Having worked as a director for 100-250 people organizations where everything and everybody is in place, building PeaceTech Lab NL, a start-up or a social enterprise as it is called these days, is quite an experience. It starts with creating a legal entity …no, it starts with an idea (thanks Bruce and Sheldon) and with connecting to the people (you, Benjamin) and organizations that belief in your concept and your determination and creativity to make it work (hi Kees, Edwin, Wim and Jaap!). Then there is the legal entity to lend it all some structure and bring in some critical friends on the board (welcome Pim, Marcel and Nancy). You find out that for registering a foreign board member the Chamber of Commerce needs paper ‘proof of address’. Simple? Not in the digital age, where less and less paper envelopes end on our doormat. Opening a bank account then, not simple either, since all kinds of checks apply, aimed at avoiding money laundering and other fraud. So far for the many formalities you have to deal with (no, not your assistant, you!).
Next is the challenge of finding the colleagues that want to join you in the adventure (applause for Lilly, hi Emy), making sure their contracts are in line with regulation, payroll matters are sorted out and the tax authorities are informed (thanks Lex). Once the office is rented (only after they have Chamber of Commerce proof, which you still don’t have), the logo and house style are designed (great work Hans), e-mail works, the website is live (Mathijs) and social media accounts are created, then business can start. In our case that meant building the network of digital experts (great to have you on board Digital100 members), talking to NGO’s that are in need of that expertise and making the right connection between their projects and our digital experts. It’s so great to see it all come together, to see that most pieces of the puzzle are there and that curiosity and enthusiasm grow rapidly!
Months fly by without noticing. A lot of hard work. Some setbacks (we do these people react so slooowly, we are in a hurry!). A strict financial policy. Ambition exceeds possibilities one hunderdfold, so all expenses are judged very critically. There are inspirational talks with the US colleagues and critical discussions with the board (what’s the business model?). Sure these are inspirational as well. You find yourself talking to people in businesses you hardly heard of half a year earlier (the difference between a data engineer and a data scientist?). Parts of your brain are challenged that appear to have been in half sleep before.
Then it’s time to enter the next stage: from start-up to scale up. You start working on that crucial presentation, discuss the contents with those great colleagues and critical friends. You realize what a great team has come to life and you feel proud to work with its members. You succeeded in finding (yes, you made those 22 phone calls with their assistants yourself) one of those very rare moment where the decision makers can join in on a phone conference and you slightly nervously sit behind your desk to walk them through the presentation. It all goes well, they do not only believe in what you tell but by now they also see that you and the team you work with have delivered on your promises. They have some critical remarks, some suggestions, but YES, they will facilitate the scale-up. This journey will continue, isn’t that great?!
Chief Executive Officer, PeaceTech Lab NL