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This article was published on September 3, 2020

Quality is what makes you future-proof

My company couldn't pivot now if it hadn't invested in quality early on.

Quality is what makes you future-proof
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

If you believe the experts, we’re heading towards the worst crisis in the history of… financial crises. That sounds gloomy — and it is. You can look at the news and the state of the world and be excused if you’d want to hide under your pillow until it’s gone.

It’s all awful, and we’re royally fucked. But… what else is new?

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When I grew up, I remember vividly first learning about the possibility of nuclear war. I realized that at any moment, in a flash of light, my life could end, and with it the world. I was young and sensitive, and I remember being incredibly scared. But over time, that fear subsided, and that existential threat made place for another one.

[Read: We asked 3 CEOs what tech trends will dominate post-COVID]

I started all my companies at the beginning or in the middle of an economic crisis. The same goes for the most successful companies today. When everyone is panicking, the person who sees an opportunity is faced with hardly any competition and can hire talent easily. Office space (if you need it) also suddenly becomes cheaper, and people are more open, looking for something optimistic to pin their hopes to.

Starting a company when the economy is thriving is more challenging than when it’s tanking. When the sun is shining, everybody can sail a boat. But when the storm comes, you’ll quickly see who is selling bullshit and who has invested in quality.

At the start of the last economic crisis, the TNW team saw the signs and prepared for bad weather. We had a conversation with an important partner and discussed the economy. We asked, “are you still sponsoring conferences?” and one particular partner said “No. That’s just not feasible with this economic downturn on the horizon.”

We swallowed hard and realized we were going to lose one of our biggest partners. But then he continued, “except your event. We decided to cut back on all partnerships except one or two high-quality events we just need to be a part of.”

I can’t tell you what an emotional moment that was. Besides having one thing less to worry about, we also realized that our quality investment had finally paid off. From that moment on, we started emphasizing our attention to quality, personal commitment, and long-term strategy. Our partners realize that we’re in it for the long term and care more about quality than quantity.

That’s why I’m excited for our upcoming flagship event. Yes, it’s very different from our yearly offline event in Amsterdam. No sitting elbow-to-elbow in a sweaty room close to an inspiring speaker. No handshake deals over beers and a shared bowl of tacos. No serendipitous meetings waiting in line for the canal rides. Everything is different, but it always has been.

I’ve written before about Darwin’s statement about the survival of the fittest, and how it’s often explained as “the strong survive.” But the more accurate explanation is: those who are most adaptable to change will survive.

I’m excited for our online event because we adapted to a changing world and provided an online experience that not just mimics the offline event as closely as possible.

The online event is a whole new animal that perfectly adapts to a new reality. You’ll connect with potential business partners in different but even more efficient ways. You’ll be farther away from the inspirational speaker — while also closer than you’ve ever been. We take the quality we invested in for the past 15 years and use it as a basis for an online event.

It would be totally understandable to be paralyzed by fear and depressed by the state of the world. Or you can join me on October 1 and 2 and work together on finding the opportunities in change, and then see how we can use tech for good. I look forward to it.

Can’t get enough of Boris? Check out his older stories here, and sign up for TNW’s newsletters here.

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