MOVZ also cares about dancers learning the latest dance moves by providing the most up-to-date dance library for dancers to learn dances as they go viral.
Marthe is passionate about dance, technology, and our planet, and is an avid advocate for equal opportunity technology that fits the zeitgeist of new generations.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and describe your journey as an entrepreneur? What made you take the plunge into entrepreneurship and what were some of the key milestones along the way?
I am Marthe Lübbers, originally from the north of Germany, but currently living in Medellín, Colombia. I had the idea for MOVZ in 2020, when I was living in Tokyo and saw dances on YouTube that I wanted to learn from, I downloaded them and edited them so that I could copy the moves until I mastered them. Similar structure to how you learn a dance in a dance class. This was super efficient.
With Tiktok dances going viral every other week, I saw an easy entry into the market, but I needed my boyfriend’s encouragement to understand that I could actually create the product I envisioned myself. The biggest milestones were a promotion with a dancer that led to 10,000 downloads at $0.04 CAC, an initial round of investment, and impressing key dancers with the app.
Looking back on your entrepreneurial career, what are the three most important lessons you learned that you think every aspiring entrepreneur should know?
1. Make sure you balance how much you talk about your idea and how much you actually do to make it happen. It’s good to talk about it, especially if you get constructive feedback from those you talk to, but many people talk about their ideas and few act. Talk is good, but action is the key to progress.
2. It’s much easier to keep working on something and be resilient if you are really burning for it. If you intuitively feel that this is your purpose, listen to it and let that feeling carry you through the difficult times.
3. Some people, including my former self, like to hold on to the idea of the single “golden bullet.” I have learned that it’s good to always have a plan B and C in place. You need to make yourself as independent as possible from anything that is not under your control. When you feel like Plan A is not working, your preference for Plan B grows. You keep the momentum going by keeping alternative options open in your mind.
Talk is good, but action is the key to progress.
When you start a business, you often have to take risks. How do you assess the risks in your ventures and how do you deal with them? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs on how to deal with unpredictability?
It’s important to be frugal with money. To continue with my third lesson from the previous question: Keep your options open! Do not budget too tightly and rely on Plan A to work out. Most of the time it will not work out, but you will learn an important lesson. The early stages are all about experimentation. The more you can experiment, the fewer imponderables there are.
The early stages are all about experimentation.
Building a strong network is critical for entrepreneurs. What strategies have you used throughout your career to build meaningful connections and partnerships? How has networking contributed to your success?
I participated in the Founder Institute Accelerator and now have mentors who have my best interest and that of my company at heart. That has led to investment! I am also a member of the Harvard Innovation Lab, which gives me access to accomplished experts who enjoy mentoring founders in their spare time. Their enthusiasm for the company and their advice during our weekly calls are a great motivator for me. I have also noticed how open many people are to talking on the phone with someone they have never met.
I have contacted many people on Linkedin. I do not focus on how many do not get back to me, honestly probably 90%, but I am very grateful and pleasantly surprised by those who do. I have had hundreds of conversations with strangers that have been of value to me.
One of the challenges for many entrepreneurs is finding the right balance between innovation and market demand. How do you handle this balance and what steps do you take to ensure your products/services meet market needs?
Start with the bare minimum, the premise of what your company wants to offer. Test it and learn from the feedback. Many ideas sound great in your head but will not be successful for a variety of reasons. Do not build a product with every conceivable feature you can think of. Build a product with the most important feature and get as much feedback on it as possible.
Build a product with the most important feature and get as much feedback on it as possible.
Scaling a business requires effective leadership and team management. What leadership skills do you think are essential to leading a successful team, and how do you foster a positive work culture in your company?
That’s something I’d like to get really good at, but I am still in the early stages with the company and what I have learned. In many ways, a leader is the subservient of their employees, not the other way around. You must provide a climate in which your employees can do their best work. To do this, it’s helpful to understand what the employee wants to achieve in their career, their values, and their current situation.
You must provide a climate in which your employees can do their best work.
You must have the best interests of your employees in mind, and your employee must feel it. As part of my studies, I took courses in organizational psychology and learned the importance of competence, autonomy, and relatedness for employees in their workplace, as well as trust. I recommend that all aspiring leaders look into the studies that have been done on this topic.
In your experience, what are the most effective marketing and branding strategies for early-stage startups? How can entrepreneurs make the most of their limited resources to gain visibility and attract customers?
In our case, our marketing vehicles are dance creators. We try to optimize the benefits that dance creators get from participating in our platform. This way, we get free marketing from dance creators who want their followers on their other social media channels to follow them on MOVZ. We have also had good experiences with low-cost Tiktok promotions with dancers in Brazil.
My tip if you want to connect with popular people on Instagram: Give them a shoutout in your Stories. Most people will check out what it’s about, many respond with a thank you, and some even repost it. In all these cases, they open your message and future messages then land in their inbox, which increases your response rate many times over.
Give influencers a shoutout in your Stories.
Financial management is critical to the sustainability and growth of a business. What financial practices or strategies have you found most useful in managing cash flow, securing funding, and making sound financial decisions?
As a German, I was born frugal. Find cheap overseas talent through fiverr and upwork. Start with a minimal product. As a startup, most software companies will give you a lot of free credit. You do not even need to pay for servers and hosting in the first year. Make use of it!
As for funding: in the beginning, it’s easier to convince people you know about you and your vision. You do not necessarily need a technical co-founder, a team of former Google employees or Bill Gates as a father, as long as your KPIs speak for themselves.
Many entrepreneurs experience setbacks and failures along the way. Can you give a specific example where you encountered a major challenge or failure and how you overcame it?
When the app was ready, I approached the biggest Tiktok dancers in Brazil and organized promotional activities. I wanted to start with a ‘bang’. I created promotional videos for them that had our logo all over them. I did not know yet that the Tiktok platform is not really good for obvious promotions and those first 4 – and more expensive – promotions did not go well.
What lessons have you learned from this Experience?
Fortunately, one Tiktok dancer with fewer followers said she wanted to create the video herself because she knew it would perform better. With less than half the followers, her video did exponentially better and we got about 3000 downloads from it. I should have started slower to learn this lesson with less effort.
As an experienced entrepreneur, what advice would you give to someone just starting their entrepreneurial journey? What are the key factors or habits that contribute to long-term success in the World?
Keep your big goal in mind to motivate you, but only ever focus on the next action ahead. Usually, what you learn as you take the next step will prepare you for the step coming up. Thinking 3 steps ahead is scary and could demotivate you.
Thinking 3 steps ahead is scary and could demotivate you.
Technology and digital transformation have revolutionized several industries. How have you used technology in your business and what new trends do you think business owners should keep an eye on in the coming years?
Technology is the foundation of our business as it is a mobile application. We are using the latest technology, such as AI-powered video editing software, to test how we can turn human dancers in a video into characters that are appealing to children. We are about to launch MOVZ Kids for kids ages 3-10 who love to dance or have their parent’s iPad, and for parents who like to have 30 minutes to themselves without feeling guilty about their child using a device to do something constructive, active, that fosters a sense of rhythmic movement. If you are a parent and would like to know more, please contact us.
Finally, can you tell us any recommended resources such as books, websites or communities that have been valuable to you as an entrepreneur? How do you keep up with industry trends and continue to learn and grow?
The Mom Test was a great book to understand how to do user testing and get honest and valuable feedback, the #1 most important discipline for start-up founders. I also love listening to podcasts with founders. Apart from that I got the most valuable input by asking successful founders and from receiving feedback to questions in my monthly newsletter that 80+ start-up experts are signed up to. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Don’t be afraid to ask!
I love Twitter to keep me up to date on industry trends and technologies. With the latest developments in AI, we may be at a tipping point. Fortunately, this is not a threat to MOVZ, but an opportunity. Especially if the AR glasses like ProVision are adopted by the masses, we will quickly make our technology available to them.
Marthe was also a keynote speaker on latest Pirate Summit in Köln – She talked about the beauty of equal opportunity, the advantages of value loops for sustainable growth, and how to create tech that match the Zeitgeist of new generations.