“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb
The founders of Skèmpi, Gino Jacobs (27) and Boudino de Jong (26), are kindred in their passion for entrepreneurship, technology, music and Curaçao. Long-time friends, each was working on other startups when they decided to collaborate on Skèmpi, a (now) popular online music streaming service for Dutch Caribbean music.
Jacobs and De Jong are friends, business partners and mentors to each other and consider themselves lucky; research has proven that strong teamwork leads to better decisions, products, and/or services. Quality of teamwork tends to be measured in 6 components of collaboration: communication, coordination, balance, mutual support, effort, and cohesion. These two men score high marks on all 6 components. De Jong admits: “I tend to be hard to reach… but I talk to Gino every day.”
I decided to dig into this ‘productive bromance’ some more…
The majority of startups fail… What keeps you motivated?
De Jong: “We’re confident that we have a winning formula here. 110%. It’s just a matter of execution. We’re starting to create some meaningful impact. We have 20K+ songs in database, most entirely unique on the internet, we’re now finally reaching the point where we can index these songs, so Google crawlers can find our content. Very important for discovery. Once that project is completed we’ll be able to grow our user base at a faster rate.”
Jacobs: “We knew it would take time to become profitable. Hey, it took Facebook 500 million users to become profitable. We enjoy a good challenge.”
What have you learned from each other?
De Jong: “Gino has taught me how to work more efficiently. In so many ways. One example: my emails tend to be elaborate — filled with pictures, graphs, quotes — whereas his are concise and to-the-point. There’s a time and a place for each; he makes fun of me when I drag and I call him out when he’s too curt. (…) He’s aggressive and very determined… sometimes he pushes me completely out of my comfort zone… which is a good thing… but sometimes I keep us in check.”
What’s Gino’s greatest strength?
De Jong: “Persuasion. He really knows how to sell Skèmpi. In fact, he even sold ME on Skèmpi at first… you should see the powerpoint deck he put together! [chuckles].”
What’s Boudino’s greatest strength?
Jacobs: “Boudino is very skilled at building trust, he just has that human touch. Those emails he sends might take 2 hours to draft [time that I don’t have], but they’re invaluable in motivating the team, communicating a clear common vision, making us feel good about what we’re doing, giving ownership. Boudino is a dreamer, he dreams big. I’m the aggressive sales guy, I enjoy executing.”
What are some of your personal challenges?
De Jong: “I’ve got lots of balls in the air: I’m working on my thesis, I’m working on Skèmpi, I’m working on my other startup Profound Projects… I’m constantly strapped for time, so I tend to get 5-6 hours of sleep. I’ve considered dropping things. But then if Richard Branson and all these other guys can manage, I should be able to manage too. Gino is a big inspiration, because he’s doing the same.”
Jacobs: “My big thing is speed. I’m always on fire, try to do things as fast as possible. But I have to accept that other people don’t always function at my fast pace. I’m trying to practice patience, slow down. So that others can follow along. Sometimes it’s OK to sit back and let things manifest themselves at their own pace. Too much speed could lead to pressure on others, unhealthy pressure. It has to stay fun.”
What are some of the challenges facing Skèmpi right now?
De Jong: “Skèmpi is a fun, but very expensive hobby; the money we make from our branding partners doesn’t fully cover our server and infrastructure costs. So we self-fund and work for free. [Jacobs has a full-time job at a local insurance company Extura, De Jong gets by through his web hosting business Profound Projects] We barter for marketing to create exposure. We lost our Head Developer earlier this year to a full-time job with a better, stable salary.”
Jacobs: “The number of pats on the back we get from people who should be willing to invest isn’t commensurate with the funding we receive. People tend to say: ‘you’re doing an amazing job, but you don’t hear ‘yes, we want to invest!’”
De Jong: “Every setback we consider motivation… an opportunity to find solutions. We have an official partnership with YouTube so all our music videos are being monetized through pre-roll ads. The first music video from Curaçao to break 1M views was in our network (Tony Montana Music’s Bala); we’re trying to create the Vevo of Caribbean music… We’re looking into partnership with iTunes to sell music… We’re creating new revenue sources that we hadn’t even thought of… it’s all very promising.”
Good luck guys, we’re certainly rooting for you!