Startup Lands a $65 Million Dollar Contract in 5 Weeks

by | Aug 7, 2018 | Blog | 0 comments

Meet Martijn Atell, former electrical engineer and computer scientist turned CEO of VoteBash. Martijn learned our Best Buyer strategy and with some coaching closed a $65 million dollar contract within 5 weeks! Yes, you read that right. $65 million dollars in 5 short weeks. Martijn won the Red Herring award in 2017 and his company, VoteBash, has joined Entrepreneur 360. This is a list of the fastest growing and most innovative companies in the U.S.

Being inspired when coming to the U.S. after the 2008 election, Martijn found a way to connect Fortune 500 companies directly to the consumers, without the need to spend hundreds of thousands or million on a focus group of 8-10 people. In this interview, you’ll learn:

-The key exercise Martijn did that was key in winning him the $65 million dollar contract.
-How surviving the Amazon jungle lead to business success
-The driving philosophy that lead to the $65 million dollar contract

And much more…

Download the Podcast on Entrepreneur Weekly!

Hear the interview on Entrepreneur Website here:



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[00:00:00] Amanda: Thank you so much Alan. We have today, I’m so thrilled to have Martijn Atell who is the founder and CEO of VoteBash. Now the reason why every entrepreneur is sitting at the edge of their seat right now is because everybody wants to know, how do you go from zero to 65 million in five weeks? That’s pretty pretty phenomenal. Everybody that I’ve talked to has been quite thrilled that the first question is, “What do they do?” So Martijn can you tell us a little bit, what is VoteBash?

[00:00:33] Martijn: Sure. VoteBash is a new space of engagement where people vote their opinion and we help brands and organizations get a real time feedback for their decision making processes. It could be they need to do new marketing campaign or they want to find out what the next best product is, you can do that on VoteBash. And when people vote on VoteBash, they get rewarded for their opinions with a deal or a discount. Whenever that happens then, everyone wins because the voter, the consumer, gets a reward and the retailers, or the organizations, they will get the data and the background and they will be able to find out what is next and where the customers actually are and what matters to them. So from that perspective it’s really a great business model and we make money.

[00:01:22] Amanda: Yeah.

[00:01:23] Martijn: When the consumers really redeem those rewards and go to a point of sale and then we get a commission.

[00:01:29] Amanda: So my understanding from what you’ve told me is that typically Fortune 500 companies, obviously, do focus groups and they’ll spend a quarter of a million dollars, even a million dollars, to get 8 to 10 people in a room to just get feedback about what they’re doing with their marketing, what they’re doing with their product and that’s a very expensive commodity. So what you’ve been able to do is take that process, which takes so much time their even analyzing data that has been six months old, which today you can’t do. So to be able to give them real time data you now brought that process online so that you can send out an e-mail and say “Hey I’d like some feedback.” They can then give that feedback in exchange for a discount or a coupon and they can share it with their friends so it can become viral as opposed to just getting eight to 10 people’s feedback you get real time feedback. Is that correct?

[00:02:21] Martijn: Exactly. That’s really on point. And from that moment on we also thought about how can we further improve this process by bringing the marketing role and the research tool together. Now you actually have brand ambassadors and advocates promoting the brand with a button on VoteBash, showing it to their friends and family, what this brand is doing, what new campaigns are coming out. So that’s the exciting part of VoteBash.

[00:02:48] Amanda: Very interesting so. So your background… You weren’t in this at all. You were at BMW. How did that…tell me about that.

[00:02:57] Martijn: Yeah yeah. So after I studied electrical engineering.

[00:03:04] Amanda: Electrical engineering? Ok ok.

[00:03:05] Martijn: Electrical engineering and computer science. I got the opportunity to work for BMW and actually did my thesis over there and went into the role of doing process development with a group over there. So it was really interesting place to be in Germany and as I progressed through various roles over there in that organization, I was able to get an assignment overseas in the United States.

[00:03:35] Amanda: Oh ok.

[00:03:35] Martijn: And that was in the year 2008 where the elections were very very phenomenal. Where President Obama got elected and where I think the first time we saw in the United States a really grassroots movement that was organized through social media and other platforms, and I thought “Hey this is great. Why can you not do that for brands? Why can you not do that movement and that grassroots thinking, forward thinking, for brands and organizations?” I start playing with that in my mind. And then we moved forward and I got with this idea. It’s how VoteBash was born in the first place.

[00:04:18] Amanda: Wow so fascinating and I got to hand it to you. So you came from Holland, right? Just said “I’m going to figure out how to grow this new thing that had never been developed before.” Congratulations. It’s been… It’s only the tip of the iceberg which, you know, when I heard the numbers, when I heard about you I thought “Wow. Could it get any bigger than that?” And now that I’ve talked you have realized it can grow so much more. So we have….So… In this next segment what we’re going to cover is how did you do it. Everybody wants to know, how do you land a 65 million dollar contract? So hold on. Here we come.

[00:04:58] Martijn: Good.

[00:04:58] Amanda: Alight. And we are back with Martijn Atell, CEO and founder of VoteBash. So what everybody everybody’s been wanting to know, all of the entrepreneurs listening out there, how exactly to land a 67 million dollar contract? Can you talk a little bit about where were you at before that happened.

[00:05:16] Martijn: Yes I think every entrepreneur comes in a specific moment where it’s hard to figure out what you want to do with the business. So we just have the product market fit and we’re are trying to find customers and consumers. And that’s where I realized I need some help and I need some guidance. And that’s where I reached out to Chet Holmes Group – I reached out to Deberah Bringelson who did the deal with Virgin, with Richard Branson and with Arnold Schwarzenegger. And we were sitting together and said, “OK what is it what we could do to make VoteBash work?” And one of the things that were really epiphany for us as we found out that one of the things that I wanted to do I thought, I could not, was actually possible so I was actually blocking myself, if you will.

[00:06:13] Amanda: Wait woah woah… So it was in your head. It was something that you thought was not possible, which many people think listening to this would think “I can’t close a 65 million dollar deal, this year.”

[00:06:23] Martijn: Yes. I think if you are an entrepreneur congrats to you. You really have made a great decision. But a lot of entrepreneurs, like myself, in the beginning they think they’re not worth it. And that’s part of society. Society tells you that you’re not allowed to get success and even if you do, then there are always people in the background telling you that you are not great. And I have experienced it many times. So actually, that built up in my head and I was able to block myself and through certain topics and exercises, I was actually able to unblock myself and I was able to focus on what matters most to get this deal.

[00:07:01] Amanda: Well I find this really interesting. What Deberah told me, and you told me as well, is that you actually spent the time every morning to do a meditation.

[00:07:09] Martijn: Yes. Yes, I did that together with my wife and we did the five secrets. So we try to align our feelings, our core beliefs. We try to align all the creativity and everything that comes together at one point and then that’s where I always start my day. So I’m always happy.

[00:07:29] Amanda: So you’re telling me that in setting an intention and being clear on your core values can actually assist you to attract success.

[00:07:38] Martijn: Yes, because you still have to do the work. But a lot of things that really bring the extra mile is in things like how do you feel, how do you come over, how do you talk to people. A lot of people don’t understand that business is still human business. People don’t buy from companies; they buy from people. So you have to understand that the way you come across, the way you work with people, is something that you can influence and if you can set the motion, if you can set the mindset for that in the beginning of your day, then you could be twice as successful as you normally would.

[00:08:20] Amanda: Oh my gosh. So you’re telling me that while you were going to Chat Holmes Group coaching method you found that just having that positive frame, you started your day in a positive place, and getting that coaching to break through those barriers that you had in your own head, nothing was holding you back but what was in your own head, to then reach out to your network and in that five weeks… What do you think was the thing that really landed them? You said that it was people, but give me the very specific. What did you… Did you guys relate on something in life? What landed that deal?

[00:08:51] Martijn: Yeah I think the most important thing is really understanding your customer, trying to figure out who you are. But then at a core level you have to know where they want to be what their pains are. What they are struggling with. And one of the things that I want to point out here, what I learned in the group coaching, is that it was very specific what we had to write down about each of our core customer personas. What they’re basically struggling with, and the things that they are struggling with was not “Oh I need to become the number one in my company.” It was more or less like, “Oh can my children go to college? Can I pay for college? Can I do these kind of things?” And you’re trying to get to the soft spots and trying to understand what the human being is at its core and then you can connect with them.

[00:09:46] Amanda: Wait so you’re saying that our prospects are real people.

[00:09:50] Martijn: Yes they are, always.

[00:09:51] Amanda: And they have struggles just like we have struggles.

[00:09:54] Martijn: Yes.

[00:09:54] Amanda: So if you can connect on that similar ground, it’s easier to win a deal.

[00:09:59] Martijn: It’s easier to win a deal. It’s easier to connect with people and it’s easier to retain customers.

[00:10:06] Amanda: Well beautiful I think that wraps up our second segment here and in the third segment we’re going to cover a little bit more about Martijn and what’s the future of VoteBash and what entrepreneurs can learn from closing 65 million dollars.

[00:10:20] Amanda: And we are back with Martijn Atell, founder and CEO of VoteBash. Martijn, so I find this so fascinating how you’ve been able to completely shift this paradigm of what it means for a business owner to see value in real time feedback. Can you give us a tactical example of how getting feedback from your clients can assist with generating more business or helping with marketing? Do you have any key examples of this?

[00:10:48] Martijn: Yes, we’re testing a couple of projects and we have one customer that was able to verify certain geographical areas. This person, this organization, had an assumption of a certain graphical area where they wanted to be in and found out that the picture of the demographics were completely different.

[00:11:12] Amanda: Wow. Like what. Like they were male instead of female or age graphic.

[00:11:18] Martijn: Actually what they were thinking and feeling, because people wanted to decide if they wanted to have a presence there, since wanted to build a store there. So they found out that it was really in a different area and they were able to make savings because of that and they were also able to adjust their marketing because of that. So these are just the things that you can do, it’s just scratching the surface, finding out what the customers really want.

[00:11:46] Amanda: Oh my gosh. I mean that’s got to be a million dollar saver more depending on what kind of a business that is. If you’re going to build a whole location somewhere, be nice to know the market data beforehand. That’s fascinating, that’s really fascinating. So what is the future of VoteBash? Where will we see you? What’s the plan? Did you plan, last year, that you would get to where you are now? Let’s start with that question because I’m curious, did you have that plan?

[00:12:10] Martijn: Well this is a small story. When I was 10 years old, my father wanted me to write down my future planning. Unfortunately, my father passed away last year. But I still remember that day where I had to write down what I needed to do and one of the things I’ve said, I would have my studies done. I would work in Germany for BMW.

[00:12:41] Amanda: Hey, at 10!

[00:12:41] Martijn: At 10 And I would go to the United States. And I told my father that, I told my mother that and I had to sign it. And every time when I wasn’t really aligning myself with my core vision, my parents pulled out the paper and said “Hey, you said you would do this and we want to see some commitment.”

[00:13:02] Amanda: Oh my gosh.

[00:13:02] Martijn: So there was some planning with it but it was more from the parents house. But yes, of course you do set certain milestones but you would never find out where you’re going to be or how you will end up. It’s more or less like sculpturing or like doing a painting. You have an idea of where you want to go, but in the end it will be nice but probably not what you have thought of in the first place.

[00:13:30] Amanda: And I just do have to give you those accolades. Last year you won the Red Herring award for 2017. You also.. What was it with Entrepreneur? What was that?

[00:13:40] Martijn: Yeah I was really stunned by that. I got selected for the Entrepreneur 360 list. One of the top companies that was innovative and entrepreneurial in the U.S. and I was very humbled by that.

[00:13:55] Amanda: That’s beautiful. Well I’m glad we got a bigger segment from that as well. So… Very interesting. So now let’s go to where is the future for you, knowing what you’ve been able to achieve last year, that’s pretty phenomenal.

[00:14:10] Martijn: I think what you will see is that we’re going to move to mobile a lot because we’re website and we are working on a mobile app. We’re going to present a family of mobile apps. And then what you will see is that we are going to emerge in different areas of commerce. Right now we have a very strong focus on retail. And you will also see us in some political realms as well.

[00:14:39] Amanda: Oh interesting. And for those of you that aren’t on mobile, I would highly recommend it considering that on average today consumers are on mobile five hours a day. Forty-two percent of that time is on social media. So if you’re not there, that’s where your consumers are. So congratulations for being there. Why don’t we wrap this up with the last final, what would you give it as advice to entrepreneurs out there hearing this… Hearing your story?

[00:15:05] Martijn: Yes. What you don’t know about me is that I survived in the Amazon jungle, as a ritual, as a ritual to become a man in my culture. So I did that when I was 18 years old. I’m not goanna go through the whole story but I’ll tell you three life lessons that I give everyone. Number one you focus because if you don’t focus you die in the jungle.

[00:15:27] Amanda: Like pigheaded discipline and determination.

[00:15:32] Martijn: Yes. And you have to pivot, always. Don’t be afraid to pivot and move away from your idea and never give up. And the core of that, you always has to have the discipline to do whatever you don’t want to do in your business because that’s how you become successful. And you always have to have the determination. That’s what I would give them.

[00:15:52] Amanda: Beautiful. Well it aligns very well with Chet Holmes International in our New York Times best seller “Ultimate Sales Machine”. You have to have- if you fail at businesses because you gave up- that one single token is pigheaded discipline and determination. So thank you so much Martijn. It’s been such a pleasure. I’ve learned so much and I think everybody can learn out there that sky is really the limit. If you just are clear in your core values. If you’re clear on where you want to go, then the opportunities are endless.

[00:16:20] Martijn: Clear your head and be the best authentic self you can be.

[00:16:23] Amanda: Thank you.

[00:16:24] Martijn: Thank you. Pleasure’s mine.

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