Visdeal Dutch eCommerce Project
This is an interview with its founder and CEO, Willem Bontrup, who managed to develop his project from an eCommerce startup built with Anadea’s SaaS website builder to a large-scale eCommerce company with potential of becoming an eCommerce leader in the European fishing tackle market. Visdeal has been Anadea’s customer since 2011.
Willem, we’d love to learn the story behind Visdeal coming from the founder. How did you come up with the business idea? What was your “aha moment”?
We started Visdeal about 10 years ago. It was back in the days when sites like Groupon (a website with shop deals, discounts & coupons provided by a subscription) were quite famous. We were looking for something like doing a daily deal site within niche traffic of SOMETHING, to be honest.
That's how successful eCommerce business stories begin
Does it mean that you didn't plan to sell specifically fishing tackle?
No, I've never fished before. It is more like a common company thought, “Okay, this could be an interesting market.” We were doing some other businesses, some small startups, ideas that have done quite well, and then we decided that it would be interesting to do something like Groupon webshop in a niche fishing market. So then we were looking for software and Getsocio was the perfect solution for us in those days because we hardly needed any money, we could start within no time and start selling products.
You mentioned you are not a fisherman but you chose a fishing market. How did you UNDERSTAND that this market is great and can provide an opportunity for you to grow, build a business?
It was more of a gut feeling. What you can do is investigate a lot or you can just start. We did the last thing, so it was not difficult to understand that you have more and more stuff to buy as a fisherman because there are so many items. It's unbelievable. We have about 25,000 items in the warehouse. It surprises me a lot. So it was also a kind of lucky shot. The investment was also quite low: we got Getsocio, which was around 50$ a month and some commission, it was an easy startup for us. It surprises me a lot how much stuff we have got and that people buy all of it. They only say “A fisherman never blames himself, but he blames the products”, so this is the reason they buy, buy, and buy.
This is a great story. We believed that you are a passionate fisherman.
No, no, it’s funny. I started it with my twin brother and he never fished also. I think at the moment, we have 80-90 people working here and almost everyone is a fisherman, so we focus on it a lot. Sometimes, I go fishing with them, and I love being in nature, but fishing is not my cup of tea.
What were your first steps - from idea to its implementation?
Those were days when I contacted Max (Maxim Romaschenko, the CEO and co-founder of Anadea), and I also did a lot of things myself. The idea was to collect many email addresses, so we had all kinds of ways to make our company more famous on the Internet by Google, by Social like Facebook and that was going quite well. It was growing bigger and bigger.
Anadea’s project team was helping me out a lot. We’ve had a lot of contacts, we had a lot of ideas and then we were getting bigger, bigger and bigger.
When and how did you understand that it's time to enhance your current solution?
I think after 2 years or something I contacted Max and said “This is not going to work” because Getsocio is a great tool but we needed so many more options than I asked Maxim, “We have to change something, but we like the way you work and our cooperation has gone quite well." From that moment we changed it to a new custom-based system. Anadea’s project team was helping me out a lot. We’ve had a lot of contacts, we had a lot of ideas and then we were getting bigger, bigger and bigger.
And that’s how eCommerce success stories go on
We stopped everything and agreed that we were going to completely focus on the market, in the end, to become the number one eCommerce engine shop of Europe, that was an idea. 2-3 years ago I was the guy responsible for technical cooperation with you guys, and then Jeroen took it over, and he is much better than me, he is focused and he is doing a really good job with you, guys. I am very happy with our cooperation.
Normally, many people ask “How many software engineers do you have? Who is doing development?” and we say “We've been working almost 10 years with Anadea.” This is long for a relationship in this kind of outsourcing. So far, this is going really well.
We've been working almost 10 years with Anadea. This is long for a relationship in this kind of outsourcing. So far, this is going really well.
What is something special about Visdeal that you are proud of? What in your opinion is the key to success in your business?
I think we have a lot of focus on customer service, we help our customers to the max. We have a good team, I found out in the end that the team is the most important for the company. Also, with you guys and with our own marketing team, customer service, buyers, in the end, they create a company, that’s for me the most important thing.
And the fact that we are growing so fast is interesting, I like it. I thought about it a lot and I simply like it. It’s quite a big market in Europe, there is a lot to win. We started in Italy 3 weeks ago, and within 3 weeks we will start to develop in Spain, we will add more and more countries.
Jeroen is sharing with us some details about buying new warehouses, packaging machines, and the team is inspired by this because they see not only the technical side of this but also the business side, how it is growing.
It's good that he shares it. For example, now, we will also buy a machine that will make it possible to automatically pack orders, so it is a machine that will be able to pack about 500 orders in 1 hour, which is a great addition to warehouse tooling. We will get it close to the end of September, so it will be possible to ship faster.
By the way, what about the COVID thing and the necessity of isolation? We assume that Visdeal has managed to benefit from the COVID situation.
Yes, it was very good for Visdeal because many people had to stay at home, but fishing was an option. So we had immense growth and on the other hand, e-commerce has grown as well, so on both sides, we were lucky. We had an advantage in this one. A COVID thing was a changemaker for us, we were doing quite well already, but then we suddenly moved up much faster. Some people say that e-commerce made a move up of 1-5 years in 1 year. I don’t know about the numbers, but I can imagine we did a great job with e-commerce.
What kind of challenges did you meet during this explosive growth?
Yes, we had enormous challenges in the warehouse because people had to work, I think within 3-4 months we had around 40 new guys and girls. Mainly because we have a lot of people, who work for example 10 hours or 20 hours or 40 hours, so a lot of people were added to the company. That's interesting but the problem is that so many new people are not that good for the company because after that we made a much better selection.
In the beginning, we said “Come on, come on, you have two hands, you can help us”, but now we have a much better staff selection to prevent situations when there are a lot of people who are not that good for a company in the warehouse. Now it's much better.
Also, we had a lot of issues with parcel companies, who deliver our products to our customers. They were so busy that sometimes, we couldn’t send all orders on the same day, so we had delays. Now it is going better again.
When you think of Anadea, what kind of feeling do you have? Describe Anadea in 3 words.
(laughs) By the way, it’s a great question. Let me think for a while. Reliable. Professional. And just nice guys.
What are your future business plans? What country goes next?
Spain will be next in 3 weeks. Ireland, and then we think about Nordic countries like Norway, Finland, and Sweden, especially Sweden will be interesting.
For us, outsourcing was a very good idea. It is really difficult to find a good developer here in the Netherlands and everywhere.
Maybe you have some advice for young entrepreneurs and people who would love to start working with outsourcing?
For us, it was a very good idea. The good thing is that you can easily scale. It is really difficult to find a good developer here in the Netherlands and everywhere, you never know who is a good software developer, you never know.
People can say a lot of things about themselves. And this is with you guys, you know and understand that you need to give us the best ones. You have very good developers. It helps us to not choose wrong ones because you already selected ones for us. That helps a lot.
We are excited to hear your idea and we are always open to discuss it! Tell us a bit more about you and the project you have in mind.
Send us your request for proposal, and we'll reply with the estimate.
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