#FoundersFridays: Meet Joris Oudejans
Meet Joris Oudejans, founder of BASH. Learn how he developed a taste for building things at the age of 14, what young entrepreneurs seek in their co-founders, and the best way to approach angel investors.
#FoundersFridays is a StartupAmsterdam interview series: for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. Each hero answers questions on their entrepreneurial journey, their learnings, milestones and bottlenecks, as well as on Amsterdam and the Dutch startup scene. It’s a platform for entrepreneurs to speak their minds freely and pass on their learnings to anyone who’s thinking about founding a startup as well.
Our first #FoundersFridays interview of 2024 is with Joris Oudejans, CEO and co-founder of BASH. If you’re on TikTok or Instagram, chances are, you’ve seen BASH. This social app allows people to discover parties and events using AI, buy tickets and coordinate plans with friends. BASH covers all Amsterdam-based events, from underground raves to chill Sunday markets, and every event has a real-time hype score, making it easy to spot which events are popular. Additionally, users can host private events and invite people who do not have the app yet.
According to YoungCreators, you’ve been entrepreneurial since you were 14! Tell us, who were your role models, what made you catch the entrepreneurship bug and what principles do you follow as an entrepreneur today?
When I was 14, my classmate Hidde Lycklama and I were approached by his father, Douwe Lycklama, and his business partner, Chiel Liezenberg - both established entrepreneurs. They asked us to create a website for a few hundred euros. Although I couldn’t code at the time, it sounded like a fun challenge. So Hidde and I learned by doing and became Douwe and Chiel’s “entrepreneurial apprentices”. Throughout high school, we developed a variety of websites and apps. Being creative and getting rewarded for the output rather than the work was so much fun, that I decided to pivot from my initial plan to follow in my father’s footsteps to become a doctor. Instead, I chose the path I believed was the fastest route to becoming a CEO of a tech startup: studying computer science, first in Delft and then in London.
My role models have primarily been those I've spent significant time with and learned a great deal from – mainly established entrepreneurs I’ve come to know well over the years.
My roles at various startups over the years, both in ones I founded and not, have led me to embrace the following three principles:
Ambition: Thinking big is essential, not just for building a highly scalable business, but also for personal growth. However, this requires acute self-awareness. Inviting criticism, no matter how harsh, and introspecting first when things go awry is vital.
Strategy: In a startup with limited resources, your edge comes from focusing on a strategic advantage over established players. It's easy to be lured by opportunism, but it's crucial to adhere to your strategy and either reject what doesn’t align with it or be prepared to overhaul it completely.
Anarchy: I believe that hierarchy stifles creativity and motivation in startups and scaleups. Granting driven individuals genuine ownership of their work while keeping strategic oversight results in intrinsically motivated, confident people performing at their best.
BASH is a team of vibrant Gen Z folk. How did you build your team? What qualities did you look for in your co-founders?
Indeed, the core team at BASH, comprising engineers, designers, and marketers, primarily falls within the Gen Z demographic, with ages ranging from 18 to 30. This alignment with our target audience is a great asset, because we all use our own app intensively.
One insight I've gained over the years is that, in our fast-evolving industry, work experience is only sometimes advantageous. Much of our engineering methods, social media marketing, and technology have emerged fairly recently. Consequently, success in our field is less about accumulated experience and more about raw talent and an eagerness to learn. I am proud to say that every team member at BASH embodies these qualities.
As for our co-founders, we have Elise Mol, who excels in data analysis and engineering; Max Mijnheer, whose exceptional management skills drive our development; and Shane Koppers, a versatile programmer ensuring our systems perform optimally. I believe your co-founders should challenge you in areas outside your expertise and push your company forward in those realms. For example, if I had to assign archetypes within our team, I would categorise myself as the visionary, who sometimes lacks in the operational side of the company. Fortunately, my co-founders are well-equipped to jump in.
Why start a startup in Amsterdam? How does the city and its business ecosystem help you in your entrepreneurial journey?
The easy answer is that almost all of us grew up in Amsterdam, so we know how things work, and collectively we have plenty of social capital here. Furthermore, The Netherlands is a frontrunner in moving away from Facebook Events, so it is the perfect place to start BASH. Amsterdam, the largest city with the most events, is the obvious place to start.
How do you go from 0 to 15,000 users? As a reader of Andrew Chen, talk to us about the experimentation that goes into building a perfect customer acquisition strategy for BASH.
It’s always fun to talk about kickstarting networks! The problem we faced is common: organisers only come if there are enough users, and users only come if there are enough organisers that post events – the Cold Start Problem. We have run many experiments to solve this problem, and we’ve only recently been able to solve it thanks to recent developments in AI. With five people in our team with backgrounds in AI, we’ve built a system that collects and categorises a wide range of events from all over the web and serves them to the users interested in those events.
That, plus listening to a lot of user feedback to make the app work as best as possible, has resulted in an excellent year in terms of growth for BASH.
Having raised funds for BASH in 2021 and just recently in November, 2023, all exclusively from prominent Dutch entrepreneurs - how does one go about it? What did you learn and what do you advise to fellow entrepreneurs looking to fund their ventures?
Our fundraising efforts have primarily been focused on angel investors. There are some excellent hands-on entrepreneurs in Amsterdam, many of whom we were able to approach and form a semi-formal Advisory Board to help us with strategic questions.
Being pre-revenue until recently, we found that this status often led to disqualification by Dutch venture capital firms. As we look towards our next funding round, we are also considering international VCs. That said, our current strategy is to establish our presence in the Netherlands before expanding abroad. I also look forward to raising with VCs though, as our internal obsession with data aligns well with how VCs analyse companies.
The process with angel investors typically involves identifying potential investors, initiating contact (preferably through an introduction), presenting your pitch, and negotiating the terms. After around a thousand iterations, I can confidently say that our pitch deck is quite good. I've realised, though, that 90% of why people even take a look at your pitch deck is based on who is in the company, in terms of team and investors. So start with onboarding reputable angels who know your space, and then the rest will follow.
What do you have in store for BASH in 2024? What is your most urgent ask?
Our goals for 2024 are straightforward: scale through the whole of The Netherlands and operationally break even. The first is a matter of further improving our AI systems and scaling up our marketing efforts, while the latter will benefit from some cool upcoming app updates. It is great to be in this position, where we know what to do and we can focus on execution.
Even with that luxury, however, we always want to grow faster, so for 2024, it would be an added benefit to land some strategic brand partnerships. More on that later!
If you’re an Amsterdam-based founder working on an innovative solution that solves an urban or social challenge, and you’d like to share your story with our audience, email Alexandra at email@example.com.