Why the co-Founder of WeTransfer now wants to open-source parenting with Adelee
A Fireside Chat with Nalden at Silicon Allee’s Unplugged in Berlin
What’s the connection between seamless file transfer and improved parenting? It involves an entrepreneur who goes by a single name, Nalden. This co-Founder of WeTransfer recently spoke at Silicon Allee’s “Unplugged” event series. If you don’t know WeTransfer, fix that. They’re the best way to send high-quality files. It’s salvation for creative producers. I can’t count the number of times the audience said to Nalden: “you totally saved me!” Nalden’s on a new mission now: to help save parents some of the tough challenges that come with the job.
I didn’t expect to laugh so hard or discover such relatable material on work-life balance during this candid conversation. It was a captivating chat and here are highlights, broken down in thirds: Design, Parenting, and Energy.
Read on for insights, reading recs, and 5 tips for entrepreneurs.
“Design helps people use something or go somewhere.”
Nalden, a nickname that stuck and eponymous with his domain Nalden.net, speaks in a very direct Dutch mode. Sprinkled with a healthy dose of friendly profanity, we were treated to honest talk about why it wasn’t luck– but rather curiosity– that led him along a successful path.
He talked about his start as a blogger, and how platforms have evolved massively. Now it’s about creating creative content that sits in someone else’s platform. (Ahem. 😓) But it used to be about knowing the tech and playing with the design and code.
When host Travis Todd of Silicon Allee asked Nalden if he’s passionate about design, Nalden responded that he’s “passionate about people. Design helps people use something or go somewhere.”
It seems Nalden is actually more annoyed about design than passionate about it. But that annoyance is constructive; it fuels him to continually improve things. He says now the benchmark of interfaces is insane though, so “it’s tough to make a difference with design.” That wasn’t the case 10 years ago.
But time passes; things change. 2 years ago, Nalden parted ways with WeTransfer and now devotes his time wholeheartedly to an endeavor called Adelee (more on that in a moment) and of course, to his family.
“Parenting is the best startup you can do, with a different exit.”
Nalden explained how he discovered that the parenting journey is work for which he was vastly unprepared. (The audience let him know he’s not alone in that feeling.) He says parenthood is a team effort, much like the collaboration in a startup. This made him seriously wonder:
Why is software (like Slack and Basecamp) developed for co-working, but not for parents? Short answer: because it’s hard!
He pushed himself to explore why families don’t use (the limited) tools that are out there, and that led him to create Adelee, an intimate place that approaches parenting as a team. With it, he aims to reimagine parenting, along with other parents, and share access to expert content about parenting. He basically wants to open-source parenting.
This topic launched a more philosophical discussion about building trust, religion’s lack of following these days, and the importance of play. Play is a big deal, and not just to Nalden. According to Einstein apparently, “Play is the highest form of research.” And according to Nalden, everything is an experiment; this attitude works well in a startup, where you can apply your learnings and iterate.
Nalden himself is the son of an orchestra conductor and teacher, so he explained how he a) listened to a ton of classical music, b) was encouraged to play which led to experimenting on the computer. This experimentation got channeled into blogging, design, eventually WeTransfer, and now Adelee.
He stressed that the first seven years of life are so formative and that children tend to mimic adults. To me as a parent, this serves as a good reminder that we need to a) carve out quality time with kids and b) be mindful of our habits and where we focus our energy.
“There’s always something that gives you energy or hope to keep you going.”
The audience was curious about what has inspired or helped him. After co-founding startups, a design agency, serving on a museum’s board, here are five tips that Nalden shared with the audience:
- Think big but make something small. F*ck up and then fill the gaps. Make sure you have people with you who want to fill those gaps with you.
- Find a problem, and pick the easiest solution. Keep asking questions: why is this product or solution not out there yet? Why is the execution not as I expected it? Develop the software and test it.
- Put up boundaries. It’s a skill to create a context that can recharge you instead of drain you, so guard that space. Read “Not Nice.” Stop pleasing people.
- If you’re struggling with your partner’s “invisible list” of chores and tasks, communicate about the home-work balance and rethink the model. Read “Fair Play” by Eve Rodsky.
- He’s reimagining how to build a company and balance family; the clearest solution for both is to make remote work possible. (Amen to that.)
So what now?
If you want to be a beta tester of Adelee, sign up here. You can follow Silicon Allee’s Unplugged events to hear from more founders, and follow me Elisheva Marcus for distilled insights on Berlin events like these.
Feel free to 👏🏽 and share, too! Danke.