Nalden: Serial entrepreneur, investor, husband, and father of two
For many, he is known as a blogger, the founder of WeTransfer, and more recently also of Adelee, a messaging platform for bringing friends and families closer together. For himself, though, he goes with a different description: “Father of two; husband to one, founder and angel investor of some.”
Nalden is a Dutch entrepreneur, who has been using internet technology as his playground for over two decades now. He gained his online reputation with his blog, which he started at the age of 16. Since then, he has founded and exited WeTransfer, and is now committed to his latest venture.
Starting a business as a side project
Launching a new business often comes with a set of challenges and expectations, which immediately transforms it into a serious endeavor. And fair enough. Still, the approach that Nalden took at least twice in his life was to start something as a side project. Exhibit A: his blog.
“A good thing about playing with the Internet at the time was that it was similar to gaming,” he says. “It was building your own websites and participating in communities with similar interests, and blogging was a way of creating an outlet to share my enthusiasm. I think a side project is the best way to kickstart something because it’s a low threshold to hit “publish”, for example.”
While his blog was first and foremost a creative outlet, it was also a way for Nalden to learn more about technology, the internet, and building platforms. “I was studying Information Engineering, but I quit when I was 18,” he says, as even then “I was mostly doing my own thing. That manifested in my blog, which was my way of saying who I am and what I am interested in.”
This learning-by-doing approach is what has brought Nalden where he is today, and what he applies to every new project he gets involved in.
Similarly to his blog – and alongside it, WeTransfer also started as a side project. He had started experimenting with an advertising model on his blog first and then made it mainstream via WeTransfer. “To me it was my little world, my little laboratory of innovation. It gave me the confidence and freedom to just explore stuff.”
Curiously enough, Nalden had also met his co-founder through his blog, and this was one of many relationships he had built thanks to it.
Needless to say, building up WeTransfer has been a journey of its own. It kicked off in no time. “We knew we were onto something in the first month and we spent the next three years catching up with the growth. But that’s an anomaly,” Nalden says, “normally it doesn’t happen like that.”
Essentially, he adds, it is about getting to know what users really want and providing them with a seamless user experience. When a person sends something to a number of people and some of them like the download experience, they would try it as well. And that’s exactly what happened. WeTransfer downloaders quickly became uploaders, which is what led Nalden and his team to believe they were onto something.
“What is important to understand is that it is all about the user experience. Many companies still ask you to create an account before using the service. That’s not logical because you want to try something before you decide whether you want to continue using it.” This has always been and will continue to be the philosophy behind WeTransfer.
Learning the importance of having the right people by your side
Surely, starting a business as a side project has come with a number of benefits for Nalden and his growth as an entrepreneur. Still, a side project has its downsides, too.
When I started, I was so young and so many people became entrepreneurs in their twenties, and they just tried stuff,” Nalden says. “So, I tried stuff as well with an interesting project.” What he didn’t realize at the time was that as he was developing his project, he was also growing the team around him. But was that the right team?
“At WeTransfer, we had a lot of people issues in the team and I think that’s a problem for many startups. When you start a project or business, it is good to reflect for yourself: ‘Do I want to be with this person even for 5 minutes?’ If that isn’t the case, then you can’t be with them for 5 or 10 years.”
So, what he has learned from this is that “the sky is not the limit, people are. It’s the people that set the direction and make or don’t make the decisions.”
Over the years, Nalden has also learned a lot about himself, too. As a young and ambitious entrepreneur, he used to manifest himself through the work he did. Today, he shares a slightly different point of view. He sees himself first and foremost as a father to his children and as a person who cares deeply for the wellbeing of his family.
This commitment to building strong relationships with loved ones around him is what, in part, got him to launch his latest business venture, Adelee. As a video messenger, Adelee aims to help people communicate with their close family and friends. “There is no filter or anything, so you can send each other quick videos. I think that ‘snappiness’ is very refreshing, and we even hear from our users that they get to see moments and messages that they’ve never seen elsewhere.”
“This is the type of communication that we’re chasing and want to cultivate. It is not about showcasing how good of a husband or wife you are, or when your baby is born. It’s more about actually showing what you’re dealing with. Then you just share that with your close group of people.”
Nalden’s journey as an entrepreneur has followed a very clear path. His passion for technology has helped him create a number of influential platforms, while his personal growth over the years has led him to launch a service that matches his expertise and values. And in the end, that is what makes it all worthwhile.
Listen to the Up!Rotterdam podcast with Nalden below, or check all the episodes of the Up!Rotterdam podcast here.