All posts by matthijs02

A Real-Life Case From The Netherlands: Tutoring Platform

From the early days of my high school period, I wanted to start my own venture. In what industry did not matter. To me, it was all about innovation, changing the way things work. With great innovators; such as Bill Gates, Tony Hsieh and Elon Musk in my mind, I started to come up with ideas. Hundreds of too ambitious, but unrealistic ideas passed. Finally in my last year of high school, after multiple failed ideas, BijlesMatch was born: an online platform on which tutors and students could find each other (hence the name bijlesMATCH, bijles is dutch of tutoring). We wanted to add value by checking all tutors  on quality (teaching and social skills) before allowing them on our platform. After hours of fruitful discussions with a classmate, I knew how to execute this idea. I was determined to make something out of it, instead of making it another failed idea. My classmate wanted to join, I needed help, so we started this adventure together. An adventure that would still last 6 years later…

 Platform blueprint and development 

Initial blueprints of BijlesMatch platform

Knowing what to build, we still did not knew how to.  We started off with making a list of users-types and functions needed. In the end we constructed a flowchart in Microsoft Visio. The core of the platform became a database with introduction movies per tutor and a filter-function for customers to find the perfect match. We determined to do the designing ourselves and out-source the complex coding. Weeks of developing, a couple of thousand euros (for the complex coding) and five weeks of testing further, we finally had the result:

Database with tutors + filtersystem on website.
Back-end for tutors, customers and administrators.


Pilot and kick-off time
We determined to start in Groningen, The Netherlands (our home city). Our personal network was large in that city and knew where to go if we needed any help. The perfect place for us to realize our first venture. The first step was to recruit tutors via social media and word-to-mouth campaigns. It was our strategy to delay our kick-off until we could cover all high school courses with our tutors. Within one week, we received tens of applications; a positive sign of the abundance of students willing to  tutor. After many interviews, we added the best 18 to our database. Now, it was kick-off time!

Kick-off time!
For the first months, we received nothing but visitors. Our conversion rate was a disappointing 0.00%. We promoted our platform via Facebook, Google Adwords and flyers/posters on high schools. After thorough analysis of our user-data, we recognized that our sign-up page was too complex (exit-rate of 85% after 2 min. of visiting). In conjunction with our developer, we redesigned the sign-up page. It helped a bit, we managed to get a conversion rate of 0.7%, which we still considered to be extremely low. Hence, we lifted the improvement process a level higher: user-interviews. After multiple interactive reviews with customers, test-users and tutorsl we found three major issues:

  • Visitors dislike paying prior to received the contact-details of the tutor.
  • We hided contact information somewhere in the great depths of our website. Customers hate this.
  • People did not want to choose their own tutor, they wanted someone with experience to do this for them.

It became evident that if we wanted to turn BijlesMatch into a success, we really had to shift our focus: so we did.

Major Strategic Turnaround: customer-centric approach
The idea of a controlled platform on which students and tutors could find each other sounded great, but did not convert (at least not ours). Hence, we re-engineered our entire platform based on the three major issues mentioned above. We determined to put the customer central and do everything he/she wishes for:

  1. We deleted our core: the entire database and filter-system
    The idea of people selecting their own tutor sounded nice, but people did not utilized it. Instead, we solely placed a simple form to place a tutoring request. We promised it was entire free to place this request and that we would contact the potential customer within 24 hours.
  2. The prior register and payment steps were deleted.
    On the front-page our contact details were added. People could contact us at any time for a tutoring request. Moreover, we added a free trial tutoring session of an hour for new customers.
BijlesMatch FrontPage 2.0.
BijlesMatch FrontPage 2.0.

The result and what’s next?

Number of views on BijlesMatch till Jan. 2015
Number of views on BijlesMatch till Jan. 2015

In 28th of December 2014, the strategic turnaround was applied on our platform. Above our imaginations, we managed to increase our conversion rate with 357% to 5.1% in January 2015. The latter, in combination with a 200% increase of visitors, resulted in a profitable business model. Currently, we are in May 2015 and we already expanded to Rotterdam. Our conversions rates are going stable around 5% and have more than 70 tutors and 3 regional manager employed. BijlesMatch is currently recruiting tutors in Utrecht and Amsterdam for further expansion.

Lessons learned
The journey through idea-creation, execution, failing, redeveloping and succeeding taught us a lot. For us, the largest factors for a successful platform is: simplicity, customer-convenience, adaptability and constant (peer-) reviewing. Idea in theory and in practice differ a lot. We thought we put our customer central from the beginning, but actually we did the opposite. The main lessons we learned is:

“Stay open for failure and constant change!”

One of our introduction movies used on our initial platform:


1) Original webpage of BijlesMatch:
2) Google Analytics:
3) Click! Verleiding op het Internet, Aartjan van Erkel, 2015
4) Don’t make me think, Steve Krug, Second Edition.

How to sell, the things that sell, online?

One year after Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet in 1990, the American National Science Foundation allowed commercial activity via the web. The first registered webshop, De Pizzahut (a Dutch Pizza deliver company), went online in 1993. Two years later, from 1995, an enormous boom in online stores started (e.g. founding year of Ebay and Amazon). Now, we are more than 20 years later, but still too many webshop-owners do not know how to sell their products successfully online. Retailers fail to put their customer central on this web, are impolite and awkward. In this blog, I will give practical tips to become a great online retailer: enabling you to sell, the things that sell, online!

Shop-owners are impolite and sometimes even offending their customers online. This is mainly due to ignorance. Retailers are often solely educated for selling products is physical stores. Selling products online is an entire different world. However, certain rules can still be applied:  “The customer is king”, be polite towards your visitors, offer help proactively and ensure personal contact to let the customer feel comfortable to buy. In 4 basic practical tips, I will help you to translate these general rules to online practices.

  1. Never say Welcome!
    People visit your website with a certain action in mind, which is most of the time getting information or buying/downloading a product. Since a visitor want to act as quick as possible, you need to make all the space of your front-page as useful ass possible. Main questions you have to answer on your first page: What is this website for? and Why should I visit this website and not any other?amazon
  2. Add a Call to Action button.
    Visitors want solely one thing, and preferably very quick. Therefore, you should identify the main activity on your website (e.g. make an appointment or buy a products). On your front-page, you should add a large button (that stands out) with a link to your main activity. For example, Amazon want visitors to sign in as soon as possible, hence the button.
  3. Write readable pages with the internet-style.
    Traditional writing styles do not work on the internet: they are impersonal, have a wrong structure for the internet and has to long sentences. Visitors want to see the most important information at first. It frustrates people to get through an introduction or a too polite welcome-word. Hence, use short sentences, bullet points (easy to read), clear page-titles, bold highlighted words and hyperlinks (people like to click). As guideline you can use the story-telling style. People remind things better when text is accessible and personal.
  4. Cut the deal with a trustworthy page
    Your entire website should lead to the action-page: a form to sign up, a product to buy or a piece of information. Make sure that this action-page seems trustworthy, since this is the page where you want your customer to e.g. buy your product. Hence, show personal information, clear sentences, customer-reviews, logo’s of your partners and everything else that could make your customer feel comfortable to make the transaction.

The tips I gave in this blog are just about the basics. If you want to know more about how to make your webshop more effective, I recommend you to read the following book: “Don’t make me think by Steve Krug.” Moreover, you could visit for more information. The video below will also give you some more practical tips. If you want to track your progress, please ask your webmaster to install Google Analytics to monitor your improvement!


Free WordPress makes $45mil per year, but how?

With more than 74.6 million websites build on it, WordPress is the most used content management system(CMS) in the world. Of all self-hosted websites, 18.9% is build on WordPress and 70% does not work with a CMS. The guy behind this extremely successful system is Matthew Mullenweg and Mike Little. But they did not build all 30.000+ plugins, 100.000+ templates and uncountable custom widgets by themselves. Matthew and Mike co-created: they used the crowd to make their CMS an indispensable building-block in the world of internet. In this blog I will explain how WordPress is generating revenue by the use of its crowd (developers of plugins and themes).

WordPress was released on the 27th of may, 2003.  Back in the days, the internet was still a relatively new environment. Building a website demanded advanced skills in code-languages such as HTML and PHP, in working with hosting accounts and for a fancy webdesign with Adobe Photoshop. You can imagine that relatively a few early-adopters auto-didactically obtained these skills: NERDS. Matthew and Mike wanted to change this status quo. Their initial idea of WordPress was to lower the enormous threshold for normal (non-tech) people to build their own blog. Obviously, they succeeded. But thanks to thousands of developers, WordPress supports countless website-types next to blogs: regular business websites, webshops (WP E-Commerce), social media platforms (BuddyPress) and more.

Nowadays, WordPress itself is an open-source system, does not use any obligated advertisements and is free to download. Matthew and Mike apply four interesting business models on WordPress:

  1. Offering High-End Hosting
    WordPress offers space on the internet on their own servers. In addition, WordPress provides professional service for large multinationals. Customers are among others, CNN, TED, Dowjones, UPS and Taking a look on WordPress VIP Hosting, we see prices tarting at $15.000 dollar per month. So, one business model is based on a simple service provider.
  2. Premium Templates (Web-designs)
    If you build a website based on WordPress, it is not necessary anymore to design your entire webdesign yourself. WordPress offers many premium templates, which are easy to install yourself. One template costs approximately $50.
  3. Premium Accounts
    A wordpress blog is free, but extra space for media or a domain (.com/.nl etc) costs money.
  4. Google Advertisements (Google AdSense)
    WordPress has the right to post Google Adsense advertisements on free WordPress blog. However, this is only done under certain circumstances.
  5. And more…
    Next to these major 4 business models, WordPress provides various other paid services. Most of them are linked to a premium model (such as paid plugins).

Interestingly, WordPress positions itself as a free open source CMS system. However, for a small percentage of the users Wordpress is charging fees. Relatively, this might solely be a small part of the users, but taking the numbers mentioned at the beginning of this blog into account, you can imagine that the absolute earnings are huge. The company behind Wordpres (Automattic) made $45 million revenue in 2012 and is growing rapidly (last publicly available data). Knowing how WordPress is born and evolved, Matthew and Mike should thank the user for building their internet-empire.

Want to build your own WordPress website? (CHECK VIDEO BY Tyler Moore).

1. Open a WordPress account at
2. Install a free theme or download a premium template from e.g.
3. Check the plugin page for additional functionalities.

Want to know whether a website is build on WordPress?
Put the following text behind the internet address: “/wp-admin/”. If you get a login-page, you know the website is build on WordPress.

1) World Bank Database

2) Manage WordPress

3) Matt Mullenweg WikiPedia

4) WordPress VIP Stats


Justin got fired, kept his job and earned more. WHAT? (Incl. Video)

The story in this blog is pure fiction. The fundamentals of this blog is inspired by the following academic article: Schreier, Martin, Christoph Fuchs, and Darren W. Dahl. “The innovation effect of user design: Exploring consumers’ innovation perceptions of firms selling products designed by users.” Journal of Marketing 76.5 (2012): 18-32.

A couple of days ago I experienced the most impressive thing in my life. A way to earn money for free, for doing nothing. No, I am not talking about the scams advertised in web-popups or the unique offers from ambiguous men on the corner of the street. This time was different. This time I faced the real-thing and the good part of it is that you, as a business owner, can earn money for free too! Let me share this have-to-know story with you…

It was the first Monday morning after my 3-week during holiday. I jumped into my car and head to work, kicking off my working-week at Threadless ltd. Arrived at work, I noticed something was different, my colleagues where not there. Literally, no cars on the parking lot, no bikes, no nothing. The entrance of my office was still open, but the receptionist wasn’t there either. The entire “freaking” office was empty, non of my fellow product developers where present. At first I thought, is this a dream? But then, a couple of minutes later, I saw the Porsche of my boss driving towards the office. He jumped out and spoke the following words to me: “Hi Justin! You can go home, our customers have taken your job, for free!” My natural reply was: “Our customers?” , leaving alone my thoughts “I am fired!?”.

Let me explain, Schreierer et al. (2012) found that common design by users (products developed by customers) enhances the perceived innovation ability of a firm, leading to greater purchase intentions. In other words, by empowering a firm’s customers to build their own products, a company saves money while increasing their future sales. In the extremes, a firm, such as where (I) Justin worked, entirely outsource their product development and fires their employees of the design, innovation or product development department. Examples are LEGO (customers partly develop new LEGO models), Threadless (fashion items designed by users) and Linux (entirely open-sources co-created operating software). The authors describe that products that best-fit for outsourcing product design to users is with products with low-complexity and in markets where users are familiar with user innovation. A large downside is found in the field of luxury products (Fuchs, Christoph, et al. 2013). For each individual firm it is therefore (according to literature) a trade-off between perceived innovativeness and luxury.

Coming back at the case of Justin and Threadless ltd, the business owner and boss determined to fire the entire product development department. Instead of letting employees design their shirts, they outsourced design tasks towards the customer themselves. Interesting to experience is the way the business owner could cut costs and increase their sales. Less costs, more sales: free money, for nothing.

As most fair tales have a happy ending, this was the case for Justin too. He was one of the best product developers of his company Threadless. He determined to continue working on new designs, but now from as a customer / co-creator. In the end his experience and feeling for fashion let to the result of being the best-performing artists on Threadless, earning even more than his former salary [CHECK THE VIDEO OF JUSTIN].

1. Fuchs, Christoph, et al. “All that is users might not be gold: How labeling products as user designed backfires in the context of luxury fashion brands.”Journal of Marketing 77.5 (2013): 75-91.
2. Schreier, Martin, Christoph Fuchs, and Darren W. Dahl. “The innovation effect of user design: Exploring consumers’ innovation perceptions of firms selling products designed by users.” Journal of Marketing 76.5 (2012): 18-32.

Written by: Matthijs van de Grift (416083mg)