Erwin Blom © Guido van Nispen
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We have to start this article with a disclaimer. Without Erwin Blom and his company Fast Moving Targets, Innovation Origins might never have existed. It was thanks to a live broadcast of Blom’s weekly Top Names show that the two founders of Innovation Origins met each other for the first time in real life. Merien ten Houten was interviewed about his start-ups, Bart Brouwers was in the audience. Afterward, they discussed the idea for E52, Innovation Origins’ predecessor.

The contact with Blom and his colleagues has remained warm ever since. That had less to do with E52 than with Blom’s tireless search for the best tools, the most useful online resources, and his drive to discover and highlight the most effective digital communities. For this purpose, he still uses his weekly Top Names broadcasts (some of which can also be found via Innovation Origins), as well as a series of other activities, whether or not organized via Fast Moving Targets.

“Meaningful, valuable and fun”

One of these is The Product School, an initiative that already saw the light of day a few years ago but was recently upgraded. The Product School teaches you how to turn ideas into products and market them in no time thanks to “no-code techniques”, without any prior technical knowledge. “From app to podcast to community to shop, marketplace and more,” is how Blom himself praises his school. And whatever is built, there are always plenty of tips, tools, and roadmaps. “And the power of a community,” he adds. “For personal or business use. For your hobby or to start a business. Meaningful, valuable, but above all: fun.”

And that brings us straight to the main motivations of Blom, who took his first professional steps as a local journalist and digital pioneer with the VPRO, but at the same time created music history as the leader of the band Eton Crop. For Blom, it’s always about the combination of usefulness, fun, and community. It seems as if commercial interest always comes second or third. “It absolutely does. It makes me very happy to see that The Product School helps people to create things that benefit them. And that they realize that you can make whatever you think of. This always creates a flood of new ideas and products, which gives me energy. If I didn’t need money, I’d be doing exactly the same things I’m doing now.”

Digital clout

Who is the Product School actually for? Blom: “Frankly, for anyone with plans and ideas. It doesn’t matter whether you have a technical education, are internet-savvy or not. People gain skills through the Product School, discover new possibilities, make beautiful things without having the technical knowledge that you would normally need.” That, says Blom, can be useful both privately and in business. “In a corporate setting, it works really well too, because the participants learn and come up with things for themselves and their company. It makes for more digital clout and innovation.”

The Product School has been up and running for some time. And it’s actually going very well, says Blom. “Just under 400 people have already participated in courses and learned how to turn their idea into a product with no-code tools. Whether that was an app, a podcast, a marketplace, a newsletter, a community, or something completely different. The participants are also very enthusiastic, on average they grade us with an 8.5. So that’s very nice. But when a course ends, people start missing it, they tell me. Because then the group is gone, the guidance is gone, the ‘stick behind the door’ is gone. People still want to make things and learn new skills, but it’s difficult for them to do so completely on their own. That’s why we’ve now also introduced Product School membership.”

Three versions

Membership comes in three versions: free, premium, and exclusive. Free gives access to the Product School community environment, where you can meet like-minded people, share knowledge, and get inspiration. Free members also receive tips on tools and methods almost daily. A Premium member also gets access to the Productschool Community’s dedicated online work environment where you conceive, plan, and create your projects. It contains roadmaps, templates, and video how-to’s that will help you further learn skills, make products, and market your wares. There is also room for personal advice. Exclusive members also receive bi-weekly personal coaching for feedback, consultation, and coaching.

Tips from Erwin Blom

In his newsletter ‘Handpicked‘, Blom offered a preview of some of the tools that will also be used in the Product School. Here’s a selection to enjoy, with comments by Erwin Blom:

Do things that don’t scale – “That’s why I’m now emailing 400 people 1 by 1.”

No-code: Glide | Streamyard | Circle | – “Weekly no-code highlights.”

This is the best way to record a podcast remotely – “And it can be simpler than you think!”

Payrequest makes it very easy to get people to pay – “A Dutch startup that makes it very easy to get people to pay.”

Vokal lets you create promotional content for your podcasts on social media – “Social media works best if you want people to see what you have to say or click on what you have to share, with images or videos. Vokal helps podcasters.”

Start your own ‘subscription service‘ – “Have you been walking around with the idea of starting your own ‘subscription service’ for some time? Nine makes it very easy. In 20 minutes you can be live, this service promises.”

This is how to reach your goal – “Valuable tips from Zapier.”

Turn a marketplace into a win-win-win situation – “Via, an interesting article on how to make an online marketplace a success.”

This is how to look for and find business opportunities – “A great tip from Nick Huber on Twitter: want to get rich without luck? Look for well-run companies that have not yet embraced digitization and become their competitor by digitizing and automating!”

No Code Necessary: Zapier As A Service – “Thanks to ‘No Code’ you can do a lot without technical knowledge, but even then it can be nice if others take work off your hands. For example, by setting up automation to work for you through Zapier.”

Designing flags – “I don’t know about you, but I’m not a designer. And so you have to row with the oars you have. Often that means turning your weakness into your strength. But it also means learning from others. That’s how I ended up at a TED talk about flags (!)”

Thousands of ideas up for grabs – “Don’t hesitate, use these ideas shamelessly or be inspired to do something with them yourself!”

How to make ‘dummy’ pictures – “Sometimes you need a picture for a project. You can look for pictures, but with Dummy Image you can easily create a picture in the size of your choice, with the color of your choice and with the text of your choice. Handy.”

This is how you build an audience – “How do you find an audience, how do you find their pain points and how do you come up with products to go with them? Instructive post.”

Zipcan makes embedding a video chat easy – “Zipcan wants to make it easy to embed a video chat into your site. You can do that very simply with Squarespace and Shopify, for example. With other sites, you still have to know how to put a little bit of code in the right place!”

You can become a member of the Product School for free, but there are also plus models. Via a separate course, for example, or as a Premium member (25 euros per month) or Exclusive member (100 euros per month).