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WeTransfer: It's Not About The Idea - It's About The Business Model


In the world of business, there's one simple rule - recognize the problem and work your way to find a solution, right?

Well, it's a little more complicated than that, otherwise, everyone would be a CEO.

For Nalden, the brain behind WeTransfer, it was easy finding the problem - the fact that his father couldn't send him images from his giant boat!

As Nalden found out, big things in real life make for big images too, data-wise. So how do you get around this problem in the first decade of the 2000s?

You either use shady solutions or you create one - a completely new and astonishingly creative solution - a solution like Nalden's.

The story of how him and his co-founder build WeTransfer is quite interesting, read it here:

The Making Of Ronald Hans aka Nalden

The Netherlands might be a small country, but its spirit is not to be underestimated. The windmills, the wooden shoes, the unique water management system, the canals of Amsterdam - these traits make the Netherlands unique and very proud.

However, it's also the birthplace of some of the brightest men on Earth - for example, Van Gogh. One such man is Ronald Hans. Born in 1984 in a small town called Wilnis, Ronald was a restless kid from a very young age. A buddy of his gave him the nickname Nalden, which is an abbreviation from his name, and later on, everyone picked it up. Ronald decided to accept the nickname as his and soon enough, he even made a name of himself on the Internet.

Nalden reached his teenage years just as the Internet made its big breakthrough and he was determined to use all the opportunities the Internet could provide. It was the beginning of the new Millennium, and PCs were becoming a big thing. His father unknowingly helped him with his aspiration to become a web developer, as he was a conductor and needed a website.

Luckily, he had a son whose curiosity about the Internet world resulted in acquiring knowledge a few children had a chance. He worked on the ancient 2.1 version of Windows and used Microsoft Frontpage, but nonetheless, he made the website! Nalden has mentioned a few times - he still keeps his first website on a floppy somewhere.

At the age of 13, he started a blog where he shared his thoughts on multiple topics. His idea behind it was pretty simple - he just wanted to share interesting things that happened online and find like-minded people to discuss them with! Music was his favorite topic and it was the center of his blog, but after a while, he started sharing his opinions on different topics - art, technology, travel, and so on. Of course, he named the website after himself -, because why not make a brand out of your name, right?

The blog was a turning point in Nalden's life!

Nalden's Epiphany

How the blog changed Nalden's life is beyond us. Not only did he manage to make it profitable 6 months after the initial launch, but the blog opened new doors for him all around.

He gained so much online presence and influence that big-name brands started contacting him. There was one particular situation with Universal Music. Nalden was shamelessly and illegally sharing music on his website and got a warning from Universal Music - if you don't stop, we'll sue you.

Instead of a court fight, Nalden decided to go with another strategy - offer them advertising space on his website. Knowing how successful his website was, the representatives from Universal Music agreed without much hesitation.

Nalden had an epiphany at that moment - what if he could do the same for all the other business he mentioned on his site?

The advertising industry was big on banners at that time, but most of them were poorly designed, uncreative, and not at all unique. He wanted to make ads more creative for them to succeed, so he decided to design them themselves. He used the same approach as notorious other big names like Nike, Mercedes Benz, and Vodafone.

There were two things that essentially happened with Nalden's blog: he discovered a new, creative way to make money, and he met his future business partner through the site - Bas Beerens.

By this time, Nalden had quit school entirely, deciding to focus entirely on his blog.

WeTransfer, The Beginnings

Nalden's blog helped him develop his entrepreneurial spirit, even though it wasn't his initial idea. He learned how to work on the Internet and was open to using its power to come up with even better solutions.

There was one particular situation that really infuriated Nalden. His father owned a boat and he liked taking pictures of it quite often. The problem arose when his father couldn't send him images of such large size over the Internet - either he didn't know how to use the existing platforms, or the service wasn't free - or it just wasn't possible! One particular platform that was popular during those times was YouSendIt, but it was an extremely difficult interface lacking in user-friendliness.

All these factors combined motivated Nalden to work on this idea - create a free sending service that could be used by anyone from 7 to 77 years old!

That's how WeTransfer was born.

The Creative Moment

The official launch of the company was in December 2009. Its headquarters are in Amsterdam and have remained that way to this day, along with the original idea - share large files in a simpler way.

So how did Nalden and Bas make this a reality?

They eliminated all the fuss related to sending simple files - people shouldn't have to go to that much trouble for just one or two files. All anyone had to do was fill in the blanks with the email and the file - and it was free for files up to 2GB!

But, what made WeTransfer popular was its advertising strategy. Nalden and Bass decided to use the same strategy Nalden used on his website - a space for anyone to advertise.

However, he expanded his policy a bit and decided to include artists' work here as well, which he said is supposed to act as a motivation for companies to be more creative in their creation of ads. Those ads made up for a 2% conversion rate, which is really something special!

Of course, their first customers were their closest people, including Nalden's father. But after that, the site's popularity grew exponentially.

WeTransfer Today

Nowadays, more than 40 million people all over the world use WeTransfer.

Amazingly, the founders self-funded themselves for the first six years. Nalden's belief was that if you don't need investors, don't go out to look for them, so after six years and enough experience on their hand, the two founders decided to try out their luck.

In 2015, Highland Europe was their series A investor with $25 million! The next one was 4 years later, in 2019 - and it was $35 million!

It's important to acknowledge the uniqueness behind the business model Nalden uses with WeTransfer. At the end of the day, that's what makes it the entire difference between WeTransfer being just another online business - and a revolutionary company!