In the “Meet the Board Member” we profile a member of our ScaleUpBoard alumni community. Today we are speaking with Class 12 alumni, Hajo Beijma
Hajo is a founder of Atilax a consulting agency where he is a Headhunter for tech companies and scale-ups in the Netherlands and also a founder of Meerkat, a machine learning (A.I.) recruitment platform. Since 2019, Hajo has been on the Supervisory Board for FairChain, a sustainable trade and development organization and has been a member of The World Economic Forum since 2014. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family and pets.
Learn more about Hajo and his experience in the ScaleUpBoard program below!
Meet… Hajo van Beijma
What is your headline?
People| Transparency |Technology
What are you passionate about professionally?
My passion is connecting people. I think that the more connections we make between people who are like minded and not in our ecosystem, the better ideas we make. We can learn a lot from each other and can create very impactful projects, companies big and small, start-up and corporate. So, connecting diverse groups of people, internationally, etc is what drives me
What were some of your biggest insights from the ScaleUpBoard program?
I think that the position of a board member seems really easy but I think that a lot of people who join the program have an entrepreneurial background. Therefore the first thing they will try to do is try to steer the organization. What I really learned in the program is that a (good) board member should ask questions to get more information and to look at what other stakeholders think about the situation instead of directly diving into action mode. This has been a lesson for me as if there is a problem, it is my instinct to try to find a solution. I have learned that I should not do that and instead I should ask for more information from others. It sounds pretty easy but it’s not for people like me.
How do you want to add value to a board?
I see that more scale-ups are looking at the way they work with technology in combination with how they work with their people. They are not just focusing on what type of software or coding skills some should have but different skills as well. It’s important to have people developing technology that are empathic and understand the customer. That human side of developing technology and software is becoming more and more important.
I have developed software myself previously in my career so I am a tech person. I have always worked with technology. I also see that the people side is really the most important part with developing good technology and making sure it’s impactful. I combine those two things. I really look at an organization from a technology perspective but instantly connect it to the people side. That combination is really important and I think that what I can add to a board is that type of perspective.
If you are on or have been on a board, how did you encounter the opportunity?
From a board perspective as well as my original interest in the ScaleUpBoard program was because three years ago I joined a supervisory board of an organization called Fairchain. They create block chain technology to create more transparency in supply chains for coffee. So they are super focused on emerging markets and trying to radically create more transparent supply changes. Fairchain is setting up more systems in place in Ethiopia to roast coffee more locally and to make sure that coffee farmers are receiving adequate pay for their labor in relation to the cost of the coffee being sold in the Netherlands. They are creating a system using block chain technology so that you can trace back where the coffee came from and the money flow.
Fairchain has received grants from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a way to combine business with development aid. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested that the company have a better governance system in order to grow. Fairchain installed a supervisory board which is when I and two others became involved with the organization. The insights I gained from the ScaleUpBoard program really helped me grow as a board member.
What is the best piece of advice some gave to you?
“Keep being stubborn.”
I always try to be flexible but someone once told me that it is a strength to be stubborn sometimes because it will help you see things differently and become more critical. So being able to be different and not just blend in. This was especially good advice for me though it’s not always easy. I think this “stubbornness” is a trait that people value in me.
What do you want your impact to be through your work?
I want to help tech driven organizations to help create more diverse teams. I think a lot of the tech driven companies in the Netherlands are looking a lot at candidates that are born and raised in the Netherlands and speak Dutch. I think that if we were to broaden that it would give us a lot of insights in regards to the start-ups and scale-ups that we have. So helping build more diverse teams for my clients is what I aim to do.
More diverse teams are not just male/female but on many levels and not just because it’s cool or “woke” but because there is a big business angle to it. More diverse teams are able to build better companies and products. In the end, diversity is a good business decision. The Netherlands has always been a country with a mix of nationalities and diverse cultures. This comes from being connected to the sea and our history of being traders and travelers. This is part of our strength and I hope we never lose that. If we want to grow a strong ecosystem in the tech sector in the Netherlands and in Europe we need diverse multinational teams working together.
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