Nov 302015

30% of my life spent working already... Time flies when you're plodding along...

30% of my life spent working already… Time flies when you’re plodding along…

On the 1st of December 2005 I started my first full-time job.

Tomorrow that will be exactly 10 years ago.

10 years of doing more-or-less the same thing; building quantitative models for financial institutions. First as consultant, then internally with a bank and finally as a freelancer (oh and there was a year in between for travel as well).

Ten years represents a big investment. And I’ve gotten to be quite good at what I do (as I should; 8 hours per day, 250 days per year, comes down to some 20,000 hours, enough to become a master twice over (according to Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers)). Yes, every new assignment, every model will have its own specific difficulties and challenges, but they still tend to be of the same type (““No I don’t know why that data point is missing…” and ”I need that analysis now!”). And I’m recognized as being good at this, at least if I consider what companies are willing to pay for a few hours of my time.

Now I’m considering moving away from all of this.

Does that mean that a 10 year investment is lost, wasted?

I most certainly won’t be spending my time trying to predict fraud losses anymore (I sincerely hope!). So yes, a lot of the specifics I won’t be using again.

I do believe however that a lot of the generalities are transferrable; people skills, self-confidence, project management, time management, people management (just not risk management!). In that sense it’s like picking up a new language: The more you already know the easier it becomes; ”Ah, this word is just like that other word in English. And this grammatical construction is similar to the one in Swahili!”

Secondly, it’s much easier to learn something new than it is to learn more of the old. There are guidebooks, people you can ask, websites to help you get from level 0 to level 1 for just about everything, but to get from level 9 to 10 you need to make your own mistakes and solve the problems the hard way.

If I keep up this rhythm I can have four careers in the normal allotment of 40 working years. Not sure whether that makes me happy or sad…
So for me doing something new after 10 years seems like a very logical step. Yes, I’ll be losing the very nice income I’ve been enjoying over the past few years. But money and luxery are a very inefficient way to happiness. Experiences and challenge are far more worthwhile (for me at least).

10 years. I had fun. I learned a lot.

Now it’s time for something new.

Have you made any radical changes in your life? How did that work out? Were they worth it?

Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Nov 282015

Are you a born entrepreneur or would you be happier as a freelancer?

Are you a born entrepreneur or would you be happier as a freelancer?

Should I give up the relative security of being a freelancer and launch my own startup? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the last few months.

Before making such a decision I thought it a good idea to think about what other possibilities there were; before becoming a freelancer I was a “normal” employee, giving three options already. After some reading I can add two more to the list: The entrepreneur and the solopreneur (I’ll get into what each means in a bit).

Which of these would work best for me? And which would work best for you?

First, what do the different options entail:

Employee: You work for a company and you are one of at least a few people doing so. You could be the janitor, a senior manager or anything in between. This might not be for life, but for the foreseeable future you can expect to get a pay-check every month.
Freelancer: You work for yourself, but you sell your hours to a company. If there is no assignment, you don’t get paid. In general you can compensate for this by asking more for an hour than you could as an employee.
Solopreneur: This is a concatenation between solo and . You have a company, but you work on it alone. You might outsource some work (e.g. production), but you don’t have anybody working for you directly. The big difference with a freelancer is that you sell a product and not your hours. If nobody’s buying, you’re not earning. On the other hand, if business is going well, you are not constrained by only being able to sell an hour once.

In a number of recent blog posts I’ve been talking about launching a startup. According to the definition above this would mean going for venture capital. That however is not specifically what I had in mind. It might be a good idea at some point, but maybe bootstrapping actually works equally well. Perhaps I should write about “starting a company”, but “startup” sounds so much more interesting…
Entrepreneur: Like the solopreneur, but with one or more employees. This means taking on additional responsibility (those people need to be able to buy food!) but it also increases how much can get done (and thus sold!) by orders of magnitude.
Startup founder: This is the high-risk, high-reward version of the entrepreneur. Using boat-loads of “other-people’s-money” (i.e. a venture capitalist’s) you attempt to capture a huge market. If it works, you’re rich, but the chances of this working are slim.

Of course there are overlaps between different options. Many people call themselves freelancers when they’re selling a product (e.g. a website). And any fledgling company could be called a startup without having to go for venture capital. For our purposes however we’ll stick to the outline above to make it clear what we’re talking about.

The next step is to select a number of dimensions on which to score the different options. I’ve chosen the following:
Safety: How likely are you to fail big-time, having to give up, perhaps sheepishly go back to what you were doing before?
Excitement: Will there be something new every day, lots of things happening, having to make choices in the blink of an eye?
Travel: Can you be off to explore the world, or do you have to stay at home to make sure that things continue ticking along?
Creativity: How much of your creativity can you unleash in your work?
Free time: Do you work 9-to-5 (or less) or is your work all-consuming?
Steady pay: Are you getting a pay-check every month, or are times of riches interspersed with times of going hand-to-mouth?
Potential upside: If things go really well, are you going to be slightly or massively better off?
Teamwork: Are you working alone or is the work inherently done together with other people?
Learning: How many new skills and how much knowledge will you be picking up over the course of time?

The following table gives an overview of how I scored the work styles on each of the different dimensions (using a 1 to 5 point scale):

Work-style values

A few notes on the values:
Travel: As an employee you are mostly limited by vacation days, whereas as an entrepreneur / startup founder it’s the sheer amount of work that needs to be done. A freelancer or solopreneur can decide to leave things be for at least a little bit (though obviously this will depend on circumstances).
Steady pay: Here the startup founder gets more points than the solopreneur and entrepreneur: If things go decently, you can get access to outside capital which means you start paying yourself without having to completely bootstrap the company to profitability (like the solopreneur or entrepreneur).

The last step is scoring yourself on each of the dimensions (1: not important, 5: very important).

Below are what I find important (left most table) my scores (center table) and how that ranks me for each of the different work styles (bottom table):

Work-style filled in

According to this, being an employee is the worst choice for me and being a solopreneur is almost as bad. The best choice is a startup founder, followed by being an entrepreneur.

If after testing yourself you are are convinced that you should be starting for yourself, maybe you should consider joining me?
If you’re interested in testing yourself, you can download this excel spreadsheet and fill in your own preferences (obviously this is for entertainment purposes only. Please don’t make any decisions based on an excel sheet you downloaded off of the internet!).

If you do, I would love it if you could post a comment on what came out for you.

Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Nov 222015

Of course that needs to be on fire. I think...

Of course that needs to be on fire. I think…

It’s 6 o’clock, the guests will be arriving in about an hour and I should have something on the table half an hour after that…

Setting up a business feels like cooking. There are a hundred things that need to happen; the mushrooms need to be chopped and a marketing plan needs to be written. Let the beef simmer in the pot for an hour while the product idea simmers in the back of my mind.

Cooking a dish isn’t that hard. You follow the recipe’s instructions (either from a book or in your head) and at the end of it, you’ll have something edible. Similarly, taking a single step towards a functioning corporation isn’t too difficult; read up customer interviews and go out and gather the required information.

Cooking a dinner however is a whole lot more difficult. When you’re trying to make 5 things, you need to think about the space on the stove and in the oven, whether you have enough bowls to keep chopped stuff in and most importantly, what to do when so that it’s all finished at the same time.

Start off by chopping the mushrooms and broccoli, but not the apples (they’ll be brown by the time you serve them). The lasagna can stay in the oven for 10 minutes longer if need be (or even 30), but the steak can’t stay in the pan for a minute too long. I’ll need the juice from the mushrooms to add to the sauce, so if I start frying them at the same time as I melt the butter, I should have that when I need it…

I’ve been cooking for 16 years now and some 4,000 hot meals later, I feel confident in my skills (which is not to say I don’t screw something up once and awhile…)

They say that the best way to learn is by making mistakes. I’m not entirely sure what the business mistake equivalent is of broccoli in chocolate sauce…
Launching a startup however is something I have extremely limited experience with… Becoming a freelancer taught me some stuff, but I’m sure it doesn’t start to scratch the surface of everything I’ll need to learn.

Each individual task in the process is quite doable, but when do you do what? Should I build a test product first so I have something to show, or should I talk to people first about what they think is required? Is this the right time to start on marketing or does it make more sense to wait until I have something to sell? Do I write a 20 page business plan or is it sufficient to have a half-pager with a very broad outline? Do I first find the people to found the business with or should I start the company and then find the people that match it?

And it gets worse.

When I’m making a meal I have quite a number of dishes I can choose from that I know have worked in the past; it’s perfectly acceptable to serve a golden oldie. For a business however you have to do at least something new to find any kind of market.

Like cooking, building a business is a skill set. I’m fresh into my second cooking class and I’ve got a lot to learn. The first try might not be particularly palatable and I might have to trash the results. But with some perseverance I’m sure I’ll eventually master this as well.

Bon appetit!

Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Nov 152015

A screenshot from the app we built

A screenshot from the app we built

At this moment I’m at Startup Weekend Utrecht. 54 hours to pitch ideas, form a team, validate your ideas, build a product and prove that you’ll be able to sell it.

I was freaking out about going here (read more here), but since getting here, I’ve been loving every moment.

It’s been hectic. It’s been tough. It’s been awesome. And I’m sure I learned more in these few days than I did in the full year before this. A few of the things I’ve picked up (and can still remember):

  • My pitch went well and I got a lot of positive feedback. But the number of votes that I got was quite low; I think my idea is good, but not concrete enough (a number of people asked “how are you going to do that?”
  • Not getting picked sucks, but you get over it fairly quickly.
  • Going to sleep after a day being bombarded with information and inputs is impossible. Staying asleep is as well.
  • I always thought that I needed my sleep to function, but I found that if I’m enthusiastic enough and am having enough fun, I can be productive on 4 hours of sleep.
  • Having said that, two of those nights completely screw up my short-term memory. I have lost my train of thoughts before, but never mid-sentence…
  • When I’m tired, I stop caring about things: “This press release isn’t perfecte, but just send it so I don’t have to deal with it anymore…”
  • Even in an environment of eager, enthusiastic and outgoing people, I’m the one who goes out and talks to everyone most.
  • Going out and talking to people in the street to get their opinions is far less scary than expected and can actually be fun!
  • Talk to people for a few minutes about a product that doesn’t exist and they will happily give you their email address to be kept up to date!
  • We make assumptions about everything! Where they concern your own life these are usually correct, but where it concerns others, they are mostly wrong.
  • Wrong assumptions (about what customers want) kill companies: “Awesome thing you built, but nobody’s buying it…”
  • Reading a book about something doesn’t come close to doing it in practice.
  • I’m too tired to fill in anything interesting or funny here. I’m sure you’ll forgive me…
  • It is really hard to find out what people actually want; they seem not to know it themselves.
  • Things get so much better with a great team! Being able to divvy up tasks, having people work on what they like and are good at, the ability to bounce ideas off of each other.
  • There is more that I don’t know than that I do know.
  • Moving forward under time pressure, when people are tired, is really hard. Everybody thinks their idea is best and it’s hard to continue to listen.
  • It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a very limited time with a group of dedicated people!
  • I thought I was a decent programmer, but compared to some of the guys here, I’m an absolute beginner.
  • Nerv guns are a great way to relieve some tension.

In all, an absolutely amazing weekend (and it’s not over yet)!

Looking forward to the final presentations, food and beer (and sleep)!

Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Nov 132015

Not entirely sure why trowing balls will be part of this...

Not entirely sure why trowing balls will be part of this…

I’m freaking out!

It feels as though I should be doing ten things at the same time, but I don’t know what those ten things are!

Yesterday I found out that this weekend there will be a “Startup Weekend” in Utrecht:

  • Pitch an idea for a startup (in all of 60 seconds!)
  • Indicate who you need to make that reality (designer? Developer?)
  • The group votes which ideas they think are best
  • Form teams around these ideas
  • Work on the idea you picked for a weekend
  • Present what you have by the end of it

I signed up. And now it’s freaking me out.

Should I really go? I had been planning a number of social things that I had been looking forward to a lot, can I just cancel those?

If I go, should I pitch my idea? If so, do I pitch my best idea and run the risk of it getting stolen, or do I go with something second tier, which I know will be less cool / convincing?

What if my idea doesn’t get picked?

What if my idea does get picked?!?

If other people work on it, will it still be my idea?


I realize that the actual risk is very low. Yes, my idea could get “stolen”, but I’d still be 100+ hours ahead in just thinking about it and doing preparation. That plus I have at least some funding laid out already. All in all this risk I judge to be very minor.

So why am I freaking out?

Because I don’t know what’s going to happen!

Maybe I should’ve worked for 10 years as an uncertainty manager instead of a risk manager? :-)
So far I’ve been sharing my ideas with people I know and trust and who care about me, with the firm knowledge that if they thought my ideas sucked, they’d at least be nice about it.

This however would be the first time to expose my thoughts (dreams!) to a broader audience. People who are not positively biased towards me. People who have to make a choice on what they’ll be working on, who will be voting with their feet, who will happily walk straight away from me if that’s what they think is best.

Which would be valuable feedback (just keep telling yourself that!)…


Launching a startup means diving into the deep end. Risks can be minimized, but uncertainty will be a constant companion. So I’d better get used to it…

Yes, I’ll go.
Yes, I’ll pitch.
Yes, it’ll be my best idea.

After that, there’s nothing to be done but seeing what will happen.

Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!