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
Cost is a big one here. In regards to total transportation costs, the last mile comprises up to 53% of those - making it the least efficient part of the supply chain. Expectations of free shipping and next day deliveries add up to this.
Due to increasing digitalization and convenience services in every area of people's lives, the smooth and flawless process of getting the delivery to one's doorstep is exceedingly becoming what customers care most about. On top of that, for companies that package being delivered is an extension of their brand. The consumer is basically coming face-to-face with the brand, which makes it the biggest opportunity to heighten customer satisfaction.
If you live in a city and have even slightly observed your urban surroundings you’ve probably witnessed it first hand - urban congestion and crowded cities make it pretty tough to satisfy the growing demand and rising expectations of super quick deliveries. Add unpredictability in transit (like weather conditions), an incorrect address or remote locations, just to name a few, and you can see where this is going.
The worst part is, all those delivery trucks and vans that also produce a fair bit of emissions, are often only half full when they roll out for deliveries. This is mostly due to low drop sizes and stops along the route that are far and few between.
It’s not all hopeless though - Where there is a problem, there are solutions.
Same old, same old - isn’t always all that bad. Sometimes, all that’s needed are some new perspectives! The city of Utrecht, for example, implemented a zero-emissions electric barge nicknamed the “Beer Boat”.
Since 2010 it’s carrying beer and food to the city’s downtown restaurants by using waterways. Other electric barges in Amsterdam not only deliver but even collect organic waste, which is then turned into biofuel in processing plants! Isn’t that cool?
It becomes clear that cities, logistics, as well as urban planners, are equally part of solving the inefficiency of the last-mile. Tackling this mountain of issues calls for teamwork!
A centralized platform, hub or network for similar companies, could do the trick to fill up the delivery vans & trucks that are barely loaded. Parcels could be distributed more efficiently between different companies and their delivery vehicles.
Like a big pool of parcels from different companies with every single parcel going into that one van with the same route!
Delivery Driver Experience and Smart Delivery Vehicles are also areas with huge potential for improvement and innovation.
Ellie: Two years ago we adopted a new legal structure for Jolocom GmbH according to the purpose model of ownership, manifesting our commitment and dedication to building a self-sovereign organization. That means we can’t take VC funding or sell public shares of the company.
Volker: Jolocom is a community driven organisation – both in a tech sense but also much further beyond. We’re hugely involved in the DWeb community where we organize and attend events for the decentralized community. Every year we also help organize and attend the DWeb Camp in San Francisco, which brings together all kinds of creatives so this technology of tomorrow is built in a collaborative way.
Next to that on-demand experiences have become firmly embedded into people’s everyday lives - be it a mobile app to book a ride, send flowers to your loved ones or order lunch to your office. It’s all possible and has made premium features like real-time tracking a standard. The online consumer expects nothing less and certainly doesn’t like to wait.
Making that quick and instant gratification happen is another story though. Groundbreaking ideas and innovations are needed to tackle all these factors. Does your startup have one?
Volker: There is this really nice place, called Green Rabbit with salads and baked potatoes where I like to go to. Sometimes I just keep it simple and go to Lidl.
Ellie: I eat a lot in west.berlin cafe which is here around the corner and I love the Matcha Lattes from Starbucks.