Questions? +31 23 5511011 or start chat
close menu icon

“Pleased to meet you! I am Alex, entrepreneur and certified Scrum Professional. I help teams and individuals develop themselves so they can solve complex problems and reach their full potential.

Alex Vermeule

Fascinated by personal and team development

How nice of you to take the time to get to know me a bit better. For more than 25 years, I have been fascinated by the concept of personal development.

Early in my career at Microsoft, I discover my talents using a tool called StrengthsFinder. From there on, I help my teams discover their talents and use them effectively. During that time I also take part in Microsoft’s Talent program. In the years that follow, in addition to StrengthsFinder, I delve into instruments such as MBTI and Insights Discovery. All of this plants the seed for a lifelong interest in personal development as well as that of teams.

In 2014, I read the books “Get Agile” and “Agile Product Management with Scrum. As a result, Agile working and Scrum really come into the picture. The Agile mindset inspires and helps tremendously in my journey as an entrepreneur. Working in sprints reminds me of personal development. This too progresses step by step and is not a straight path.

During my years as CEO of my companies, I also see the effect of my leadership styles, both good and bad. This sparks another area of interest: leadership and developing an Agile mindset in your company.

In 2019, I fully embrace Scrum. It feels like a warm bath because finally there is a sustainable rhythm in the business with clear responsibilities.

My interest in Scrum and Agile continues to develop and I decide to get certified in the Scrum.org curriculum. My main motivation is to help others develop themselves so that they become better in solving complex problems. The great thing is that this allows me to optimally utilize my talents as well.

Ultimately, I believe we all have the capacity to develop ourselves. I am happy to share my knowledge and experience about this. And about Scrum, of course! Is this what you are looking for? Then you have come to the right place.

P.S. Want to know more? Feel free to read on 😊

The beginning

This story begins in my father’s hobby room. Here I can often be found from the age of four. This is how he introduces me to computers such as the Apple II+ and the ZX-81.

The hobby room of my father

A few years later, I get my first computer of my own: a Commodore 64. On this fantastic machine I learn to program and discover the world of games. My favorites, of course, are The Last Ninja 1 and 2. In 1988, I switch to the Atari ST and learn to make music using programs called Noisetracker and Cubase. Later, I also manage to save up for an Atari Falcon 030 with my newspaper route

During my school days at Kennemer Lyceum in the early 1990s, I continue to geek out by enthusiastically building a number of PCs. Making music with my computers also remains a big passion. Meanwhile, a friend of mine starts working for a software company in Germany. It inspires thinking about ways to stand on my own two feet.

From attic to Microsoft

In 1994, I start my first business with two friends. At that time, I am still living at my parents’ house in the attic. Our idea is to create an online marketplace for cars and houses. Much of the technology for this is still under development. To give you an idea: Netscape Navigator is in beta and Internet Explorer does not yet exist ✌🏻.

Six months later, I choose to start living on my own. And since this really requires an income, on my 19th birthday I decide to apply for a job at Sykes Enterprises (a partner of Microsoft). Because of my knowledge of computers and networks, I am hired as a technical support agent. August 24, 1995 marks the launch of Windows 95. And from that day on, together with 20 colleagues, I provide telephone support for Windows 95 to customers in the Benelux.

Alex @ Sykes Amsterdam (1995)

In 1997, Microsoft asks if I would like to join their team in Hoofddorp. The choice is quickly made. It is an inspiring environment and a Valhalla of new technology. Every day you learn something new. I obtain pretty much all Microsoft certifications, work in Silicon Valley for two years and become the youngest team manager in Europe. This is around the time when the Agile Manifesto is published (2001), and which I would come into contact with later.

After this, I become a manager with a team of 25 software development consultants at Microsoft Services. In addition to being responsible for the well-being and development of my team, I am also responsible for hiring third party vendors on our projects.

Presentation @ Dev Team Fun Day (2006)

I learn what my talents are as well as how to develop those of others. One of my talents is Relationship Building. Because of this, it gives me great satisfaction to help people develop personally and professionally. The philosophy of CliftonStrengths underlies this.

Realize your full potential

After 10 years at Microsoft, I want to start a business again. In 2007, Microsoft’s credo is “Realize your full potential,” and it resonats so well that I take the plunge again. Almost everyone thinks I’m crazy. Yet, I go for it because I believe that you mostly regret the things you haven’t done. And from the things you have done, you can learn something! I start Team vNext, a collective of freelance Microsoft professionals. My main areas of focus are recruitment, marketing, business development, subcontracting and team development. It is nice to be out of my comfort zone again.

Team vNext, my second venture (2007)

Unfortunately, my timing is not good. In 2007, the credit crisis also begins, resulting in many assignments for external professionals being withdrawn. Profits evaporate like snow in the sun and after 18 months I liquidate my B.V.

Subsequently, I start a new company (Alex Vermeule Internet Marketing) to reinvent myself. This is where I start developing a number of online concepts. One of those concept is Het Nieuwe Werken Blog, accompanied by a series of masterclasses and video productions. My then-neighbor Arjan plays an important role in this. He is a star at networking and also has great interest in the new world of work. Together, we succeed in engaging many people as writers for the blog. In addition to his full-time job, Arjan also assists with content production.

Recording Het Nieuwe Werken TV (2010)

The theme of “The New Way of Working” is very topcial at the time and the blog is becoming very popular. Eventually, more than 90 authors contribute to it. Also, the Masterclasses in collaboration with bITa Center are a great success. After a year and a half, a number of potential buyers come forward. My timing is excellent this time: in 2011, I sell everything to The Free Media Group.

During this period, I learn a number of valuable lessons. Practically, I learn how to develop and sell concepts. Another lesson I learn is that you can go fast alone, but together you really get further. A quote I have often used since then is “1+1=3”.

From HNWBlog to internet agency

During the development of the previously mentioned concepts, I delve deeply into the world of online marketing. I also regularly provide freelance support as an online marketing specialist for the corporate market. At the same time, I am writing a book on search engine optimization with Frank Husmann. At that time, Frank and I do not yet know that we will later start a SaaS company together, but more on that later.

Developing internet concepts definitely leaves me wanting more. I want to do this for clients as well as with a team. Therefore, I decide to buy myself into the Haarlem-based Internet agency Goeiezaak.com. I become half owner and take care of the renewal of search engine marketing services, acquiring new clients and do project management in the meantime. We build beautiful, findable websites that bring our clients many new leads.

Team goeiezaak.com (2012)

After a year and a half, I decide to end this adventure prematurely. This is mainly because my business partner turns out to have norms and values that do not match mine. Fortunately, I can fall back on my skills as an independent online marketing specialist. During this period, I learn that a business partner is much like a marriage partner and that you do not make a hasty decision overnight to determine if you are a good match. Additionally, I discover more and more of my basic traits such as practical, adaptable, realistic, open, and optimistic.

From internet agency to Saas

As mentioned, Frank and I are co-writing a book on search engine optimization in 2010. In the following years, our friendship continues to develop. We can talk for hours about entrepreneurship and personal development. Frank has an excellent track record as internet entrepreneur and has successfully managed to sell his shares in two other companies. He is a very hard worker but finds management matters and dealing with personnel dreadful.

Given our shared passion for lead generation, online marketing, and developing concepts, we decide to strengthen each other. On April 4, 2014, we establish a new operating company called Online Succes B.V. The name and corresponding URL stem from our 2010 collaboration. We start this new adventure based on our experience: improving the findability of our clients’ websites.

We make our money easily but the “time for money” component doesn’t sit well with us. During one of our sessions on the beach, we therefore ask ourselves the question: “If anything is possible and everything is allowed, what kind of company do we want to build?”.

Alex and Frank on the beach @ Tijn Akersloot (2014)

We decide to invest our own money and build a software company that will help our clients with finding and warming up leads. In this way, we can deliver value without tying it to our hours. Frank takes responsibility for engineering and marketing. I take responsibility for the rest.

“Don’t you just have leads?”

It is the time of Happy, All of Me and Get Lucky. The soundtracks of Tron Legacy and Oblivion are on repeat. In eight months, we develop the first version of Online Succes. In the meantime, we give it away for free to more than 300 people in our network to collect feedback. It is an awesome time. We work closely together and make the product better every day. Our “marketing automation roadshows” quickly become legendary. Meeting with everyone and anyone by appointment to show what we have created. And in the meantime, bluffing about what else is on the roadmap.

Celebrating a milestone with #kingkoopa pastries from Patisserie Michel

American software such as Pardot, Eloqua and Marketo inspires us. Therefore, we believe that the Netherlands is also ready for simple marketing automation software. But what turns out? Of all the companies we give access to our SaaS, only 1% understand it! “A buyer persona? A customer journey? Don’t you just have leads for us?”. We hear this feedback continuously.

In the last 6 weeks before the official launch of Online Succes, we develop something crucial: IP recognition. It makes it possible to see which companies are visiting a website. This way, our customers can suddenly see which companies are interested in their services. It is a simple but effective way to generate leads.

Thanks to Esther, Frank’s wife, we make a great deal with Company.info to show Dutch company information in our application. Our customers then use this for their acquisition efforts. Thus, company recognition becomes the “gold mine” we are looking for. We are ready for the launch!

“3 startups”

In January 2015, we launch Online Succes officially. At the last moment, we solve problems with our billing engine and order system while we both have a fever. Frank became a father in September and is experiencing short nights. I myself became a father 13 months earlier, so it feels like we have launched a total of 3 startups 😉. Meanwhile, I’m learning how to sell at scale and how to grow a SaaS business.

Celebrating Milestone with Fabian, Wessel and Jet @ Online Succes HQ (2015)

In 2015, I hire our first employee: Lisette. She is a student abroad and starts working for us remotely as a data validation specialist. The algorithm of our companies recognition needs a lot of human corrections. Frank’s mother also helps with this from the beginning. Soon, I hire the next employee to assist with acquisition: Jet. Then the third and fourth players come on board: Fabian and Wessel. They start working to further expand our acquisition activities.

In 2015, we also manage to raise an investment of 50,000 EURO from a friend and Angel Investor. It confirms that we are on the right track and we close the year with a drink at our office on the Nieuwe Gracht.

Team Online Succes @ New Year’s Eve Party (2015)

Scaling up

In the years that follow, we continue to build Online Succes together. We have an Agile mindset without applying a framework like Scrum. Through trial and error, we learn what works and what doesn’t. Iterate as quickly as possible, that is our motto. In 2016, I hire our first backend developer: Michele from Italy. He starts with the development of a new version of our IP-matching algorithm.

In 2017, we raise additional growth capital: this time 250,000 EURO from a valued acquaintance of my uncle. This allows me to hire Fabio. He supports us in the further development of the Online Succes application. Jeroen, Tarek and Sylvie also come on board. In 2018, we move to a new office and are named one of the best E-business companies in the Netherlands by Emerce.

Moving day to new office (2018)

Our annual turnover is now approaching 500,000 EUR, and we have a positive operational profitability (EBITDA). But despite this, our net profit is negative. This is not unusual in the early phase of a SaaS, so too in our case because we are making heavy investments in our product (reducing net profit).

And even though we pay out a decent management fee every month, Frank is beginning to question his part in our adventure. The negative net profit gnaws at him and he finds the responsibility for engineering increasingly difficult. And as a young dad, he still suffers from short nights. All this affects his perspective and capacity to bear stress.

As a result, the relationship between me and my business partner also deteriorates. During this period, we are definitely not the best version of ourselves. My pitfalls include ‘evaluating instead of celebrating’ and always looking at how something can be improved. Whenever something is delivered, I always immediately provide feedback on how it can be improved for our customers. Very frustrating to hear of course when you have just worked through a weekend to deliver something.

Looking back, we would have done well to embrace a framework like Scrum much earlier. Then we would have paid attention earlier to matters such as working at a sustainable pace, with clear accountabilities and all Scrum events.

A deal with impact

2018 flies by. After a year of talking, Frank tells me in the summer of 2019 that he wants to quit. I feel his pain from the past years and wish him all the best for a sustainable future. Therefore, the negotiation about his exit is, to put it mildly, messy and not business-like. We describe the deal on a piece of A4 paper and on October 31st 2019, we are at the notary for the transfer of his shares. At that moment, I do not yet fully realize what the financial impact of this deal will be on the business and my mental health.

Besides ending our business relationship, that day also marks the end of our friendship. I experience relief and sadness but also incomprehension at the same time. Ultimately, I learn two new lessons: some things you cannot change, only accept. And everything that happens to you is a gift or lesson that you need to move forward. The trick is to see the lesson and be grateful for it. I am grateful to Frank for all his efforts and realize that we could never have come so far without each other.

New rules for the game

After the departure of my companion, I pull out all the stops. It’s time for new rules for the game: Scrum. The framework has interested me for years, but not until now have we started working with it as a team to such an extent. I engage an external consultant (Bram) to support us in fully embracing Scrum.

We also experience a lot of fun together as a team again. We start doing various activities together weekly, including exercising at Howard’s Health House and retro gaming in Amsterdam. Additionally, we create the best Christmas card ever #flipthefunnel 😅, which we then send out to 3,000 contacts.

Online Succes Christmas Card (2019)

Subsequently, we create a new product vision based on an extensive market analysis. The competition for Online Succes has significantly increased over the past years and the growth of that platform is under pressure. Based on our market analysis, we decide to focus on the corporate market with new products and new sales strategies.

The brand becomes Companda and our new products are Data APIs for the B2B marketer. Thanks to Scrum, we develop our new API platform and accompanying website in sustainable Sprints. Our first API is the SEE API. It allows you to identify companies visiting your website (hey, that sounds familiar 😉) and share this data in real-time with other systems such as website personalization software or a CDP.

Companda, our new brand for the corporate market (2020)

Michiel and I take responsibility for the marketing and sales strategy. In a short amount of time, we scale up our acquisition activities and approach approximately 1,500 professionals in our target audience. We use a number of handy tools that automate a lot of the process. Additionally, we leverage our own software and APIs.

A global pandemic

2020 starts promisingly but unfolds very differently than envisioned due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. From March 2020 onwards, we no longer work in the office and transition to 100% remote work. At that moment, we do not yet know that it will take 18 months before we are back on the Nieuwe Gracht.

100% remote @ work during the COVID-19 pandemic

Due to Covid, we are unable to achieve the intended sales targets for the APIs. In fact, we are greatly affected by the uncertain economic situation and its impact on the market. Our APIs and personalization services are considered luxury products in 2020 and the response from our new target audience is to cut costs. Remote work is also causing sluggishness in the decision-making process among prospects and this has an impact on the entire sales cycle.

The uncertain economic situation also leads to many existing customers canceling their Online Succes licenses. In a short period, we see our customer base halve! This means cutting costs and parting ways with external resources like Bram.

In the end, I close 2020 with a net loss of over 100,000 EURO. It is the biggest financial loss in the history of the company. This is a massive blow and causes a lot of stress. I experience additional financial stress due to the exit deal with Frank that I signed at the end of 2019. As it includes a monthly payment. My new accountant and lawyer advise me to reverse this deal. In the end, I choose to do the right thing and honor the agreement, no matter how mentally challenging it is.

The money is flying out of my business and I am heading toward the abyss. From that moment on, I hit the brakes hard both in business and personally, limiting all expenses to avoid going under. Despite eating healthily, exercising and not drinking, I am not in a best condition. It is a tough rollercoaster ride, ruled by farewells and losses. Of my business partner, customers, team members, dreams, friendships and 9 kilograms of body weight.

Reorganization

As a result, at the beginning of 2021, I carry out a reorganization and with a heavy heart, bid farewell to Wessel and Jeroen. After this, we shift our focus back to Online Succes, given its proven business model. Subsequently, we enhance our solution to identify remote workers as businesses.

We also decide to embrace Amazon Web Services (AWS) as our technology partner. An important motto becomes ‘we stand on the shoulders of giants’. I certify myself as an AWS Cloud Practitioner and Atlassian Certified Professional (Managing Jira Cloud Projects). We further invest in knowledge of Snowplow, React, and Node.js. The marketing of Online Succes also gets a reboot. In the last quarter of 2021, we decide to return to the office. We end the year break even.

The lesson of this year? It doesn’t matter what happens or what you encounter, it’s all about how you react to the situation.

One step at a time

In 2022, the impact of Covid is still noticeable. Fortunately, the customer base has somewhat stabilized. In February, we launch a new ‘purple’ identity for Online Succes and give the application a facelift.

Fabio and Alex during the Daily Scrum (2022)

To better compete, we introduce a new licensing model with lower prices in June 2022. We also reintroduce our free Basic license to minimize the barrier for creating a trial license.

Throughout the rest of 2022, the focus is on developing a new IP recognition on AWS and acquiring new customers for Online Succes. We are also talking with several parties regarding a potential acquisition. Unfortunately, these talks do not lead to the desired outcome.

Changing course

The failure of the acquisition talks definitely impacts our morale. The projected growth for 2022 is not materializing and moreover, the IP recognition market has been undergoing changes for some time. Old competitors are being phased out or consolidated in mega deals.

Besides the market changing, I myself am changing. The rollercoaster ride of the past years takes its toll. My practical realist triumphs over my (almost) inexhaustible optimist. The time has come to change course.

With a tear in my eye I tell Fabio on September 15, 2022, that our paths are going to diverge. It is not a surprise to him since I have always been open about the situation. He is the last employee on payroll to depart. I continue to hire the rest of the team on a freelance basis. It feels like failure, but after a few weeks, another sentiment begins to emerge: relief. This is mainly due to the realization that I hardly have to carry anyone anymore.

Focus on Scrum

My uncle often shares the saying: ‘Life is lived forwards and understood backwards’. I get to experience this wisdom again in the last months of the year. After deep reflection, it becomes clear to me which themes have been important during my career. This translates into a personal motto:

Efficient collaboration with joy and innovation

I also realize that the ingredients of this motto are represented in the Scrum framework. My new course becomes crystal clear: to further develop Companda and myself to help others develop in Scrum, so they are better able to solve complex problems and grow. It also aligns with my natural motivation to help others succeed.

I decide to certify myself in the entire Scrum.org curriculum and to become a part-time Agile coach and freelance Scrum Master. I conduct Scrum training at the place where I have been happily working for over 10 years: at the Nieuwe Gracht at Zaamen in Haarlem.

Additionally, I give Online Succes and Companda the attention they need. All of this enables me to live out my personal motto and combine Scrum theory with practice. At the end of 2023, it is clear that the recovery of my businesses has begun. Profits are being made again and in 2024 I am even able to distribute dividends to my investors. Additionally, I am able to complete the remaining payments to Frank in one go. It almost feels unreal that I have reached this point.

Looking back, the past few years still feel like an unreasonable period. At the same time, I realize that I can’t change anything about it and that it is simply part of the game of “life”. Ultimately, it was an ordeal to show what I am made of, to experience how deep I can go and to discover how obstacles reveal new options. I am grateful for these lessons and for the new path that Scrum has led me to take.

What is next?

My goal for the coming years is to continue providing training and coaching in Agile and Scrum, in addition to running my SaaS companies and to keep developing myself in these areas. This enables me to continue sharing knowledge and experience, and to assist others even more effectively in their personal development. This way, I remain valuable for Agile organizations and teams.

Furthermore, there are some long-term goals in sight, such as becoming a Professional Scrum Trainer and certified NOBCO coach. Ultimately, I know that the journey towards my goals is just as important as the goals themselves. I definitely sense that I am heading in the right direction.

P.S. Respect for reading everything up to this point!

What you didn’t know yet…

  • Born on May 31, 1976.
  • Released a house track on vinyl with friends in 1994.
  • Passed my driving test on the first attempt and had 0 errors in my theory exam.
  • Nevertheless, I managed to crash my very first car into the guardrail within 3 hours 🤪.
  • Proud owner of an extensive Commodore 64 collection.
  • Can always laugh at Dirkjan’s comics.
  • Live together with my wife Linda and my son Maas in the heart of Haarlem.
  • Do not consume alcohol since 2018 out of a desire to age healthily.
  • Enjoy playing with LEGO together with my son.
  • My favorite band: The Midnight (My favo songs on Apple Music or Spotify).
  • Also still regularly listen to records and cassettes on my Technics SL-10 and Nakamichi CR-4.
  • Feel at home on the islands of Texel and Kos.
  • Completed the Dam tot Damloop 7 times and ran the half marathon twice.
  • Enjoy taking long walks with friends.
  • Started practicing calisthenics since 2022.
  • At the office, they also call me the Plank Master.

My beliefs

  • Change is the only constant.
  • Lifelong learning maximizes your potential.
  • Consistent action creates consistent results.
  • Change your perspective and change your world.
  • Help another and you help yourself.
  • This season has not come to break you; it came to build you into the man or woman you are destined to be.
  • The most expensive lessons in your life provide the best opportunity for growth.

Personal mantras

Let's meet!

Want to hire an Agile coach or freelance Scrum Master to strengthen your team(s)? Then book a no-obligation (virtual) introductory meeting to explore the possibilities.
Alex Vermeule

Ontvang ebook

De B2B leadgeneratie gids

Ebook B2B leadgeneratie

Wat iedereen moet weten om leads te genereren in een zakelijke (B2B) markt. 

Stel je vraag en krijg binnen een werkdag antwoord

Stel je vraag en krijg antwoord

Alex Vermeule, Scrum Master, Agile coach en Product Owner

Ask a question and receive an answer within a working day

Ask your question

Alex Vermeule, Scrum Master, Agile coach en Product Owner