Ruud Hoevenaar and Jaap van Eggelen - EZ Boekhouding
Invoicing, bookkeeping and filling out tax returns: we’re here to make it easier for players in the music industry. Our software is developed by musicians, for musicians. And our approach combined well with how Starterslift* works.
EZ Boekhouding (EZ Accountancy) means pure profit for its users.
With EZ Boekhouding, Ruud Hoevenaar and Jaap van Eggelen have the ideal solution for musicians: a thoroughly tailored bookkeeping program that’s easy to work with, without outside help – and that saves a lot of time, and hopefully a lot of money. A bookkeeping program for musicians, made by musicians – is that the secret?
According to the two creators of EZ Boekhouding, that’s exactly it. As a musician you spend your time on stage, or in a studio, or you teach others. All you want to do is to be creative, and having to keep an administration besides is considered a huge annoyance by many. That’s what spawned the whole idea of EZ (“easy”) Boekhouding. Ruud Hoevenaar: “Based on our own experience as former students at the Rockacademie in Tilburg, we know that the majority of musicians hate to spend time on bookkeeping and administration. In the second year of the program there’s a weekly course on ‘musiconomy’, but on a Monday morning the whole class just sits and stares fuzzily into space. While everyone is heading towards life as a self-employed professional in the music business. So they will have to deal with it. But it should preferably pose the least possible amount of hassle.”
“Ruud is working on that now”, says Jaap van Eggelen. “He teaches musiconomy at the Rockacademie nowadays, and he has made the lessons a lot more practice-based. He is also a regular speaker at various conferences, for instance just recently at the Amsterdam Dance Event. His current study in tax law at Tilburg University completes the circle.”
It quickly became clear to Jaap van Eggelen that he had to do ‘something’ to help his musical colleagues in the administrative side of life. “I kept turning the idea around in my mind for a while, until I met Ruud. That’s when things started getting serious.” “It worked”, adds Hoevenaar, “first of all because Jaap and I are complementary in terms of knowledge: Jaap is a technological whizz-kid, and I am a real numbers man. But the main reason is that we both recognized a business opportunity here. And we both have an entrepreneurial attitude.”
But having the right attitude alone is not enough. Van Eggelen: “It was a bit daunting at first, when we discovered how little we actually knew about these things. Sure, we had identified a potential target group in an attractive niche market, and we had developed a good idea into a smoothly working product – but then we encountered the problem of hooking up the one to the other. Of course you can find customers in your own network, but every network has its limits. So we started a Facebook group called ‘Musician and administration’. And we starting blogging. At that point we still assumed that people could easily recognize the advantage of the product, once they read about it. But we were wrong.”
Finding customers in a niche market
“At the Rockacademie, all you focus on is the music you make”, says Ruud Hoevenaar. “But one-to-one salesmanship is a totally different ballgame. In that case, you need to focus completely on your customer’s angle. And our customers are inclined to wholly ignore the business side of their profession -- and that’s putting it mildly. So the challenge was to break through that mind set. And how do you do that?”
That’s when Hoevenaar and Van Eggelen got involved with Starterslift*. “What we got out of that was mainly another vision on our approach to communication. Namely, that we don’t just show people the product, but also invite them to try it out. It may seem obvious, but somehow we were blind to it. Starterslift pried open our eyes and from that moment now, the acquisition has improved significantly, with around 10 new users signing on to the program every week.”
In retrospect, Starterslift’s approach dovetailed perfectly with the vision that Van Eggelen and Hoevenaar had. “Our idea was to have reached a certain point in five years from now. We wanted to get there in small steps. And according to the Lean Startup method, that is the way to go. It’s an approach that lets you modify your product continuously, based on how people respond to the product and their comments and wishes. This not only improved our way of communicating, but also the product itself. The knowledge we acquired through Starterslift really boosted the efficiency and effectiveness of our steps.”
The two men acknowledge that the music industry alone is a very limited market, with some 80,000 potential customers. “But if we manage to get 20 to 30% of these people interested, then realistically that’s about it”, says Hoevenaar. “But fortunately the population of self-employed professionals is much larger. All of them need to do their own administration, and most of them don’t like it one bit. If we let these people try out our product, and they discover how easy it is, then they’ll certainly be very pleased about it.”
Learn as you go along
Jaap van Eggelen and Ruud Hoevenaar see their own entrepreneurial move as ‘obvious and irreversible’. Van Eggelen: “In fact, I always wanted to have my own company. Even before I started attending the Rockacademie. So for me, moving from making music to EZ Boekhouding was a fairly obvious move. The fact that we’re earning money with it confirms that we made the right choices. It’s great to see everything coming along. Certainly since we’ve really believed in this, from day one. Of course you meet lots of people who are critical or skeptical, but we listened to them as well. It’s all part of learning as you go along.”
In setting up EZ Boekhouding, the founders “took some calculated risks and decisions”, as they say. Hoevenaar: “I made the decision to stop performing as a musician, to devote my time instead to this business. Because it’s easy enough to say ‘hey, that’s a cool product’, but if we don’t keep developing it and recruiting new customers, then it can all be over pretty quickly. You asked about the secret – I think our success is mainly due to the fact that we are visible for our target group. We need to maintain that visibility. That way, in five years from now we might well have our offices in that big building by the highway that Jaap keeps dreaming about …”
*Starterslift has continued under the name Braventure
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