Take us back to your Eureka moment. How did you come up with Shypple?
When I was 18, I was searching for an opportunity to build a large business. It did not matter to me what type of business it was, as long as I could build something that would make an impact. Up until I was 20, I ended up starting a few companies, but they were not scalable enough. Back then I wasn’t seriously engaged in those companies anyway. That’s when I decided to work for a Private Equity firm that did leveraged buyouts. The idea was to understand the investor perspective better and come up with ideas to start my own scalable business.
In that period I met an entrepreneur of a freight forwarding company. This guy told me that if I wanted to start my own business, I had to experience what building a large business was like. And that this always starts with generating sales. “Get out of the building - you can’t hide behind your excel sheet” he used to tell me. He helped me truly understand ‘how’ to build a business while finishing my MA studies in finance.
My Eureka moment happened when I tried to sell to customers in freight forwarding. It’s then that I learned this is such a traditional industry, very inefficient. I can best compare it to the traditional traveling agent in the 2000s, situated in a brick and mortar store you had to visit if you wanted to book a holiday. That’s how the traditional freight broker worked with fax and phone - nothing was digitized. That’s when I knew: I can make this more efficient and give the customers a better customer experience. I pitched most customers a software product with slides of a product that did not yet exist. Their enthusiasm convinced me, I had to build this product. That’s why the promise of Shypple is: a 10x better customer experience and a 3x more efficient business model.
What is (or was) your biggest challenge building your ‘managed’ marketplace?
In the beginning: allocation on large vessels. When you’re small you don't get the same access to the allocation of vessels and aircraft as others do - and also you don't get the best prices. You need to start with finding the right customers that choose you based on trust and your vision since you have no track record yet. Not having the scale, but having the ability to compete with the larger brokers in the freight forwarding industry is challenging. This still remains the challenge today.
How are you making the world a better place?
The world will prosper more when it's better connected and when there’s more trade. I am convinced of this. For example, I believe that when South Korea opened up its borders after the war, goods and knowledge were exchanged. A more prosperous world will come of that which typically means more political stability, better health and well-being. Trade will bring a lot more people out of poverty. The bureaucracy cost of shipping used to be 30% of the total shipping costs - crazy amounts. By digitizing this industry as we do, we take away part of that costly bureaucracy.
Still, there will always be collateral damage from shipping and trade. Even so, we have a pretty advanced tool to measure CO2- you can choose to compensate for that with us. I personally don't like the common definition of CO2 compensation. The strange thing is that the world calls something CO2 compensation if you emit an X amount of CO2 in a period of 1 month, and you compensate that by planting a tree that will even out X over a time period of let's say 20 years. That means that after 1 month, you have emitted X and only compensated 1/240 of X. How is this sustainable? We would always emit more than we compensate for. It's so strange! We don't have the solution yet, however when we compensate we do a 5x compensation of what is the traditional way. https://www.shypple.com/sustainability/solutions
Secondly, compensation is not tackling the root cause since we still use combustion engines for shipping. However, by incentivizing customers to use more expensive but much more sustainable fuel, we are at least fighting the root cause of the problem.
How would you describe the DFF way of working?
What all investors are saying nowadays is ‘they’re very hands-on’ but actually DFF is more hands-on than any VC I’ve met, they think and act like entrepreneurs, maybe even too much at times. You get people that think along as if it’s their first company. Digging through excel models, joining team meetings at 7:30 am in Rotterdam while they are based in Amsterdam, truly understanding the matter - researching before giving advice. That’s very different from what other VCs do.
How has DFF helped you lately
So we’ve never done a strategic acquisition before. I was an intern at PE where I only built the slides for M&A cases but was not really involved. DFF helped us understand the potential opportunity, help build the business case and test the hypotheses. Eventually, together, we ensured that we as a management team were aligned on this opportunity, could finance it, and carry it out. If DFF wasn’t involved in this process, then I don’t think we would’ve done it. It made all our investors more comfortable when one of our main investors is so involved and taking the same deal.
Tell us something you’ve underestimated?
See here (PZC )- where I said Covid would be a minor thing. Obviously, I was wrong. We were doing a lot of business in China, where all factories were closed due to covid, but reopened 3 weeks later. In between China opening up and the Netherlands getting serious numbers of infections - I thought it wouldn’t affect the trade industry since China opened up again so soon. I underestimated that, which is a light way of saying it.
Fast forward its, 2032. How do you see Shypple in 10 years?
In 10 years, we’ll be publicly listed. I can already imagine the #shpl tracker on the stock market listing. We will be one of the pure native digital companies that allow for intercontinental trade to happen.
What don’t you know that you wish you knew?
For our market specifically, I would say market pricing. Even more specifically, the future price of a container throughout the months. If I knew that, that would really benefit the business and be a crazy advantage.
More generally if you'd have a predictive ability, I’d say currency fluctuations. If you know what the exact exchange rate of the euro and the dollar will be and you get to speculate with that information - you’d make a lot of money. The money I could use to invest in Shypple again.
If it wasn't for entrepreneurship, what career would you have pursued?I would be teaching history and economics in high school. I think I’d really like that. But for now, my dream of being an entrepreneur is much bigger. Hopefully, I see myself teaching after I successfully scaled and exited Shypple.