Entrepreneurs hold the key

Friday, May 8, 2020

Raymond Hannes, an entrepreneur, investor, and lecturer, believes entrepreneurs hold the key to fixing our society’s problems. Raymond will share his knowledge in design thinking during RightBrains’ next Digital Leadership programme. Don’t miss out!

In every sense of the word, Raymond Hannes is an entrepreneur. As the founder of Seedling Studio, he invests in promising tech start-ups and helps companies with their venture strategies.

“I always look for ideas I think are fun, but also fair and sustainable. The ideas should not just benefit a small group of people. I will help them with the initial set-up of the business, structuring, business development, and strategy. I find out what their strengths are and how my strengths can help the project.”

But money and making the world a better place is not his driving force.

“I feel happiest when I can discover new things, learn more, and when I am not told what or how I should do something. I want to be free to explore all the possibilities. Give me a puzzle, something incredibly complex, and I will fix it. When I studied chemistry and biology, I wanted to be a crime scene investigator. Because it is like a puzzle; you have very little evidence, and you have to figure everything out. But it turns out, it is nothing like what we see on television! And after my bachelor’s degree, I changed my direction to a different kind of puzzle.”

Raymond describes himself as an activist-entrepreneur.

“In the start-up world, we talk about zebras now. Initially, it was about unicorns - these billion-dollar companies that accumulate a lot of value. A zebra is real, and a unicorn does not exist! A zebra has two colours, one for profit and one for society. A company has to make a profit to be sustainable, but you also have to add value to society. A zebra is also never alone; a lonesome zebra is vulnerable, so we have to work together. Entrepreneurs are innovative, agile, and they solve problems. Entrepreneurs hold the key to fixing our society’s problems.”

Raymond started his first company at the age of 18 while at Fontys University of Applied Sciences. The consultancy company placed students with companies to help with projects, and the students could earn class credit and gain experience. After that, he worked with a pharmaceutical company and helped with a now patented surgery procedure.

For him, it all comes down to identifying opportunities. And yes, there are still many opportunities to innovate.

“For example, Amazon is a huge player in the e-commerce market. But they only have 8% of the market share in the USA now. So when they came along, the market never suffered, Amazon took nothing away from the market, the market grew! Or let’s take the Houseparty app; this app is popular now with people staying at home and wanting to host online parties with their friends. This app is already a few years old, and they are only gaining traction now. Opportunities come by all the time as the world changes.”

Raymond says, however, not everybody can be an entrepreneur.

“I don’t think everybody has the entrepreneurial spirit. But you should know about it and be involved in it. Working with entrepreneurs always brings value and opportunities.”

Throughout his career, he has learnt many lessons.

“What I learnt is that you have to stay true to yourself. In a previous project, I was following a stringent business plan, and I wasn’t adapting to the circumstances. Whereas usually, I follow my vision and try different approaches. Another lesson I learnt is that you have to choose the right people for your team and you have to trust your gut feeling. And this does not mean that you have to get along on a personal level; it means you have to be able to trust them and share the vision. And love what you do!”

Raymond is also a lecturer at Nyenrode Business Universiteit where he teaches entrepreneurship, innovation, and change management. And he is a member of various boards that range from maritime logistics to medical industries, with projects across the world. But the golden thread through everything is that he focuses on what he enjoys doing.

“You can be good at a lot of things, but it does not mean you have to do all of them. Decide what your thing is. My thing, and focus, is entrepreneurship. In all my roles, I focus solely on entrepreneurship.”

Raymond will be a lecturer in design thinking as part of RightBrains’ Digital Leadership programme starting in November 2020.

“I think design thinking is an essential skill. It is about thinking in a structured way about how problems have evolved. And finding new and different ways to solve them. It is about designing solutions. And solutions for everybody, not just one group.”

His advice to others?

“Ask questions. Do not be afraid of not knowing something. Ask for advice and learn by doing. You cannot be stuck with the skills you have today; learn and adapt. A company like Slack which focuses on communication tools started as a gaming company. We are not only one role or one job function. And learn to be optimistic and creative!”