The Mirage, Chiromo Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
BONUS: Cowork & Relax at the Coliving Space, Coconat // Brandenburg, Germany // Klein Glien 25 14806 Bad Belzig, Germany // Get €10 off your stay
Toni: Currently, we’ve somehow ended up in this niche of building a lot of internal tools for startups and teams. But this is not the only thing we want to do. What I like about it is that we’re starting projects from scratch and we have full control over them.
Martin: The first project we worked on was a tool for a large scale real estate development company. What they needed was a tool for their Sales people - to be able to mark their different spots and locations at different stages of the sales funnel. So we created a tool that helps them in this process.
Toni: And this one actually served as a starting point for the tool we’ve developed for betahaus, which aims to allow the Sales and Management team to see which team rooms are occupied right now, which ones are free or will be occupied in a few weeks or months, so no double bookings appear.
Alex: These two projects were more focused on real estate, let’s say, but we’ve also done more design-heavy projects like the one we did for Artique which is an online artists agency. For them, we built a whole website and an online system to present their artists starting only from their logo. It had to be very flexible, because the artists needed to be able to edit their own profiles, putting their resume, changing colours.
Toni: Honestly, we have skillsets that you don’t usually find in developers. Because we've had lives that were not just about computer science. I think to some extent this is what makes us different.
Martin: I believe one of the reasons why people pick us over other studios is because it can be very hard working with developers. If you’re not understanding their work, if the communication is not flowing, you, as a client can feel lost. We're easy to communicate with and we’re always open to feedback and we're open to discuss anything. In the end, after all iterations, if you say we need to start the website from scratch and that you don’t like the idea, we won’t take it personally.
Alex: Also, I think, since we all work as coding teachers, we are officially qualified to explain what coding is to people who don't code, which is actually really rare because a lot of developers, as Martin says, don't want to, or literally just don't know how to articulate what they're doing. Whereas we are trained in articulating what it is that we're doing, why it's meaningful and why it takes a certain amount of time.
Alex: Zimt & Mehl - the Turkish bakery around the corner. It’s just soo good.
Martin: Oh, there is this Italian restaurant called Ristorante del Arte
Tony: Oh, my God, this place is so funny. It looks like a pretty average Italian restaurant, but the whole interior design inside is just decorated in such a weird way. The entire place is covered in frescoes. They have crystal chandeliers and Easter bunnies. Some Greek columns. It has a different name on the menu, on the side and on the Internet. And it was an ex-shoe-store.
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