Ten years of Koos (part 1)

Robbert-Jan van Oeveren

Reading time
5 min read

Jun 17, 2021

Last year, we celebrated the ten year anniversary of Koos. Naturally, this milestone is the perfect time to look back. In this three part blog series, Robbert-Jan - one of Koos’ founders - reflects on a decade of Koos by answering ten questions. In this first part, we go back to the very beginning of Koos and answer the million dollar question; where does the name Koos come from?

Koos was founded in 2009, why did you decide to start the company?

I don’t know why, but I have always had the drive to start my own company. Maybe it was because I came from a family of entrepreneurs. Or maybe it was because of the company I owned during my study time in Delft. Anyhow, the urge was always there. After I graduated from my master in Strategic Product Design at the Delft University of Technology, I decided to travel around the world. On this trip, I stopped over in Melbourne to visit Jules, my friend from university. He had lived and worked there for three years by then, and had decided to return home shortly after.

RJ and Jules at the St. Kilda festival in Melbourne, feb 2009

So, while sipping whiskey at the rooftop bar of a fancy hotel, we discussed the future. Jules explained that he had been talking to a recruiter and had to fill in an onboarding form. On that form, there was a checkbox question where he had to choose between research, design, and marketing. Can’t I check more than one? No, you have to choose. But I want more…  Sorry, that’s not possible. 

Jules and myself then quickly found common ground in believing there had to be another approach. One where we would combine different expertises to create the best products and services. The problem was that back in 2009 there were very few companies that offered such job positions. At that specific moment, the idea arose; why not start something ourselves? 

Admittingly, we were a little bit naive. After all, who is going to trust the service innovation of their organisation to two guys with little to no work experience and a limited professional network? Nevertheless, our ambitions were huge. We decided to just go for it. There, on that rooftop terrace in February 2009, Koos was born.

Jules and myself then quickly found common ground in believing there had to be another approach. One where we would combine different expertises to create the best products and services.

Where does the name Koos come from?

Most companies in our field of work have very serious names with words like: Innovation, accelerator, consultant, CX Excellence Innovator 3.0 Ultra, etc. However, we believe that in our work it is all about the people. Therefore we decided to present Koos as an actual human being, with a traditional Dutch name. 

The name represents the Dutch down-to-earthness we envisioned for the company and its people. Koos is a person who is not afraid of being open, honest and upfront. He doesn’t use difficult consultancy terms but clear, understandable language. One of our first clients, Eric Schriber from Sanoma, described Koos at our evaluation as a ‘refreshing and passionate company’. That is a description we thought really reflected the character of Koos and that we have been constantly striving to live up to ever since.

By the way, did you know that our first logo was a small guy with designer glasses and our first website was completely written from a first person perspective? What we didn’t foresee was that people were mistaking Koos for an individual freelancer rather than a company. Therefore we had to change the complete website to a more understandable ‘Hi, we are Koos’.

The first version of the Koos website, written from a first-person perspective

Take us back to 2010, what did the first Koos project look like?

A big success, haha! We did a mind blowing workshop for the astounding sum of €263,80 (€250 for us plus €13,80 for PostIts). But seriously, our first big project was for Sanoma digital, where we worked for Startpagina.nl. We were introduced by an intern, who knew us back from university. Not exactly the envisioned board-level introduction, but hey, we were invited for a pitch. 

After we pitched for them, we walked back to the elevator and were joking about Jules’ last name (which is Prick and therefore unquestionably hilarious) and his uncle ‘Harry Prick’ (say that out loud. See?). For us, this was just a little fun moment where we chatted up our potential client. Later, they told us that was the moment they decided to pick us over the other guys. Of course we had a good pitch, but above all, they expected it would actually be fun to work with us.

Persona workshop with the Sanoma Startpagina team in 2010

In 2009, Startpagina was in the top twenty of the most visited websites in the Netherlands. However, visitor numbers were declining. Although it was still a big cash cow, they did not know who their visitor was and why they were leaving. Our task was to get to know the user of Startpagina and see how we could revitalize this Dutch internet icon. 

It was a very challenging project in which we did a lot of exploratory research, created a need-based segmentation and personas, created lots of ideas which were translated to designs on the website (our first UX project!) and presented on a roadmap to implement the best ideas in the coming years. A typical ‘double diamond’ project, which still forms the basis of our service design projects today.


End of part 1…. Stay tuned for more Koos history and awesomeness!

Stay tuned for more Koos history. In the meanwhile...

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Service Design and the transition to a Circular Economy

Looking back on our first fully remote project

Preparing for the new world

Anniversary Interview – Jette

How to fulfill work-related needs?

The new balancing act between life and work

Why design can help your company in times of crisis

How do you set up a remote user test?

When your home becomes your office