Mark Noorlander started out working as a waiter in an hotel. While there, he learned a key lesson: if you lose touch with your customers you lose touch with your business. So he decided to take that lesson and head out on his own. After 10 years and a successful startup, he'd proven that focusing on customers was the key.
When blockchain came along he took the same principles and applied it to helping startups bulid the things they need. Flashboys is a blockchain development studio that's built solutions for the likes ofWizzle, Bondex, Referred By Me, AORA and Il Mio. Noorlander has personally advised around 100 ICO projects at the University of Bologna on blockchain technology. Below he explains how he's simple approach has lead to commercial success.
How did you first get into blockchain and the decentralized web?
Back in 2015, my business partner Walter Theon and I were looking at prediction models in sports betting and started exploring blockchain in some detail. We quickly realized the potential in this area, parked the sports prediction work, and set up as one of Europe’s first blockchain specialist studios.
When did you set up your company?
We set up the company in 2015.
What need does it serve?
We have a team of 20 developers based in Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina plus marketing and operations teams in Milan, Italy, Singapore and our HQ in Rotterdam. We are laser focused on all the technical aspects of blockchain technology solutions, offering services such as ICO development, smart contracts, and payment solutions. Our mission is to promote and support the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.
Did you know?
As a teenager, I was in the Dutch youth speed skating team.
Have you launched other companies before? What were they?
Personally, I have launched eight businesses including furniture rental, property letting, hospitality, and recruitment.
Can you give us a summary of your career thus far, how did you get here?
My first business came about when I was a waiter for one of Amsterdam’s most prestigious hotels. The company I worked for expanded very quickly and, I felt, they lost their touch as a business. I spotted the gap and launched my own offering when I was aged 20. After nine years, I went back to university to complete my degree in economics.
I spent two years in Turkey, working as a rep for 18-30 which was...eye-opening. We set up Flashboys in 2015, working on a number of blockchain projects including Big Data and artificial intelligence before launching our own flagship project, Wizzle.io--a bank-in-a-box solution for cryptocurrencies.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building a business in this space?
Recruiting good development talent--and then keeping them. Banja Luka is an amazing hub for development people but sadly, other companies are cottoning on to that. Sometimes at the Bosnian office, I am like an old lady chaperone, swatting away potential suitors for our top staff!
Of course, the wild and crazy times of 2018 in which cryptocurrency prices plummeted, has hit confidence in some clients and challenged our own cash flow. We also mine crypto but recently the cost of doing this has not been cost-effective so we stopped that as well.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given when it comes to being an entrepreneur in this space?
HODL your nerve. My marketing lead came up with that. She’s a genius. My true advice is to be data-driven, launch campaigns in a growth hacking style, use new tools to constantly measure and adjust to come up with the best results for your business.
What advice would you give to someone setting up a business in the decentralized web?
Budget three times as much as you think for running costs in the first year. Get a minimum 0% upfront on payments and take fiat or crypto only--no tokens.
What project or projects are you most excited about?
The most exciting app for me at this moment is called GetWet. It is an amazing decentralized customer engagement app using a tokenized reward based marketing approach. And it supports water use awareness.
What is (or what will be) blockchain’s ‘killer app’
The IL MIO World app is amazing, it proves the ownership of goods, and helps combat counterfeiting. I absolutely love this app and the technology behind it.
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