Mattho Mandersloot has one dream — to be the first European to win the Taekwondo Poomsae World Championship. In order to do so, he decided to return to the birthplace of the sport and train with the best — and he turned to Indiegogo to make it happen.
At just 17-years-old, Mattho ran a campaign from his native Netherlands to rally support from his friends, family, and the greater Taekwondo community, so that he could travel to Korea and train there several months with a grandmaster. To say his campaign was unique is an understatement. With perks that ranged from a make-your-own Mattho action figure to a martial arts workshop taught by him, Mattho was able to eclipse his goal of $4,250 and raise a total of $4,750.
Since the campaign ended in late October 2012, Mattho has been on a roll. If you speak Dutch, you can check out the TEDx talk he gave in November. Using the money he raised on Indiegogo, he was then off to Korea where he starred in a documentary (trailer above) and remains to this day — pursuing his dream. Thanks to over 100 contributors, he’s been able to train with a grandmaster and compete against expert Korean fighters.
When I heard Mattho’s incredible story and how perfectly it captured the global nature of Indiegogo, I spoke with him to find out more. His story is one that is sure to inspire other aspiring athletes (and less coordinated people like myself) around the world:
How did you first get involved with Taekwondo?
I started practicing taekwondo at the age of seven, shortly after watching ‘The Karate Kid’ (1984 version) for the first time. That’s no coincidence: I was having a hard time finding my way at school, just as the main character from the movie. By learning the martial arts wisdoms from Mr. Miyagi he succeeded in becoming a real personality. So off I went to the nearest martial arts gym in my hometown Amsterdam and as the taekwondo teacher showed way more resemblance with Mr. Miyagi than the karate teacher, my choice was easy. That turned out to be a great decision, because, indeed, this taekwondo teacher taught me those wisdoms I was looking for. I owe a great deal of my work ethics to his lessons.
Why did you decide to use crowdfunding? What is the perception of crowdfunding in the Netherlands?
When I decided to take a gap year after my high school graduation to chase my taekwondo dream, I immediately started working like a madman. Sometimes 14 hours a day — running from restaurant #1 to restaurant #2. But you can imagine, a boot camp in the dojang of the greatest grandmaster of the world is even in this way unaffordable with a 17-year-old’s salary. All the while I was also looking for a big sponsor, but I didn’t have the slightest chance as an individual athlete in a sport that is not very attractive for sponsors in the first place. But the last thing I wanted was to let my dream fade away. And that’s when a friend of mine pointed out that I had to think out of the box and turn my quest for one big sponsor into a quest for many small sponsors. I didn’t know much about crowdfunding, so I searched the web and found very few Dutch-based information. It isn’t very commonly known, and Dutch crowdfunders are very inexperienced compared to all the hundreds of ‘mature’ campaigns I found on international platforms like indiegogo.
How did you find out about Indiegogo? Why did you decide to use Indiegogo?
I must have found indiegogo on a blog listing different platforms. I figured I needed for an international dream I needed an international platform. Besides, crowdfunding starts with mobilizing your friends, and I happen to have a lot of foreign friends I know from the European Youth Parliament. Last but not least, by scanning other campaigns and other platforms, I found how important a first look is. Indiegogo simply offered the most appealing way of presenting my video and the perks I had in mind.
What was your campaign experience like?
At first, I felt like I was putting useless effort into my campaign as I personally sent messages to all my friends and relatives, bringing about way less response than I expected. But, also when crowdfunding, giving up is not part of taekwondo mentality, so I kept on trying everything I could to turn the campaign into a hype. And eventually, it worked. National newspaper and television picked up on it and soon I found myself in the studio of the most viewed talk show of the Netherlands.
Besides being able to raise money, what were other benefits of your campaign?
My feature in the TV-show didn’t only give me a great exposure to pitch my campaign, it was also an opportunity to inspire others to chase their (sports) dreams as well. It drew a lot of attentions to the possibilities of crowdfunding: a 17-year-old with an extraordinary dream shows up on national tv and asks people to support him a little. That was something new for many viewers of the show and got them to sit on the edge of their seats. Of course there was also negative response: people thought of me as an spoiled kid who didn’t know how to work for a dream myself. But they didn’t know I had already tried to work it out that way, but it simply wasn’t possible. And hey, if there are people who want to offer me the chance to realize my dream with a little donation, then why shouldn’t they? Anyway, my campaign got the crowdfunding conversation started again and is now an example to more and more Dutch athletes.
How did you use the money you raised on Indiegogo?
I used every single penny to pay for my training fee and accommodation in Korea. I bought a new training outfit but compared to the amounts I had to pay to train with the greatest grandmaster of the world for 8 hours a day, that’s peanuts.
How are things going in Korea?
Things are pretty well apart from the terribly aching muscles for almost 8 consecutive weeks now. Koreans really don’t care about your condition, there’s no time to rest, so you better cheer up and train till the break of dawn. It’s unbelievable how much progress that has brought about in barely 2 months. Before I left I tried to get used to the idea my life would be all about taekwondo 24 hours a day, and that has been exactly the case for the past two months. There truly is any place more motivational to train for me than here; I’m living my dream.
What advice would you give other crowdfunding athletes?
The result of our, athletes’, efforts is not really anything tangible we can give back to our supporters (like a film or a cd), but more being sheer source of inspiration. “Boy, this guy has a dream he fights for. If I help him to achieve it, more people in the world will take his story as an example and go for it too,” is what you want your potential supporters to think. The only way to ensure this is to be as enthusiastic as possible: your video needs to portray your drive as unstoppable and no matter what, you’ll go for it!
You can keep up with Mattho’s progress toward his dream on his website!