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Dutch startup Ensie wants to be an alternative for Wikipedia

Ensie is an encyclopedia based on authorship, a feature that its biggest competitor lacks. Where Wikipedia is a place that condenses all the internet’s knowledge into one article per subject, Ensie offers knowledge in the form of definitions written by non-anonymous authors. StartupJuncture interviewed founder Bart Welzen.

Several years ago, Bart Welzen and Tom Welzen, two brothers from the southern province of Limburg, got the idea for a new kind of internet encyclopedia. In 2013, Paul Aelen (founder of iProspect, Dutchcowboys and Yellowbag) joined the project as a mentor and things got a lot more serious. The name Ensie was derived from the name of the first Dutch encyclopedia, E.N.S.I.E., published in 1946. At the moment, Ensie is based in Nijmegen.

Ensie as an alternative for Wikipedia

Ensie logo first letter

Ensie wants to be an alternative for Wikipedia. “What we missed in Wikipedia, is a way to see who has written the information on a certain subject”, explains one of the Welzen brothers. “An article is often made up of information gathered from all over the internet, but it can be hard to assess the value of that information.”

Ensie authors are using their LinkedIn profile to log in. “So it’s always clear who the author is. We also encourage people to write definitions on existing subjects. Eventually, the author’s history, the number of views and the rating of a definition contribute to the ranking of a subject in the search results. This can help the reader decide what the value of the information is”, says Welzen.

A definition is limited to 300 words, making Ensie ‘articles’ look quite similar to the original paper-based encyclopedia that inspired them. How to include complex subjects in this format? Welzen: “Authors can build ‘ensies’, or mini-encyclopedias, that contain a collection of definitions. Using ensies, it’s possible to write about complex subjects without cluttering the main definition. Even with the rather limited 300-word space that’s available for each definition.”

The business model

Where Wikipedia is a not-for-profit foundation, which constantly needs money from benefactors to keep running, Ensie uses a more commercial approach. Welzen: “Knowledge is power, people say. We however believe that this power is more in the sharing of knowledge. Using Ensie, people can share their knowledge. And by doing so they can benefit from having their name attached to it. See it as a form of personal branding: resulting in more traffic than a personal blog would get.”

Companies can do the same, ranging from big ones like Coca-Cola or Amnesty International to entrepreneurs and startups. “Every company has unique knowledge that’s worth sharing with the world”, says Welzen. “We offer several packages for companies, that will enable them to use Ensie as a showcase of their knowledge, while generating positive attention for their products.”

Bootstrapping and growth

Welzen also talked about the funding of Ensie’s and his plans for the future: “We have been using our own money to fund Ensie from the start and we plan to keep on doing that. We want to expand Ensie.nl as a brand in The Netherlands first, and increase our numbers of unique visitors . The moment we are ready to expand Ensie.com and go global with an English-language version, is probably also the moment when we need extra funding.”

Photo by Pieter van Marion (creative commons via Flickr)

Joffrey Mandersloot
Joffrey is a freelance writer and editor for startupjuncture, with a background in biology and environmental studies.

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