Youri, can you tell us something about your background and how you ended up at Antler?
In a nutshell, I think it is safe to say that various forms of human endeavour have played a central role in my life and career. I was born in Amsterdam, raised partly in Mozambique and returned to Amsterdam to study Astrophysics. I have a MSc in Cosmology from Kyoto University and after my studies, I worked for McKinsey & Co in Norway, Brazil and the Netherlands where I've built a deep understanding of business and people leadership. Next to my studies and my work at McKinsey, I helped to set up social enterprises and performed extensively as a musician.
At the end of last summer, Magnus Grimeland, whom I know from McKinsey, approached me and asked me to join Antler. His proposal instinctively felt right and after some due diligence, I wholeheartedly agreed to bring Antler to Amsterdam.
What was your main reason to join Antler?
Actually, there are three reasons why I was very excited about joining Antler. First of all, the team behind Antler is the most impressive set of people I have ever seen running an initiative like this. Both the people I knew personally like Magnus Grimeland and Fridtjof Berge but also the people I spoke with during my interviews I hold in very high esteem.
Secondly, the timing to launch this concept in the Netherlands is perfect. A variety of parties and initiatives (StartupDelta, VCs, accelerators, university incubators etc.) have paved the way and at the current point in time there's a need for more structural support for early-stage entrepreneurs and that's exactly what Antler is all about. As Amsterdam is becoming increasingly popular amongst expats and entrepreneurs it provides us with an ideal breeding ground for new companies.
Finally, building a business that will have a significant impact on my hometown of Amsterdam is a dream come true for me.
Could you give an update on what are the most exciting things on your plate right now?
On a daily basis, I'm speaking to highly driven founders about achieving their ambitions which - as you can imagine - is very inspiring. Another chunk of time goes to introducing the Antler model to experienced early-stage investors and it is a thrill to see them light up once they get what we're all about. Since I started in October, not a day has been the same and things keep evolving quickly. We are in close contact with all other Antler locations to position ourselves in the best possible way and I love the way we're all working hard to build up our organization.
You studied Astrophysics, what is the most important thing you learned during your studies that also applies to Antler right now?
It might come as a surprise but there are quite a few things that still apply in my work at Antler today. For example, during my studies I learnt that the exact mass of a fundamental particle in physics has a major impact on how the universe might have evolved. So, I know I have to think big but be on top of detail at the same time.
Studying the universe, I've also come to realize that there's so much I don't and will never understand so I want to focus on what I can excel at and am passionate about. This is a quality that we're looking for in our founders as well.
Another important lesson that helps me every day is that learning difficult things is pointless if you cannot explain it to others.
What are your hopes for the long-term future of Antler?
I believe the Antler model can be deployed onto all kinds of global issues, and I look forward to seeing how - over time - we will build out different flavors of this model. Personally, I am committed to helping improve the quality of education globally and especially in developing countries - and the idea that Antler might help me to achieve this is another reason why I get up every day full of excitement to make Antler into a big success, short- and long-term.