The Tilburg mindset as an asset
It started as an idea on a beer mat at 3 a.m., but has since grown into an international success story. With his digital agency LiveWall, Frits Mahovic (35) creates apps, tools, platforms and content for big names like Spotify, RTL, KLM and Coca Cola. After offices in London, Antwerp and Amsterdam, the rest of the world also beckons. But will you leave Tilburg, where LiveWall's headquarters are located? You're welcome. "We are makers and Tilburg is a city of creators par excellence: we're good here."
During a night out in 2010, Frits Mahovic and his current partner Eelco van de Wiel came up with the idea of developing a tool. The idea was seemingly simple: a tool that collects data from (then still) Hyves, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube from people who name a brand, festival or product in a reaction, which is then projected on a screen. A way to link the elusive world of social media to offline reality, if you like. The two nested in their attic rooms on the app, which was given the name LiveWall, and had their first during - yes - the Tilburg fair. The pilot was such a great success that BNN contacted them and... the rest is history. The LiveWall tool has now been taken in more than 120 countries, used at the best-known events Mysteryland and the Olympic Games and embraced by De Efeling, the NBA and ABN Amro, among others. But that's not all: a digital agency has grown out of this one tool, with four European offices and a laundry list of top clients at home and abroad.
The international success of LiveWall did not prevent the agency from always maintaining a strong connection with Tilburg. "After opening offices in London and Amsterdam, we returned to Tilburg after a while," says Mahovic. "We noticed that our mentality worked to our advantage. We don't walk in tailor-made suits, are very down-to-earth. And customers were happy to come to Tilburg instead of Amsterdam. That mindset, from Tilburg as an underdog, had a positive effect on us. We also employ a lot of developers, and we get them from Limburg, Brabant, Zeeland, Gelderland... these are young guests who don't necessarily want to move to Amsterdam, but like Tilburg's relaxed atmosphere.".
Critical and honest
Although LiveWall was born in Tilburg, Mahovic admits that it was only two years ago that the agency started looking around for customers closer to home. "We worked with companies from Dubai to New Zealand, but had never really looked at Tilburg. Our account manager, who focuses on Tilburg, was one of our most successful sales worldwide last year! That says something. There are so many great companies in Tilburg. And for us it is also a good test market. It's no coincidence that they say: 'If it works in Tilburg, it works everywhere'. Tilburg people are critical and honest about what they think of something." As a soccer fan in heart and soul, Mahovic was very happy with one specific Tilburg client: Willem Ⅱ. LiveWall came up with a unique video concept to thank the loyal supporters of the club for their loyalty.
Playing in the stadium
But that's not all in the world of football: the digital agency created a special tool to keep phone users involved with the team during football matches. Mahovic: "Everyone is very opposed to mobile phones in stadiums, but I think: people are sitting on them anyway, so use them instead of fighting against them. So now we've developed an app that lets people play against each other in the stadium on their mobile phones. The winner gets to meet the players after the game, gets a great prize and sees his picture life-size on a screen." Ajax, Real Madrid, Manchester City: all the big football clubs are at Mahovic's feet.
Not that he is going around with it: "The only one who calls me 'boss' is my dog and what really matters to me is making fat shit." Clear language. Starstruck is certainly not Mahovic - thanks to his down-to-earth approach and his mentality as a creator in Tilburg, he wants to create even more and not so much impress. "My ambition is to work even more on the basis of innovation and to develop cool own digital products by 2020. At the moment we are among the top digital agencies in the Netherlands, but in 10 years' time we want to be the best in Europe." With the emphasis on 'best' and not 'biggest': "Quality is so much more important than the number of staff. We want to deliver on what we promise our customers, plus a little more. In addition, I think it's important to have a good working culture: a good vibe and people who can develop themselves." One would expect that Mahovic would find his great sources of inspiration in the tech corner, but nothing could be further from the truth: he looks up to Johan Cruijff the most. "He always stayed with himself, was stubborn and had a vision. That a small country, thanks to him, could bring about something so great: yes, that's what we want too", says Mahovic.
Frits' golden tip