[Startup Interview] Marcel van der Heijden, Co-Founder, GoodKarma, Netherlands
GoodKarma is a Dutch startup that works with brands to create unique experiences by offering them a host of services across branding, content, marketing, commerce and social media among others. The startup’s Co-founder Marcel van der Heijden tells us more.
Give us a brief introduction of your startup
GoodKarma helps good brands to grow by creating unique experiences at the crossroads of branding, content and commerce.
Who are the founders of GoodKarma and what are their professional background?
Marcel van der Heijden, Allard Warmelink and Orsi Szentes. Together they combine more than three decades of experience work for brands ranging from large international brand to fast growing start- and scale-ups.
Marcel van der Heijden has a background as an entrepreneur in the agency sector. He founded social agency A friend of mine in 2011 and co-founded LinkedIn focused agency Second Degree in 2013. After they became part of Dept Agency in the beginning of 2016, he helped to shape the agency's rapid international expansion in his position as commercial director. After leaving Dept Marcel co-founded the fast growing Dutch plantbased brand Karma Kebab. He is also serves as an advisor and board member at several Dutch start-ups and digital agencies.
Orsi Szentes has a strong background in e-commerce and marketing serving as the Head of Growth at Labfresh and Onefit. She is a Shopify and Klaviyo certified expert and also worked as a freelancer for other fashion & beauty brands like Naduvi and GoodieBox.
Allard Warmelink is the third and final founder. He started his career in developing retail stores for different brands across the world before joining Boomerang Agency, where he grew into a position as commercial director. Allard has a strong passion for all things that are related to branded content.
Who owns GoodKarma?
In addition to the founders all our team members will become a shareholder within the agency and be involved in our future strategy and growth. We are and will remain proudly independent.
How is GoodKarma financed?
Completely financed and bootstrapped by the founders.
What would you say are the dynamics that have shaped the industry you work in?
If we look at our daily lives then we can see that the corona epidemic has accelerated the growth of digital (commerce) more strongly in the last 1,5 years than in the 10 years before. At the same time building a strong brand remains key to the success of fast growing companies.
Blending these two developments in the right way is a big challenge for all companies. At the same time there is also a much bigger dynamic at work in the background that will influence all our lives: climate change. And that's something that we as an industry - from brands and agencies to technology partners need to help solve together. And that goes well beyond formulating a nice sounding purpose and good intentions.
Why did you start GoodKarma? What opportunities did you see?
It might sound strange but first and foremost we started because we want to have a lot of fun together and work with talented people on projects that challenge us and help us grow.
The three of us met by accident through a common acquaintance and since day one we have this amazing energy together. We have a shared vision on how the industry is going to change in the 10 years to come, how we want to build our team & culture and that we also want to do our part in helping our clients become more sustainable. In short: GoodKarma.
What problems does GoodKarma address?
I have been working within the digital, marketing and media space for over 10 years, with brands ranging from start-ups to large international brands.
And I am still always really amazed how branding and commerce still feel like two different worlds, both on the agency side as well as with clients. Often people say that's because it's different types of 'DNA'. We feel that real magic (and value) is created when you blend these worlds together. Luckily we like a good challenge.
What gives GoodKarma the competitive edge?
Next to developing unique experiences for our clients, we feel that working with us should be equally as good. In my experience groundbreaking work starts with how you work together with each other; transparency, trust and fun are key. That's why we strive to build a skilful team of people that are simply nice and great to work with. Sounds pretty basic, but that can actually get you a long way.
Who are your customers?
We currently work a lot with scale-ups and medium sized brands. Brands like Fiorito, Labfresh, Colourful Rebel, Yaya Kombucha, The Avocado Show and Karma Kebab. We are currently growing ourselves so we tend to work well with teams that share our 'vibe' and that we can grow with towards the future. We also really put a lot of importance in working with people and brands that share our interest and ambitions towards being a force for good.
What does GoodKarma need in order to grow?
Good people and a strong company culture. We believe that it all starts with an amazing team that are connected by shared values. GoodKarma is not just a nice name, it's key to our business philosophy. It's the way we work with our team, our customers and our partners. That's why we are currently on our way to becoming a B-Corp and we involve our entire team as a shareholder in the agency.
What is your growth strategy?
Growing organically by delivering on what we promise and making sure that everybody that we work with - from our own team to our clients and partners - has a good experience in working with us. Ultimately good karma always repay itself.
In which markets are you looking to establish your presence?
A few weeks ago we actually did a session together with the founders and formulated our vision for the years to come. In 5 years time GoodKarma will be a leading independent digital agency with a team of +150 people and operating from 3 different countries or continents. We are fully employee owned and operated, recognised for the quality of our work, our company culture and a positive contribution to our planet.
What are your plans for the coming 12 months?
Our first priority is growing our current team and finding a bigger office. And we are working hard on building up a number of key partnerships with platforms like Shopify and Klaviyo. Furthermore we are also working hard to become a B-Corp in the next few months and participating in a few other initiatives around sustainability together with other agencies and brands. If only there were 48 hours in a day!
This is an entry for the Dutch Startup Competition 2021
Read about the Dutch Startup Competition and how to participate here