I was always interested in changing the world in some form or another. This meant joining the revolutionary student protests in Paris in 1968, as a student, and later on, a strong dedication to employee engagement in my company, as a CEO. I was originally a sailing friend of Frank van Beuningen, and I had followed his work closely for many years, and also joined the PYM Impact Days in both Belgium and the Netherlands quite early on. So when I sold my company, impact investing was a natural step. My first meeting was with Aquaspark and Snapcar, and it could not have been a better start!
For PYM, I am active in growing the impact community in Belgium. In fact, together with Belgian board members Myleen Verstraete and Philippe Lambrecht, I will be hosting a PYM dinner at my home this April, for 20 investors interested in making the transition to impact. And then of course my wife and I will be present at the annual Impact Days taking place at Landgoed the Horst on 23 and 24 April! Next to this, I have also chaired Pymwymic’s IC committee since we started it, but am now in the process of handing it over to the next generation so I can focus more on regenerative gardening!
Lots of warm heart and passion, with a cool brain.
Honestly, I’d have to say it is my own company FluiTec, a big disruptor in a niche but important market. Fluitec aims to reduce the lubrication needed for rotating equipment through purpose-built technology. It has had its ups and downs, but the success for me has been in the many transformations we have made over the years, prompted by failures as much as by the enthusiasm of the people who support the vision. I also consider my investment in Aquaspark a success. I feel privileged to have gotten involved with them from the very beginning and to see them 9 years later with over 470 million in management, still operating with the original team. To me, it’s always the people that define success.
I am a doer; an entrepreneur. I want to see things move and I feel a sense of urgency to do things in a big way. So I invest in companies that are leading the way in agriculture, for example, a space in which governments are still to change their mindset hugely and where so much impact is to be made. I believe when it comes to these big transitions, it is important not to think in absolute terms; you need to support progress. I share PYM’s passion for seeking constantly evolving and expanding the definition of impact. Good investors join the conversation at the board level, continuously pushing a more progressive direction.
When I was a student, I wrote my thesis on the Club of Rome report ‘The Limits to Growth’ published in 1972. Commissioned by top CEOs around the world, it dives into the depletion of earth’s raw materials. Then, we already saw the exhaustion of these materials and questioned how we will survive. Today, we realise destruction will actually come before depletion… But at the time I did indeed wonder whether I wanted to welcome children into a world that might not be able to host them. But then I met my wife and we decided to have children, with the ambition that they could help us change our world. In the end, families are the core of society and you can make a lot of impact by raising children that will and want to take care of this earth. In a way, this is an impact investment in and of itself.
I think we can make a lot of impact locally and in our communities, so for example when I eat meat, I support a sensible cattle farmer nearby who I believe has the potential to be completely regenerative. And in my daily life, I practice yoga and mindfulness, together with my family. All these little bits add to a different way of connecting with people and it brings more warmth and depth to my life. Impact investing is a result as well as a catalyst for this way of life.
To me, money is a means, not an end and I would even go so far as to say that when money is considered an end, we lose our humanity. That is probably why the Dalai Lama is such an inspiration to me. Scilla Elworthy who authored ‘The Business Plan for Peace’ is another inspiration. She illustrates the importance of inner peace to solve conflicts in the world and warns of the dangers of resentment. Her theory was recently confirmed to me when I read an article about Putin. Resentment eats away at people and can only escalate. In our family, we have therefore made it a strict rule to always make up.
I wish for my (now 10!) grandchildren to find the right partner(s) to go through life. Life is teamwork and you are so much stronger when you are a team and you know how and when to compromise. I also wish for them to have a solid foundation, with two feet strongly planted in the ground, able to face the world with solid roots. I believe we can give our children this foundation by spending time with them, especially in their early years.
Would you like to receive stories like this and more news about the impact investment community directly in your inbox? Sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter below.
Receive the bi-monthly PYM newsletter with personal stories of impact investors, upcoming events, and articles about moving capital for good.
Amstel 256, 1017 AL Amsterdam