Convident: sites, shops and tailormade web apps

Five years, some 350 clients in the region and abroad. Web agency Convident is making the transition from startup to scale-up, focusing on tailormade web services and online marketing, working with clients like the University Medical Center Groningen, global maritime insurance company Anker Crew Insurance and the City of Groningen. But what are the challenges of growing a web agency? And how has COVID-19 changed things?

Convident was founded in 2015 by entrepreneurs Rutger van de Griendt and Rick Dreise. “We were both working as independent contractors and I guess you could say we were friendly competitors”, Rick explains. “But you can only handle so many clients on your own and we both got to the point where we were pretty swamped, so working together just made sense. Rutger is very good at the technical side of things and I really enjoy the sales and entrepreneurial side, so it was an ideal combination.”


From template to tailored

For the first couple of years, Convident mostly focused on the lower end of the market. “We were working with small clients, doing pretty straightforward things, like simple web templates, stuff like that”, Rick says. “We took on as much as we could and of course you kind of have to when at first, but one of the biggest lessons for us as entrepreneurs was understanding that it’s just not a good way to build your business. You would need something like 1300 clients and there’s just no way you’re going to pull that off as a small web agency.”

“We had to learn to focus and be more selective”, Rick continues. “But on the other hand, you also learn a lot from doing a lot of things and figuring out what you’re good at. So now we’re mostly working with bigger SMEs, corporates and government, with more and more emphasis on custom built and tailor made web apps, like planning or CRM tools, rather than just building websites.”


Slow and steady and COVID-19

Last year, Rick and Rutger were semi finalists of the Young Entrepreneur Award. “And this year, we felt confident enough to sign up for the FD Gazellen Awards and the Emerce 100”, Rick adds. “It’s exciting to take these new steps as an entrepreneur and slowly transition from a startup to a scale-up. But we’re taking things step by step and slow and steady growth was a very deliberate choice we made. I think for a lot of startups, success is measured by rapid growth. We decided to focus on building a strong foundation, rather than immediately hiring like 20 new people and try to grow as fast as we can.”

With the pandemic and the world coming to a standstill almost overnight, that turned out to be a good decision for them. “Of course it’s something you can’t plan for, but yeah, we were really lucky in that sense. We now have 15 people working here and had we decided to focus on rapid growth with 20 to 30 employees and little to no financial reserves, we would be in serious trouble. Business is slower now for everyone, but I’m glad we at least have a buffer.”


Going international and other ambitions

Despite COVID-19, Rick is looking for opportunities to take things to the next level for Convident. “We have a few clients in Europe and in Dubai for example, but that’s really more of a coincidence rather than anything else. So we’re currently looking for ways to get more international clients and doing a lot of research in different laws on privacy and taxes for example.”

“And we also want to start focusing more on developing our own tools”, Rick continues. “Tools like registration systems we’re now hired for by companies to develop, we could also develop these by ourselves and create licensing models. If there’s a silver lining to this pandemic, it’s that it allows us to actively look for new opportunities.”