I started my first “venture” in 1979, at the age of 12. For it was my school’s principal who provided the necessary capital – the use of the school’s first and only computer – I consider him my first investor.
Fascinated by the possibilities of coding and with the burning desire to create something with an actual purpose, I spent endless hours on this school’s pre IBM-PC machine. There are no words to describe the thrill of then being able to demonstrate at the NOT (Nederlandse Onderwijs Tentoonstelling), a national conference on education, the early educational software that I had created.
A decade – plus a high school diploma and an MBA – later I co-founded an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) platform company. At first focused on developing software and hardware solutions, using my skills in coding and methodical design.
I learned that I very much enjoyed the business responsibilities as a founder, building teams, understanding our customers, developing new products, growing our markets, and scaling the company.
We were lucky to sell the company just before the dot-com crisis, but I continued to work mostly in the Telecom industry. I gained additional experience in sales and marketing, and at the same time learned more about the different stages that companies go through and how dynamics and needs can vary overtime.
Sometime in 2000 I went to a multi-day cable operator conference in Los Angeles. During the last hours of the event, I managed to work my way all the way through to the end of the venue. Here, tucked away in the smallest booth one can imagine, I met two Canadian founders with an amazing network software product. Long story short: within weeks a launching customer in Europe was found and four years later the company was sold with a 35x valuation mark.
I was fortunate to have the experience of building a SaaS business
Throughout my career as a (co)founder, an employee, and an advisor, I experienced the importance of being able to feel proud of what you do, and to have nice stories to tell at home and to your friends. Nowadays, as an investor and board advisor, I feel privileged and energized to support founders also feeling proud of their ventures and their journey.
Something else that has been a major eye-opener to me, is the course: “The Harvard way of negotiation” by Frits Philips jr. Its’ key elements of “trust” and “transparency on motives” truly resonated with me and have had a huge impact on how I work and communicate ever since.
When I met Andy in Helsinki we were instantly on the same page on the future of meaningful tech, the need and relevance of impact investments and what supporting founders is about; pragmatism, passion, pride, trust, and honesty.