“Going to companies in different countries across Europe, like an investment banking team in Prague or to Lamborghini in Bologna, really stood out for me,” says Edward Ellis, full-time MBA student, on choosing Nyenrode Business University. Luckily, he was able to visit quite a few companies before the coronavirus crisis threw a spanner in the works. But despite the crisis, Edward found a way to still develop himself.
Apart from the E
uropean trips, the South African student found the opportunities to meet with top CEOs from companies like Siemens, Philips and Nestlé also very inspiring. “We would meet them for a whole morning and have lunch with them. I learned a lot from them, also by just observing how they interact with people.” Another reason for choosing Nyenrode was its network. “You become friends with students, staff and alumni. It’s easy to reach out to alumni. They are very helpful.”
Edward describes himself as a guy who likes to solve people’s real and challenging problems. “More than 1 billion people do not have an identity document. I am in the process of building a digital identity platform, called mïdentity. We help businesses, be it healthcare, law or governments, by making existing paper forms digital which these companies can then send via email, SMS and WhatsApp.” If a customer goes to a doctor today and to the dentist tomorrow, and both healthcare providers use mïdentity, the customer can share the same mïdentity profile helping everyone to save time and costs. The platform has become even more relevant as the coronavirus crisis stresses the need for a low-touch economy.
Leadership during a crisis
The current crisis prompted Edward to record a podcast on leadership, entrepreneurship, and stewardship in times of crisis, called: The World Through Edward’s Eyes. “During one of the MBA assignments, we learned there are three stages of post-disaster recovery: response, recovery from the old normal to the new normal, and reconstruction of society. I drew a link between these stages and Nyenrode’s three values leadership, entrepreneurship, and stewardship.”
Edward continues: “In order to respond to a crisis you need to be a steward. You need to solve other people’s problems, respond quickly and look beyond your own circumstances. During the recovery phase you need leadership to rebuild and to have a vision on what the new normal will be. The last phase of post-disaster recovery is reconstruction. We build fragile systems, as we also saw in 2008. But we need to build antifragile systems.” Edward compares this with nature. “The largest tree loses the most branches, but it’s able to build up again and become the strongest. I believe we need entrepreneurship as a means of reconstruction.”
“I just love Amsterdam. I have a bit of Dutch blood, from my grandma.” On a more serious note he adds: “The environment with like-minded people and the network events are really great. Actually, I met my mïdentity co-founder while watching rugby at a bar.” On the other hand, it can be a challenge to get things done if you go to many network events and meet many people, realizes Edward. “It’s not about meeting many people, but about meeting the right people. And getting your product out there, to your customers.”
A network event that really appealed to Edward was the one with a lot of technology sectors present, like artificial intelligence, privacy, and security. “It was interesting to see how these guys think, but also how all these role-players work together in an ecosystem. When I was still living in South Africa, I tried to get guys to build software for me to no avail. But in Amsterdam it is more like Silicon Valley: it is open-minded, there are investment companies to get money and lots of software developers. This ecosystem as a whole inspires me. It motivates me to see people develop and make progress. And to see how other start-ups are building software and improving functionalities and features.”