No piece of software, spreadsheet, process, rule book or corporate motto has any real impact on the quality of the work you do. The only thing that matters is having great people, and they are difficult to find.
Victor Knaap (Partner and CEO): I started at MediaMonks a bit later... two years and 9 months later, to be precise. After sailing round Europe for a living, I joined the company in 2003. Being the only Monk with a driving license, I initially became the one to handle clients and accounts. Today, I’m a partner and Managing Director (aka Main Monk) of MediaMonks.
What do you do for inspiration?
Wesley: Work inspires me, the chaos and creativity that comes with digital ad stuff has given me more light-bulb moments than I can recall. Over the years I think my process for being inspired goes something like this: watch/read lots of different stuff > don’t really think about it, just let it mature in the recesses of your mind like a fine wine or... mold > start talking about stuff around a project or some of the wall idea > BAM! Suddenly you see unicorns and double rainbows.
I become inspired as all the stuff I’ve seen & done are suddenly pulled into focus and start connecting to the task at hand. In weird ways I could have never imagined.
Victor: I agree. If that doesn’t work I just browse through the FWA.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
Wesley: As the years have passed my Internet has become progressively smaller. I can remember going for epic internet treks, jumping from site to site, down the rapid rabbit hole of rabid ravings the internet tends to be so good at. Now, I mostly just visit the Gawker network & Facebook. Yeah I said it, buy stocks people!
Victor: Being the ‘suit’ of the company I have to admit to be spending a lot of time on LinkedIn.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Wesley: MediaMonks, hands down. It’s amazing to be able to start, build, shape and cajole a company while you’re still young enough to know it all. The result is a weird and wonderful place I think the 19 year old me would have wanted to work at.
Victor: I have survived a solo sailing trip for three days and nights without going insane, besides that I am very proud of our accomplishments with MediaMonks. We directed the company from a four person basement agency to 170 Monks in NY, London and the lovely Hilversum (media hub near Amsterdam).
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
Wesley: I have visions of working in a book-shop. Sipping green tea, mulling over the latest releases with nary a deadline in sight. As it is, I desperately try to battle my ever growing unread kindle purchases, RSS & twitter feeds and instapaper backlog.
Victor: I probably would be sailing the world and running few web shops from the ship. I love the sound of an incoming email with a new order. Combine that with the sound of splashing water and a breeze from the sea and you get the sound of a perfect life.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
Wesley: My personal best is 38 hours, but I tend to prefer short naps between bursts of work. In our formative years we would work 12 hour shifts and take either 1.5 or 3 hour naps, as a normal sleep cycle tends to be around 90 minutes. It’s all about waking up at the right time in contrary to how long you actually sleep.
Victor: I can do 12 hour shifts for years round.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
Wesley: Dropping out of school probably rates pretty high in my list. Right there with the horrible hubris that made us start a company in the first place.
Victor: The memory of my first job of 6 months as a marketing hulpje (from Dutch: an assistant/ runner) at a Turkish bank still motivates me to do my current job.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
Wesley: Juggle gives the impression we could drop one. I prefer the term “successfully manage to fruition”, and that would be about 50.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
Wesley: I’m out of the hands-on software loop, but every time I use Spotify I still feel like I’m in the future. Music streaming to all my machines, legally.
Victor: I take working software for granted, I totally hate the new maps app on the iPhone though.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Victor: It gives us the drive to win more every year.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
Victor: The transformation from being a local to an international agency working for international brands and consumers took us five years of hard work. We thank the Dutch agencies that helped us shape our skills and expertise.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Wesley: Nope, no books and no plans. There is a collection of quotes culled from company-wide emails I used to send, that was lovingly put together into an animated video. I’m more of a music guy.
Victor: I wrote a bestseller several times in that short moment just before falling asleep. In reality I co-produced a pretty unknown short movie once..that’s it for now.
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
Wesley: I’m a firm believer in the 1% inspiration, 99% transpiration rule. Being successful means putting the hours in and being ruthlessly efficient in making sure those hours are spent focused on the important instead of the irrelevant. My time outside of work is mostly spent thinking about my time inside of work and making sure I’m doing the things I should be doing.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
Wesley: I fluctuate wildly between “everything will be pretty much the same, only with more devices” to “Skynet, run!” (Skynet on Wikipedia).
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
Victor: Ai, lame answer but probably our most recent work. We’re having a great year, with a lot of FWA’s (11 so far) and hopefully a few more on the way. If one stands out in the last few months it’s probably T-shirt OS with Workclub London, it’s pretty special.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
Wesley: No piece of software, spreadsheet, process, rule book or corporate motto has any real impact on the quality of the work you do. The only thing that matters is having great people, and they are difficult to find. You look for a talent-baseline and after that it all comes down to mentality, mindset, and personality. You look for great people that play well with others and have an ego that allows them to speak up but also to listen to others that do the same.
Victor: If you combine that with hard work and never leaving the office before you have finished your job, you can apply now at email@example.com. Ask for Wesley ;)
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Wesley: Doing good work, being nice to people and winning a few FWA’s tends to work well.
Victor: Weirdly, I only remember driving around the Netherlands giving creds presentations.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
Wesley: I tend to use Twitter as a barometer of what I need to be aware of in our industry, combined with a smattering of RSS feeds for more general interests. Brainpickings.org fills up my kindle list and Facebook is my place to fake having a private life and making sure I don’t miss any important cat videos.
Victor: I talk to Wesley...
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
Wesley: We are going full patriotic here and calling out the Dutch! We have a completely un-scientific “feeling” that the Netherlands have the highest density of leaders in digital, advertising and design industries. Amsterdam has a very flourishing advertsing scene with strong local shops and very creative agencies alongside with all the big networks and advertising starts such as 180 Amsterdam or Wieden+Kennedy. All of them a bike ride away from each other.
What does the future hold for your company?
Wesley: Looking at the last 12 years I don’t think I could have predicted much of what’s happened. I’m here for the ride, and making sure we enjoy the trip.
Victor: We are opening an office in Singapore in 2013.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Wesley: Do stuff. It tends to make things happen.
Victor: Me-di-a-Monks de beste websites van vandaag. (internal joke)