…“Focus” — once you know where to go and what to do, I believe it is important to focus on the niche or segment you are targeting and become the best in that. Afterwards, you can decide to scale and widen your segment, but at least you are well rooted and anchored in one segment, making it harder for a potential new competitor to take over.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dietrich Moens.
Dietrich is the CEO and co-founder of Spacehuntr. A Brussels native, his career blossomed as a successful banker working on deals in excess of €2.5bn in the finance and investment space on Wall Street with AG Real Estate, Belgium’s Largest Asset Manager. Following reconsideration of his professional ambitions and having flirted with entrepreneurship, he decided to take the leap in 2018 to establish Spacehuntr.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Sure, and thanks for having me! Whilst I always worked in events including festivals, nightclub events, or major industry fairs during my student years, my professional background lies in institutional real estate investments. Before founding Spacehuntr, I was working as an asset manager in Belgium’s largest asset management firm and focused on the larger private equity transactions (+500MM). This meant that I often had to travel to larger deal size markets, such as New York City, where we, for example, took key participation in a privately held portfolio containing multiple major buildings on and around Wall Street.
After spending approximately 7 years in investments, the thrill was gone, so I looked for new challenges. It was at that moment that my co-founder Michael Luckx — who just finished his EMBA in Berlin — approached me to start something together.
At first, I wasn’t too crazy about the idea of starting a venture with a friend but as we discussed and worked out an MVP, the idea started to grow on me and now I couldn’t wish for a better partner. As Michael is everything I am not and the other way around — which is one of the most important factors to have a balanced founding team.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Sure — Until Spacehuntr, our clients spend on average 8 weeks to get their international event organized; we promise the same, but better, in 8 hours or less. How do we do this? Instead of silo-booking the event venue, the restaurant, the hotel and transportation separately, Spacehuntr allows for booking all of this in the same place. Moreover, we provide clear and standardized contracts, so no more need for extra legal counsels. We also offer a centralized billing system, eliminating dreadful procurement costs. And finally, our integrated system allows for organizational updates such as dietary restrictions of participants to be forwarded in real time with notifications to all related parties — in the case of dietary restrictions: the catering company. This way we save a ton of time on sending emails back and forth with the coinciding risk of human error on the way.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Oh plenty of them. But I guess one of the first and most important lessons we learned — the hard way — is to “Start before you are ready”!
When we just started out, we spent 6 months making the perfect product. It was fabulous, everything was automated: booking, payment, invoicing, et cetera. We literally automated everything we could think of. However, the thing we didn’t realize was the importance of real market testing (and not just spamming friends and ex-colleagues with silly surveys) BEFORE spending time on perfecting or automating the system. Luckily we realized this in time and started selling before automating further (the wrong things).
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I never had any structural mentors as such, but I’ve definitely benefited from some meaningful advice. One piece of advice that had an immediate impact on me was from Lode Uytterschaut, Founder & CEO of Start it X, who told me “Dietrich, in the beginning, do non-scalable things”. With this statement Lode unlocked the idea to add a human-to-human approach to my business and start delivering top-notch customer service. I am convinced this approach is one of the main, if not the most important, reason why major clients like Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon love our service so much that they keep coming back.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Love the question. And I guess the answer is somewhat ambiguous. But as a general rule, I would say that any disruption that delivers more or the same output with the same or less resources, without negatively impacting the environment, is a positive disruption. Now I guess the first part of the equation is fairly straightforward and easy to measure, whereas the environmental impact is more ambiguous.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Let me try to give a shot at this. The first one I would say is “Execute” — ideas are great and so is brainstorming, but both are worth zero if they are not executed!
The second one i would say is “Test” — and with testing I mean real market testing. Not just spamming friends and ex-colleagues with silly google questionnaires about what colour to pick for your logo. I mean real market testing, where money is on the line. Someone saying they WOULD buy something from you isn’t the same as someone buying from you. The first one is nothing more than a lousy promise, whereas the latter is a real and, in my eyes, the only proper validation.
The third one I would say is “Focus” — once you know where to go and what to do, I believe it is important to focus on the niche or segment you are targeting and become the best in that. Afterwards, you can decide to scale and widen your segment, but at least you are well rooted and anchored in one segment, making it harder for a potential new competitor to take over.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We have come to realize that we might actually have a shot at the big boys. We might just do that ;).
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
The book Mindset, by Carol Dweck, has made a significant impact on my life. I think it might have been the book that gave me the courage to leave the train of a secure corporate job and get on the entrepreneurial roller coaster some years ago.
The book essentially describes 2 main personalities: the fixed and the growth mindset. And shows that — for the same issue — depending on the angle we choose to take, the outcome will be radically different.
The book helped me see through some barriers and question traditional frames. For example, whilst I would previously hire based on academic track record, qualifications and skill set, I now almost exclusively hire on cultural fit, ambition and achievements (go-getters). This means that at Spacehuntr we have the widest variety of profiles — we have people coming from circus school, to Chinese interpreters, to elite MBAs to retired professional ballet dancers.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Wow, my favorite .. “Live and let live” I would say. I am a strong believer in honesty and integrity. Just as in my personal life, I like to treat my friends and family in such a manner as I would like them to treat me. And the same is true at work, whilst I might have high expectations and zero patience and tolerance for incompetence, I do make it a personal point to make sure all our people are well treated and feel 100% comfortable at work. And, of course, also partners I like to treat fairly and just.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Get a kindle and amazon unlimited for everyone. Books make better people 😉
How can our readers follow you online?
Linkedin is probably your best bet!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!