Making a product is hard. Making a good product that is also sexy? Well, you need to ask Nalden, co-founder of Amsterdam file-sharing startup WeTransfer. That is exactly what Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten did on stage of The Next Web 2016. The answer? Nalden.
Boring stuff, made cool
There’s no denying Nalden, real name Ronald Hans, and his team did an excellent job in making something very boring, sending large files over the internet, to something that’s actually really cool. WeTransfer launched in 2009 as a service that did only one thing and did it very well. “We always tried to make the interface so that my dad could use it”, Nalden explained. The simplicity meant there was lots of screen estate to display a wide range of artwork from artists all over the world and – eventually – for slick and stylish ads. Last year, WeTransfer raised a funding round of $25 million, started a music sharing service, and made a move for the US. It is now boasting more than 85 million monthly active users. ‘To WeTransfer something‘, became part of everyday speech. In Dutch, at least.
Every mistake there is to make
Hearing Nalden talk at TNW16 it is almost a surprise WeTranfer came this far. “We naively started to take on YouSendIt”, he said about the filetransfer-service of choice for people in 2009. “It took us 3 years to realize we were actually building a business. From there on we’ve basically made every mistake you can make.” According to Nalden, the name WeTransfer started out as a bad joke. Veldhuijzen van Zanten gladly reminded Nalden of his original and cringe worthy elevator pitch, which described WeTransfer as ‘YouSendIt, only cooler’.” Nalden talked about not taking the hiring of people seriously enough. “You really want to date someone, before you get married. Divorces are expensive.” Another obvious one: don’t piss off the companies that can pay your bills. Nalden: “Once I told Samsung their ads were really ugly. They were really offende by that, and the entire company refused to place any more ads on our platform for a while. We’re friends now, but that cost us a lot of money. Treat your advertizers well.”
New WeTranfer product
But despite all that, WeTransfer is profitable since 2013. And last years funding makes the organisation more professional. “We’ve hired talented developers and designers. We’re way more structured now. We’re pushing out improvements regularly and we’re working on a new product”. Pushed to tell more about the new product, Nalden remains vague. There’s an app, there’s stuff on the web and it’ll launch in september. “You’ll see, you’ll see.”
Will it be as effortlessly sexy as WeTransfer is considered to be? We don’t know. And the secret to building a product that’s useful as well as sexy is not unraffeled on The Next Web. Nalden gives it another shot, by explaining one should not aim for simplicity in the UX, but for ‘simplexity’. In the end, it took host Veldhuijzen van Zanten to explain why things work out so nicely for WeTransfer and his co-founder: “It’s just because….you’re Nalden you know.”