13 Jul 2017 • 5mins • Thomas Dibble

Something from nothing: Yolt’s COO talks about building Yolt from the ground up


It’s been six weeks since we launched our open beta here at Yolt, and it’s been an absolute blast. From growing our community and getting to know our users to improving the app week by week with their fantastic feedback, we couldn't have asked for a better start to Yolt's public debut.

But, as we've mentioned before on the Yolt blog, our journey started long before our launch date - nearly one and a half years ago as nothing more than a glimmer of an idea shared by a few enthusiastic minds. So, if there's one thing we're particularly proud of as we make our way through our second month, it's the satisfaction of looking back on our humble beginnings, our failures and successes, and the determination that brought us where we are today.

To celebrate our first 6 weeks, we asked one of Yolt’s first joiners - Chief Operations Officer, Mattijs de Waard - to take us back to those early days and answer a few questions about building something from the ground up...

Can you share a bit more about yourself and what you do at Yolt?

My name is Mattijs and I’m responsible for product development at Yolt. I’ve been active in internet development since 2000 and I’m passionate about working with and creating new technologies that make our lives better.

What inspired you to get involved with Yolt?

My Yolt story started with one simple question: Do you want to create the next generation banking app? I was, without a doubt, 100% up for the challenge. I’ve been working on making Yolt, not only a reality, but a success ever since! As I said earlier, I’m passionate about technologies that improve our everyday lives, and I really believe that Yolt is leading the way in the next great development in Fintech and banking. From transparency to personalisation, I’m really looking forward to the revolution open banking will bring in the coming year.

Be honest - what was it like signing up for something that didn’t actually exist yet?

I’ve actually got a favourite analogy for that! When I was first offered the opportunity at Yolt, I couldn’t help but imagine an empty factory hall – and the exciting challenge that lay ahead to make it operational. We’re still not perfect, but I feel truly proud of the team and the product we’ve built together from the ground up.

When it comes to startups, there's always that element of uncertainty, and even little failures can feel catastrophic. During the early days, how did you keep the setbacks from bringing you down?

At the risk of sounding like a Dutch stereotype, I can’t help but compare the startup journey to learning how to ride a bike as a kid. You may fall down a lot at first, but that moment when you really start pedaling and making traction is the best feeling in the world. Then you start picking up momentum, and, even though you know you might fall off again sometime down the road, the fear doesn’t worry you quite so much. If we had let a fear of mistakes or failures stop us, we never would have made it to beta, let alone our 6th week since launch!

What would you describe as that first moment of real success?

Launching the alpha version of the app. Without a doubt. Releasing Yolt out into the world for the first time and letting people actually use it and share their opinions about it... Was it a bit terrifying? Yeah, sure. But, it was also extremely rewarding. We also confirmed what a valuable role our users play in helping to make the app the best it can be. They’re at the heart of everything we do now thanks to what we learned then.

What's been the best part of getting involved with Yolt so far?

It’s always been on my bucket list to help build something different – and with a company culture that made me proud. I think that’s something that connected the team early on – we all wanted to build a product differently than anything we’d worked on before. We didn’t want to waste time making big plans and lengthy executions – instead, we wanted to move fast and create a culture of creativity and passion within the team.

Have you got a number one piece of advice for anyone looking to start something new?

I’ve got two. One: Don’t be afraid of failure. Sometimes you might fail, but move on and be proud of what you learned. It’s all just a stepping stone towards success. Whether that success is tomorrow or a year away is another matter, but just keep at it! And two: Surround yourself with a great team of creative, passionate people. There’s really no limit to what you can achieve with those two things!

The Yolt Team