Belsimpel: from hobby to company
With so many providers, options, contracts, fine print and miles of red tape to deal with, the maze of the smartphone market is not so easy to navigate, once people decide to buy a phone. Belsimpel.nl wants to take away all of the phone related frustration, by taking away all that hassle and giving consumers exactly what they need.
Ten years ago, students and roommates Jeroen Doorenbos and Jeroen Elkhuizen decided to start their own company, called Metjelaptoponline.nl, focussing on mobile internet for laptops. They switched to mobile phones and now, ten years down the road, Jeroen & Jeroen are the well-known animated faces of the Belsimpel.nl TV commercials.
The escalated hobby
“When we started Belsimpel.nl, it was a bit like the Wild West. Providers were popping up left and right”, Jeroen Doorenbos explains. “Both of us didn’t really have business expertise. I studied medicine and Jeroen Elkhuizen was a law student. For us, it really started out as a hobby. It was something we both loved doing and in many ways, I still consider it a hobby, but over the years it just escalated.”
In 2012, the company was the fastest growing tech company in Deloitte’s Fast50 ranking, with a whopping 16155% growth percentage over the previous five years. Belsimpel.nl remained on the list for four consecutive years and has won numerous awards since, such as an award for the best electronics webshop in the Netherlands.
But with this kind of growth, and in order to keep growing, changes in the company are inevitable. “Growth and success are great, but when you start small, it’s sometimes weird that you don’t know everyone personally anymore. Little things like knowing what someone did last weekend and being able to just chat about it. But that kind of change is just natural, because it comes with the territory.”
The devil’s in the details
From the start, the focus of the company has always been about making things less complicated for consumers. Jeroen: “A lot of people really have a love-hate affair with their provider. There are so many rules and fine print, with an infinite amount of exceptions for each and every personal situation. Like keeping your old phone number when you switch providers. It doesn’t sound like a very complicated thing to do, but there are 1200 different rules for something like that.”
“The devil really is in the details”, Jeroen continues. “We want to make the market more transparent and less complicated for consumers. And the real challenge in that is solving very complicated situations without people even noticing. Solving issues without compromise is what we strive for, and it’s something we getting better and better at every day. Going that extra mile for people is part of our DNA.”
Aside from their online shop, Belsimpel.nl now has 7 stores around the country, which doesn’t seem like the next logical step in an increasingly digital world. “We started with one store, right here in Groningen. Plenty of people still prefer the face-to-face assistance we provide in our physical stores. There’s also still a large group of people who don’t buy things online, and I don’t see that changing in the next ten years. Sure, you can choose not to focus on that group of people, because it’s easier, but we believe that a combination of online and offline works in our industry. Bricks and clicks.”
So what’s the next step? “Taking the company to the international market. When you look at how things are done by similar international companies here in Europe, I think our platform is ahead of what’s already out there. And there’s the challenge of bridging cultural differences and different rules per country, but I think it’s definitely going to be a fun challenge. That’s also what we love about doing what we do. It’s not really about the money or success for us. It’s great to have of course, but the real fun for us is tackling new things and learning as we go along. It’s been that way from the start.”