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The struggle with a not-for-profit startup

Sometimes you have to make difficult choices running a startup. Maurice Kroon, CEO and co-founder of Amsterdam based Yippie!, found out the hard way when he worked on two previous startups, a not-for-profit one and a non-profit one.

Maurice’s first company was Studentify, a not-for-profit startup that helped integrate foreign students. It combined experiences from other foreign students to give practical guides and it offered them tutoring jobs. Things went well, but Maurice and his team struggled to scale.

The founder thinks it was not a technical issue that was the problem. “We even focused on tech too much. It was a lack of internal communications that killed us. We were very laid back, our company culture wasn’t really about communicating.”

But the most valuable lesson learned was about commitment. “All not-for-profits have this so called double agenda: needing to making money to support ourselves and the actual ideal itself. I just really wanted to help my foreign friends here. Eventually I needed to let Studentify go”, he says.

Non-profit

With the intent to fully focus on non-profit instead, together with former team member Peter Koszta, he started Giv.rs, a “bit.ly for charities”. Still around, Giv.rs offers an url-shortener with advertisements of a cause of your choice. It was completely free.

Still, every month charities subscribe to Giv.rs. “It was too much work, and we did it for free. And, as it appears, charities still have a lot of money.” Maurice realized that sooner or later, he would get the same double agenda problem. “Screw non-profit, we are going to make money now”, he said. Enter Yippie!.

Yippie

Yippie!, officially launched today, is a browser add-on that notices when a product you want to buy online is cheaper somewhere else. The online shopping assistant idea isn’t new, but Maurice thinks their focus on personalization will outcompete competitors like American startup ShopGenius, Ciuvo from Austria and Bang5Tao from China. “We don’t sell the user’s data and we don’t retarget the customer later on either. We think that’s more fair towards the customers”, Maurice says.

By not ‘stuffing cookies’, there’s a chance that someone goes to a cheaper website without being sent by Yippie! (in this case, that means missing out on a 4 percent fee on average), but Maurice thinks it will help the consumer and webshop to trust his startup. Some might call it ‘being too nice’, and a double agenda might occur again, but Maurice believe it’s this long term thinking that will get him to make money with Yippie!

The startup is making progress very fast. Started building in April 2013, Yippie! now compares prices from over 2100 webshops in the Netherlands. At the moment, the startup is looking for a 200.000 euro (275.000 dollar) seed investment, mainly for marketing, then servers. The entrepreneur has big plans after that: “Scaling is a push of a button. Next, an international outroll.”

Luckily for Maurice, he isn’t afraid of making mistakes again. “I just want users to get a kick out of every penny they save.”

 
Photo by Pieter van Marion (creative commons via Flickr)

Lorenz van Gool
Lorenz is co-editor-in-chief of StartupJuncture. As a freelance editor and journalist, he writes about startups, innovation and (e)-business. Loves to report from conferences. Really likes cleantech and journalism startups. You can ask him anything about dinosaurs. Twitter: @lorenzroman

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