Let me start by saying I’m a huge fan of Richard Branson, a man that’s been an entrepreneur since the age of 16. There is no greater source of inspiration for me – I can see myself living his life through his series of successes and failures. Branson founded Virgin in his early twenties with a long-term vision: developing businesses that make a huge impact by disrupting the market.
I started on the journey to becoming an entrepreneur when I was 17. Now I’m 22 and I’ve made many poor choices, mistakes, but also had a great degree of success. I wouldn’t have been as successful as I am without that trial-and-error process. It’s always on my mind, and I’m always learning from it. I started developing my long-term vision for business when I was 19, but it was still difficult. Thinking in years instead of weeks, going nuts brooding over mistakes that could have happened to anyone, once.
In June 2014 my roommate, a friend of a friend and a colleague and I decided we were going to develop an app. We wanted to start a social media network, a sort of Instagram for sounds. We saw Justin Bieber posting a picture of his album cover with a teaser of his first song, or a picture of a Lamborghini with it’s gorgeous engine revving. We needed a name – a name that would cover the marketing concept and design of the app. I’ve been a fan of melonfruits my whole life, specifically Watermelon. One time I was eating a slice of watermelon, and the perfect concept just popped into my head. The account managers are farmers, you can call your pricing plans greenhouse, garden and sprout and you can visualize growth from seed to a big watermelon. The marketing concept was born and I started to write everything down. Despite my excitement, the app ended up amounting to nothing. .
In December 2014, I noticed demand from the market for applications that would enable WhatsApp for business use. We had customers before were even ‘officially’ working under a brand name. Charl (my colleague from The Next Network) and I started thinking more seriously about the business possibilities for WhatsApp, and we quickly had a viable concept: a dashboard where colleagues could work together to answer incoming customer inquiries.
In 2015 we were at the notary’s office to start our BV. Months prior we had already made the choice to go forth with the “Watermelon” marketing concept. We got started, and as many know, it was a bizarre roller coaster.
In July 2016 we filed for bankruptcy – we just couldn’t do it anymore. The worst part was that the ‘Watermelon’ marketing concept essentially ended up homeless – so the choice to buy back the name was quickly made. While I was busy researching new business, the marketing concept’s foundation of structure and a clear vision stayed with me. I thought about pursuing this with The Next Network, but my gut told me this wasn’t the right brand name. When we had control of Watermelon again, I got straight to work developing a strong vision that I’ll tell you more about in another blog post.
Watermelon Ventures has begun, and the first two ventures are in operation. Watermelon Ventures will focus on building software companies that make business processes better/faster/cheaper. In the future we want to invest in the future with our brand, our knowledge, our network and our capital. We don’t have that focus yet though. We’re now working on developing the Watermelon Messenger platform (it’s still a mystery) and finding customers for melon.ai, where we make custom chatbots for common platforms like Facebook Messenger, Twitter and Slack.
Together with the Advisory Council, Charl Haas and Milvum, my partners at melon.ai; we go forth with Watermelon Ventures. In the words of Richard Branson: “Screw it, let’s do it!”
Alexander Wijninga, Founder van Watermelon Ventures