Bring in the holdco

September 9, 2022

For a long time I’ve been thinking about creating a more scalable organisational structure for the businesses we are involved in. Not just by adding a passive holding company that simply holds equity, but by adding a holding company which plays an important role in the greater picture of it all. This summer we have been setting things up for this and the company that is going to hold everything together is called 3forty.

In this read I will take you through the bigger picture of what we're building. 3forty will operate above Eli5, Noco, and The Validation Company. These three companies will now be grouped under "Builder Studios".

A group of builder studios and how it functions

Before this setup of multiple studios, we simply offered all these services under the original studio, Eli5. Which resulted in less clarity towards the market and often caused chaos for us internally. Our new approach works significantly better. It does come with the downside of building separate brands. For me personally the pros outweigh this. Clear propositions, spefic systems for each service, and the right experts working in each studio are of so much more value to me.

Each builder studio has its own proposition, service, team, system, and leadership. People working in these studios contribute to the process of taking projects from input to output. Builders in Eli5 design and develop software products, in Noco they design and build websites for internet companies, and in The Validation Company (TVC) the team focusses on the upfront validation of software products. 

One of the things I find interesting is that each proposition and service is complementary to the others. We've already experienced clients of one studio becoming clients of another. 

Over the course of the next months I want to test something on this topic. I believe that projects of TVC are incredibly interesting to Eli5. The service of TVC is the step before Eli5's service. First you validate, then you build. Now I'm sure not every product validated by TVC needs Eli5 to design and develop it. But if only 5% of TVC projects end up being built by Eli5, it already would be a massive win.   

Adding a central Sales Development unit providing opportunities for each studio

Anyone running a business with an agency model knows it's hard to get in new business in a predictable and constant way. This is the first thing I'm solving before scaling things up.

Certain activities involved in our setup can be executed from a central unit for the entire group of studios. The first two activities I believe are suitable for such a setup are "Sales Development" and "Content Creation and Marketing". The latter is more complex since the input for great content often comes from people involved in projects in these studios. For example, you can't write a great case study without the input from the team involved in that specific project.

Sales Development seems easier to set up this way and is less relying on the teams of these studios. Besides that I find Sales Development more urgent. Creating beautiful content and putting it in front of our audience will be incredibly valuable but it pays off over a longer period of time. Sales Development can pay off immediately.

This sales development unit needs to thoroughly research markets, find interesting niches, perform due diligence on businesses and key figures, find out which companies are a great fit, and reach out to these in a personal yet efficient way.

We've designed the first version of this sales development system and got the whole thing up and running. Over the next months we'll be tweaking it until it does what we want. Definition of success? Five appointments per week for each studio with validated leads. When we can achieve that four weeks in a row, I'm happy.

This sales development system and its performance within this setup deserve a read on its own. I will share this with you when I've got some learnings and results to show.

Investing profits from builder studios into building new things

We love doing what each of our studios promise. Over time this has resulted in numerous happy clients, of which many became friends. Although this is a success on its own, we're too fascinated with building our own products and turn these into businesses.

Over the last two years this has lead to new products and businesses we've built with partner companies and other entrepreneurs. We group these under "Ventures and Products".

Currently there are three of these companies up and running. Each one has started from a different angle.

  • OneClickLayout has come into existence through a partnership with one of Eli5's clients, this one recently launched and has signed up its first customers.
  • Selé started through a DTC idea I've had myself. At the beginning of this year my friend Coen joined this business full-time to make it happen. It's been in business since April and has crossed 10k monthly revenue. 
  • Lastly Papyr, which is started by Jorrit Keijzer, a formal Eli5 intern and this one leads us to 3forty's founder program.

Founder program for youngsters who do not fit the conventional educational system

It was in 2019 Jorrit ended his internship at Eli5 and continued to university. After 3 months he called me. His message was that university was incredibly uninspiring and he learned a lot more in the short internship he had at Eli5 than he expected to learn through the curriculum for the entire year. He asked me whether he could come and work at Eli5 and if my partner and I could mentor him towards building his own business.

I myself dropped out from several studies and always felt it wasn't for me. Unfortunately it took me several years to find out about ways more suited for me to develop myself. If this could save Jorrit the same hassle then that would be a big win for him.

So we hired Jorrit and over a timespan of 1,5 years he learned a lot about validating, building, and growing software products. He has been tinkering with multiple ideas, including an app that guides people through micro dosing LSD and Psilocybin. Eventually he came to Papyr, an app that helps users finding their next read. The app aggregates content from all over the internet and serves users with reads. The idea came from the problem he always faced when trying to find long reads via Twitter.

It's incredibly fulfilling to help young talented people who aspire to build their own things. Especially those who do not fit the conventional educational system. So we've launched a founder program under 3forty that does just that. Young people can apply to the program and over the course of a year they'll work in Eli5, Noco, and The Validation Company. While getting paid they learn everything about building software products and how to turn these into thriving businesses.

Interested in the founder program or know anyone who might be? Please shoot me an email on

- Wes

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