Self Made is a series of entrepreneur stories from our members who share a common desire to innovate and turn challenges into opportunities.
On the first of our series, we meet Igor Hoogerwoord Tan, the managing director of Apance – a company that helps businesses customise their e-commerce website to meet their specific needs and offer a range of CMS services.
What inspired me to start a company?
I noticed that people’s freedom with tech is sometimes limited. People often face features restrictions on platforms, and their knowledge of tech is lacking.
Making tech more accessible empowers people to be more independent. That’s close to me because I’ve often educated myself to be more independent too. Like teaching myself to code, for example.
People start consumer brands because they want to connect with many people, and it’s also a means to grow and reinvest in their communities. Brands reflect a large variety of tastes and cultures which makes them unique and interesting.
Bringing products to people that solve everyday problems is an ambition for many entrepreneurs. It’s exciting because I get to connect with them worldwide, and I can help sell their designs and crafts to a global market online.
Was I prepared?
I wasn’t really prepared, I saved up some money and took a leap. Working at Adyen before this showed me the world of online payments and gave me experience working with brands like H&M, Lane Crawford, and Love, Bonito among others. That’s relevant to my business now.
Skills like coding are useful. Having lived and worked in cities like Seoul, Amsterdam Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore gave me life experiences and confidence. However, that didn’t truly prepare me for the process of reaching product-market fit. That’s solving a new problem with the people you’re solving it for, which is always going to be hard.
Challenges too hard to overcome
On our first product, I was living in Tokyo during 2020, the pandemic was a major roadblock we didn’t anticipate. Slowly, our meetings got canceled in favour of calls, and events got called off. Those in-person meetings were important for us to find new customers and build trust. We had to stop product development because our funding ran out, and that was a bummer because the collaborative drawing iPad app we developed is still gaining new users today.
In 2021 we decided to pivot to a problem based on our industry experience and develop a new product – a platform for brands to sell on any channel.
Tips for first-time founders
What I’ve learned is that reaching product-market fit rarely has shortcuts. It’s finding a problem where people will pay for a solution that you create. Talking with people and building a solution with them takes time and money, working with a team will make it more fun, and you will likely get things done faster.
I think it helped me to know what I want and why I think founding a company is a way to get that. I want to continue solving problems for people to help them become more free, and ultimately invest in solutions for climate change.
If you’re into this I’d love to meet you at the Club! At the very least to share a kombucha or a coffee.