Marco Aarnink founder and CEO of Drukwerkdeal.nl is the winner of the Loey Award 2014. The most prestigious annual Dutch award for the best online entrepreneur of the year was handed out Wednesday evening. The winners of the best Starters Award across five different online categories were: Marten Blankesteijn of Blendle, Lars van Wieren of Starred (Tech), Fabian Dudek of Nestpick (Marketing & Media), Zoran Kovacevic of Studygrasp (education) and Martine Rooth of Fysiovoorjou.nl (e-health).
The Loey Awards is the annual Dutch ‘Oscars’ for the country’s online industry. It’s the venue where the ‘Who is Who’ of the Dutch online industry comes together to celebrate the accomplishments of the best online entrepreneur and to commemorate the newcomers with the Loey Starters award. It was initiated in 2010 by venture capitalists Van den Ende & Deitmers and Peak Capital.
The Loey Awards provides a platform for online entrepreneurs that grow fast, innovate and inspire, said Patrick Kerssemakers, CEO of the e-commerce company FonQ.nl and chairman of the awards. “It’s also a ceremony to celebrate those who have the courage to start something new and beautiful and encourage others to start their own online company or work in the online industry.”
The story of Marco Aarnink is fascinating. As a student he sold curtains on a Dutch street market. His boss asked him to build a website for his shop and business cards with which he could promote the website. At that time, in 2005, the market price of a 500-pack business cards averaged well above €100. Not understanding why business cards should be so expensive Aarnink set out on a quest to find the cheapest ones. His search ended with a partner in Germany that delivered it for only €30. But the delivery time was six weeks. This experience laid the kernel for drukwerkdeal.nl. He was sure it could be done better, cheaper, faster. Fast forward to 2014 Aarnink’s company is one of the largest online suppliers of printed and promotional products. Staying at the helm of the company for the coming years Aarnink recently sold his company for €24 million to Vistaprint.
Corinne Vigreux, co-founder of TomTom and jury member, said that the jury looked for an entrepreneur that has a vision for the future, but is also be able to lead and innovate. ‘[Aarnink] is a very inspiring person’, she said. Daniel Ropers, CEO of Bol.com and chairman of the jury said that it was privilege to hand out the Loey Award to Aarnink. ‘He is a fantastic ambassador for online entrepreneurship in the Netherlands’ he said.
On stage, Aarnink talked about the many things that contributed to the success of his company. The focus on the human element was maybe the most important one. “Being kind to customers and laughing a lot with your team and employees is key”, he said. Drukwerkdeal.nl is famous for its great customer service in the Netherlands, like Zappos is in the USA.
It’s this same relentless focus on customer value that contributed to the success of the now multibillion dollar online booking platform Booking.com said Kees Koolen, it’s founder. As the guest of honor of the event Koolen was interviewed by radio anchorman and Startupbootcamp Global co-founder, Ruud Hendriks.
Koolen, now a prominent investor in the transportation company Uber, said that it’s important to do one thing really good. In the case of Booking.com that was booking hotels online, withstanding the temptation to develop new products and services. Continuing Koolen asks rhetorically: “Why should you launch new and different products if there is still a lot of room left for improvement and expansion to new markets.”
Startup Juncture asked Koolen what his investment criteria are. Koolen said that the business should first of all ‘solve a pain.’ At the same time you should think about how you’re going to earn money with your solution. And you should be prepared to work hard. Koolen: “If your competing at the top, everybody is very talented. The one that is prepared to work hard wins. We want to invest in people that want to do that.”
Marco Aarnink has proved that he has business insight, the vision and determination to disrupt a traditional market. Just 28, it won’t be a big surprise if he shows up again in the limelight and on the Dutch stage of business innovators. Luckily Aarnink thinks the same. Aarnink: The day after I sold drukwerkdeal.com I was thinking about my next business venture and to innovate and lead. I can’t wait.”
Banner photo: Loey Awards