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Jul 02, 2024
5 minutes read

Will You Join Me at Highstreet?

Picture this: you're leaving a bustling club, but all around you, people are tossing aside paper flyers meant to draw them back for the next big night. Jeroen and Gilbert watched countless flyers hit the floor, when they thought, "There’s got to be a better way!". Gilbert sent a simple text to Jeroen: "Will you join me at Highstreet?" That message changed everything.

Brechtje van Houtum
Brechtje van Houtum,
Content Marketer

This was the beginning of, founded 25 years ago by Jeroen van Glabbeek and Gilbert Gooijers. They saw the potential of SMS as a marketing tool for clubs and discos early on — a way to reach loads of people instantly, at just the right moment. They believed in it, and hoped the rest of the world would too...

Born Entrepreneurs

Jeroen and Gilbert were high school buddies, seated together because of alphabetical order. "Six years next to each other? We might as well be friends!" And from pranking teachers, they moved on to money-making schemes. Both were entrepreneurial early on. Gilbert sold refurbished mopeds, and Jeroen ran a room-rental phone line.

After high school, they both studied Industrial Engineering & Management at TU Eindhoven. On campus, they noticed more people were using mobile phones, not just for calls but also for texting. Gilbert, working as a DJ at Highstreet, a club in Hoogstraten, saw how paper flyers didn't work for the tipsy patrons leaving the club. Then it clicked: why not use SMS? That way, clubs could reach their crowd at the perfect time.

blog-25-years-content-highstreet-vibeThe Golden Idea

They wrote a business plan and entered the New Venture Competition in 1998. Unfortunately, the jury didn’t believe in their idea - no market for SMS marketing for clubs, they thought. Frustrated, they shelved the plan. But Jeroen and Gilbert didn’t give up—they believed in their golden idea.

Did you know they even thought about SMS for a radio station back in 1995?

They genuinely couldn’t understand why it was a bad idea, so they decided to prove it could work. The setback only fueled their motivation. Jeroen started coding, and Gilbert convinced the manager of Highstreet. The manager believed in young people's ideas and gave them free rein. They decided to give it a shot!

Proving the Point

Highstreet became increasingly popular — packed every night. But was it because of the SMS messages, or would it have happened anyway? To prove their success, they asked everyone via SMS to bring an egg for free entry around Easter. That night, there was a long line of partygoers, all holding eggs. The success was clear.

From Club to Clubs to Corporates

In 2000, they registered at the Chamber of Commerce, making ClubMessage official. Soon enough, their software was in demand, and they were working with hundreds of clubs across the Netherlands and Belgium.

That's when they met Ronald, who ran “message parties.” Imagine submitting messages at a desk to be displayed on a screen — super old school, right? Jeroen and Gilbert knew a better way: SMS. They built it and just like that, the Yorin Chatparties were born.

blog-25-years-content-highstreet-clubTheir enthusiasm took them far. They soon had an office in Breda, where they got a call from someone whose son received SMS messages for Highstreet. It turned out to be the boss of Electrabel. He asked if he could use SMS to send safety tips to staff. “Sure, we’re great at that,” said Gilbert. And so it happened quite unexpectedly: their first corporate client.

The Show Must Go On

The early years were full of challenges, but Jeroen and Gilbert found solutions for everything. Sending a message back then wasn’t easy; each SMS required a new dial-up connection via their parents' phone line. Still, they managed to send one SMS per minute.

Sometimes, club reception failed. The solution? Quickly take the SIM card out of the computer, put it in a phone, go outside to receive messages, and then manually type them in at lightning speed. "The show must go on!"

This mentality helped them with the many challenges they faced over the past 25 years. Discover how they handled these in the next blog articles.

Doing What They Love

While still studying, Jeroen and Gilbert visited various companies and noticed something troubling: people dragging themselves to work, constantly complaining about their jobs and eagerly counting down to the weekend. These dreary office environments made them determined to create something different. They always wanted to build a fun workplace—not just for themselves, but for everyone involved. Where people would do what they love and what they're good at.

Their openness brought them where they are today. They still embrace the motto: "the show must go on." You have to keep going, no matter what. Adapt and respond to what happens. It’s not about a drive for change, but for continuous improvement. The world changes fast, and you need to keep up. Mistakes are okay, as long as you get back up.

At The Forefront of Innovation: SMS Marketing

Jeroen and Gilbert had a unique vision. In 1997, they already saw mobile phones as the future —the remote control for your life. They knew everyone would eventually use their phones to connect with family, friends, and even businesses.

Back then, SMS was barely a thing. To put it in perspective, the first SMS was sent in 1992, and the iconic Nokia 3310 didn’t hit the market until 2000. The peak of SMS messaging wasn’t until 2010. So, using SMS for marketing in 1999? That was way ahead of its time. For 25 years, has been at the forefront of innovation.

The Journey Continues

Curious about what’s next? Join us in celebrating's 25th anniversary and see how Jeroen and Gilbert are still shaping the future of mobile communication. From their humble beginnings to where is today, their story is just getting started. Stay tuned for more exciting chapters.

Stay Tuned for More Exciting Chapters

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Brechtje van Houtum
Brechtje van Houtum,
Content Marketer
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As a content marketer, Brechtje is responsible for all content about our SaaS products. Loves to be up-to-date about new technologies and believes in 'customer first'.

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