entrepreneurshipEelke Boezeman, Daan Weddepohl, Ieteke Schouten en Jonas Matser
photo by Margot de Heide


By external blogger Daan Weddepohl of Peerby.com, runner-up in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2012.

If you think a great business idea comes into existence overnight, think again. For Peerby.com the road from an early idea to being a finalist in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge was one that took more than a year, a fair amount of money, a great team, the help of a lot of bright people and continuous hard work. Luckily there's a lot of help available for starting entrepreneurs. Let me tell you about the path Peerby took.

Get some help
There's no better way to develop your plan than by talking to bright people. In our case a great place to meet these people was at the Founder Institute and Rockstart Accelerator. Both are organisations that support entrepreneurs in developing a good idea into an awesome company. The Founder Institute is a global early-stage startup accelerator with chapters all over the world. They help you to move fast. Within 4 months you'll turn your idea into an actual company. Rockstart Accelerator is the Amsterdam based accelerator that took us from prototype to actually launching our product. They offer funding, a mentor network, office space, workshops and a trip to Silicon Valley within a 200 day pressure cooker. I believe that we couldn't have done what we've done without these programs.

Don't get turned down by negative remarks. I remember that at the first night of the Founder Institute most of the plans, including Peerby were disregarded as impossible. "That's the worst plan I've ever heard", one of the mentors said. Don't stop. Instead use the feedback to improve your idea. Now that Peerby is out there, it turns out that it wasn't so impossible after all. What was very important for our success is that we shaped Peerby to be unique. Worldwide there are at least 20 companies trying to create a peer to peer rental platform, but Peerby is the only one that actively creates supply by asking around in your neighborhood. What may sound like a subtle difference at first is actualy a major game changer when it comes to the dynamics of our market place.

A great team
There's not a lot of stuff you can achieve on your own, except being lonely. Finding great people that share your passion can be quite a challenge. Create a big vision that inspires people to join your cause. For Peerby it took a couple of months before the founding team was complete. So start looking and start talking early on and don't settle for second best. I first met my co-founders at the Founder Institute, but it wasn't until months later that I realised we could be a great team. Take into account that your company evolves and that people's circumstances change. One day things can suddenly fall into place. Our interview process went like this: work together for a day, go to the pub and have a drink or two or three or four, meet for dinner the next day to meet each other's better halves. You'll be spending a lot of time together, so you better find out if things are working out early on.

Getting to know people and inspiring them is not just important for finding a team. It's also what will help you to finance your idea. Our first money came from a government grant (AgenschapNL). The Dutch government has special programs to stimulate innovation. One of them is called IPC (Innovation Performance Contract) that stimulates innovative projects and exchanging knowledge with other companies. At first we thought it would take a lot of time and energy, but in the end it only took writing a short project plan and we received € 30.000 to develop our first prototype. Later on DOEN Foundation and they helped us to fund our first pilots. DOEN foundation ecourages sustainable, social and new economy initiatives with funding. The fact that Peerby connects people within neighborhoods was a reason for them to help us with funding. Look around and you may find out that there are more ways to get your company funded than you thought.

Green Challenge
We first heard about the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge from our accountant Ronald. He sent us a link to the website, asking us if we shouldn't participate. It was quite a bit of work to provide all the information that the registration form asks for. Luckily we had already prepared a lot of that in advance as part of the Founder Institute and Rockstart. A couple of weeks went by and we almost had forgot about the fact that we were participating when we suddenly received a phonecall. We were selected to be one of the six finalists! Check out the video's on greenchallenge.info to see what happened in Amsterdam at the semi-finals and later in New York during the finals!

Dream Big
Who would have dared to dream that this simple little plan would take us to halfway across the globe? Who would have thought that it would develop into a plan that could impact CO2-emission on a global scale? Who would have thought that we'd be riding limousines and get addressed by presidents? Start dreaming your dream, start dreaming big and shape it into a reality by taking it step by step. And don't forget to sign up for next year's Postcode Lottery Green Challenge!