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Niels Wielaard on Fighting Deforestation with Satellites, Sustainability via Startups, and Landing Your First Customer

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If we want to have real transformation, which is really sustainable over time, we need to think about how we can integrate this in the business processes. And that means that if we're monitoring, we don't want to monitor deforestation for six months. We want to monitor since 2015 or even before, and we want to do that continuously. - Niels Wielaard

Jeremy Au: [00:00:00] Welcome to Brave Dynamics. This is your host, Jeremy Au. Leadership is harder than it looks. As a proven founder and Harvard MBA, I interview courageous entrepreneurs, executives and investors every week. I also share my frontline experiences, coaching insights and own professional development journey. If you're stepping up as a new leader, founding a startup, or venturing into the great unknown, this is the podcast for you.

 Yong Quan Tan: [00:00:30] Niels Wielaard is the Founder and CEO of Satelligence, a satellite-based forest, agriculture, carbon and water monitoring service provider based in the Netherlands. Founded in 2016, Satelligence has over 60 clients and partners, including Mondelez, Unilever, Bunge, the World Wildlife Fund, Rabobank, Robeco, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and others. Satelligence aims to aid stakeholders in agricultural commodity production in their progress towards sustainability commitments, transparent agricultural sourcing and better investment decisions.

Niels has been working in tropical forest landscapes for over 20 years and is also an expert on Monitoring Reporting Verification systems for REDD+. He was an invited member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and technical advisor to the European Commission on satellite monitoring issues related to the implementation of the EC Renewable Energy Directive.

Niels received his MSc in Forestry with a specialization in Remote Sensing from Wageningen University in 2003. A retired competitive swimmer, he enjoys exploring the forest with his kids, cycling, and snowboarding.

Jeremy Au: [00:02:06] Good to see you.

Niels Wielaard: [00:02:08] Hi, Jeremy, nice to talk.

Jeremy Au: [00:02:10] I'm so excited to have your point of view on environmental sustainability on this show. It's such a important topic for the world.

Niels Wielaard: [00:02:18] Exactly.

Jeremy Au: [00:02:20] So I think for those opportunity to know you, how would you share your leadership journey over time with people?

Niels Wielaard: [00:02:28] Sure. It started at the young age. My father was a biology teacher, so I was fascinating with the environment from a young age. And then I started studying forestry. Actually, I first thought, I would want to do environmental economics, but still I was intrigued more with the forest. So I studied forestry, and very early on I also looked into remote sensing, which is an observation using satellites, aircraft sensors, and geographical information systems.

So basically at a early stage I already combined environmental issues with technology. And then I started working in my last year, already at the company, which was a spinoff from the university, which was really fascinating. When you're young, you dive in with all your enthusiasm. And I've been working there for quite a long time, until I realized that it was a lot of science for the sake of science, and less so service-oriented applications.

So a lot of projects, which is interesting, but I thought I want to do more for the entire planet. And also clients are very important, customer care, et cetera. So I felt, "Okay. I know I want to do this by myself, set up my own company." So that's why four years ago I set up Satelligence with three people at the time, and it grew really fast. So in the next year, we are already with seven people extra, until 20,30 people now. It's really interesting ride, a very fast one. I have to adapt all the time, but yeah, I think that has been the journey so far.

Jeremy Au: [00:04:00] Amazing. It's interesting because you've had such a long passion in were there as an employee and as a researcher Now as a founder and CEO. How did you get started? What kicked off your passion for the environment in the world?

Niels Wielaard: [00:04:19] Yeah, like I mentioned, so my parents are teachers and my father is a biology teacher. And then I got fascinated seeing all the David Attenborough series from a young age, but also my great grandparents had been living in Indonesia for quite some time before and during the war. And my grandmother always used to tell all kinds of stories about the occasional tiger under the house and all the plantations. That was in North Sumatra, near Medan. And I think that started getting me interested, " Okay, I want to see those areas for myself."

So years later in, '95, I started the forestry and in the year 2000, I did my first MSc Thesis. Where did I go? To Indonesia. So that was really interesting to have the firsthand experience. And I went there with my good friend and now co-director, Arjen Vrielink, to do this thesis work. We traveled 30 hours from Jakarta to Sumatra in a car, trying to get to the forest. And we didn't see the forest anywhere, because a lot of the areas were burnt. There had been terrible fires, which devastated huge areas. And finally we reached intact forest, but also there, we saw a lot of tope and paper plantations, palm oil plantations. So we realized also by talking to the local people and their stories, how challenging it is to balance development with the conservation of invaluable forest areas. That started basically my journey in the sustainability and then tech world.

Jeremy Au: [00:05:47] I'm curious, were there any moments on the trip where you are thinking of your great-grandmother, because there must have been quite a bit of a difference between what your great-grandmother experienced, probably a century ago, versus what you were seeing with your own eyes. What was it like to see that before and after?  

 

Niels Wielaard: [00:06:04] it was very interesting. Actually, she was still alive at that time, in 2000. I remember the stories that she told about the house, which was on poles. And of course, a lot of the houses right now, they look nothing like those old houses. So I was with our supervisor who is from Indonesia, and we were driving around and just, "I really want to have a picture of such a house," but we couldn't find it anywhere.

I remember that she said, "Oh, it looks nothing like back in the old days." But still, I know that a lot in the culture remains. And in the friendships of old, with the country and its people. That would never change. It's just the modernization and (shopping) malls everywhere, and things like that.

 Jeremy Au: [00:06:44] And it's interesting, right? Because you've had that long passion for Southeast Asia and environment, and now you're building a company that's off to save the world and helping the deforestation issues that we're seeing, especially in Southeast Asia. So why is leadership so important in environmental sustainability?

Niels Wielaard: [00:07:03] Our company is creating software to help its users identify risks such as deforestation, fire, but also drought, diseases, and the performance like the yields of agriculture commodities like palm oil, cocoa, coffee, rice, et cetera. For example, if we talk about deforestation, it's kind of a serious issue, and a sensitive issue. So you'll want to be very right about claiming that an area deforestation takes place and that it is associated to a supply chain of a corporation, whether it's some big palm growers like Wilmar or traders like Bunge, Cargill, or consumer good brands like Unilever, who are all working hard to demonstrate transparently the things that they do to make our production sustainable, and have proof.

I think the leadership part is, in my opinion, in my role, especially sharing the experiences of the past 20 years. Like I said, driving around in all these areas, "What is the real story on the ground? What do the people say? What is behind what's happening?" It is one to use satellite technology to detect that trees are gone, but there is a whole context around it. "Who is operating there? Why did something happen?" And I think when we talk about leadership in my role, one that I am most enthusiastic about, is the thought leadership, and being able to share these 20 years of experience on the ground. And I think that that is a key thing.

 It's not just the technology. It is how we put that technology into context and into use. And I think that is where the experience of people, showing how other clients do it and what's my personal take on it is, and what other thought leaders think about that, sharing that and starting the conversation. I think that is a key component of this leadership, as I see it.

Jeremy Au: [00:08:49] What's interesting, is that you're doing really substantial work with startup, for-profit approach. And there's also been a ton of other nonprofits and social enterprises tackling deforestation and palm oil-associated risks. So why did you choose this approach? I mean, did you ever think to yourself like, " Oh, I could build a nonprofit, or I could build this startup." Because this is what a lot of people are thinking, right? They about a problem, but they don't know how to do that in a business versus community initiative.

Niels Wielaard: [00:09:18] We did some considerable thinking about that in the early stages. The reason we started with a social enterprise, is simply that we see that there is a lot of donor involvement and non-governmental organizations, NGOs working on this, but they depend on donations, basically. And it is our idea that if we want to have real transformation, which is really sustainable over time, we need to think about how we can integrate this in the business processes. And that means that if we're monitoring also what we do, you don't want to monitor for six months, deforestation. You want to monitor since 2015 or even before, and you want to do that continuously.

So you also need to have, say continuous income to be able to maintain this. And that's why we thought, "Yeah, it's far too insecure. We want to move from projects to services." Services have to be more sustainable through time, then a for-profit, but with an impact vision. Making sure we help create a better planet with all the right intentions, on a for-profit model. We thought that would make most sense, especially now we also see that financial institutions are actually going through a kind of a green revolution. Deforestation is much more on the agenda than it used to be like a year or two years ago. So we think that working together on a business basis with a impact attitude, that is the way to go.

Jeremy Au: [00:10:41] That's amazing. And I think you've really done your role, right? Because you're providing something that's very difficult for any one entity, a small entity to do, which is to work on this semi automation and the satellite imagery and the continual reporting across time. That's just such a difficult problem. And I think I love what you've done by being able to partner up desks with the growers and the traders and the financial institutions, but also the manufacturers and other nonprofits and social enterprises. So is it an interesting partnership that you can able to kind of weave together with your data. I think you're definitely playing a role.

Niels Wielaard: [00:11:13] Yeah. I think that's also a critical ingredient to where we see our company going. Like solving the planet's biggest challenges, There's not a single tech company or whatever company that can do it in isolation, that can do it alone. So partnerships with all stakeholders working on sustainability in commodity production, even other tech companies. For example, we are working now to get a new partnership with Alula, which is a tech company, which is focusing more on social risk. And if we integrate it to, we know more about risk overall. So I think with partnership with clients, but also partnerships with other technology providers, we have to do that all together, in partnership.

Jeremy Au: [00:11:54] What are some common misconceptions about environmental sustainability? You're so deep in it, you know everything about it. And what would you say what the public has in terms of misconceptions about environmental sustainability?

Niels Wielaard: [00:12:06] There's two things. The public, and there is, from a tech perspective, what kind of the misconceptions are. If we talk about the public, I think it is in this day and age of social media and Twitter short messages, it is really difficult to... nuance a balanced view of what is actually going on. I think there's such an overload of information, that it really requires a lot of extra efforts from yourself. Dare to question everything, and make up your own mind about what is actually going on. I think that a struggle for people. We see that in the palm oil sector where we are working with several companies who are working really hard on the grounds to make life better for local communities, and also the same time produce sustainably and eradicate deforestation. But it's really hard to get their story to the consumer.

The narrative is quite negative in consumer countries. So I think one misconception, it is difficult to get science-based facts packaged in a way that consumers also say, " We understand that this is going on." In terms of misconceptions, I also see a role for us and all the stakeholders, package it in a better way, that science-based information is understood better, to take away these misconceptions.

And secondly, if we talk about technology, there are so many great things that can potentially be groundbreaking. There's artificial intelligence. We have big data processing. We have blockchain, we have all these fascinating things. However, I think one major misconception also with some of our prospective clients, they jump on the bandwagon of something that is really cool, but in the end, it turns out to be very complex. And in our philosophy, we think that human intelligence should not be forgotten. Because in the end, technology is almost never a silver bullet in itself.

It's always people, it has to work with it. Technology is just a tool. In the end of the day it's always people making decisions. So I think that one of the main misconceptions, " Ah, you have to use AI because that's the most standard testing around." Yes, for some applications it is. But for many, we don't want to have a very data-heavy approach, which is making things more costly and more complex, just simple approaches. So on the end of the day, one take away would be for me, that human intelligence, it will matter for years to come.

Jeremy Au: [00:14:26] Yeah, that's so true, right? I think you're just sharing about how much technology has improved, but the use cases and who's going actually going to pay for that technology to be deployed, is oftentimes the harder part, And I think that's something I'm curious about, Because so many people who work in environmental sustainability... I see many of my friends, people reach out to me as well, and they have a big goal and they want to help the world. "We care about certain cause." And then they have an idea like sort of how to solve the problem, but they can't find someone to pay for it. And sometimes I talk about it as someone who cares about it enough to pay for it, right? So how did you get about finding people who care about it enough to pay for what you're delivering?

Niels Wielaard: [00:15:05] I think it is a sign of the times, it's the period we're in. I've seen applications 15 years ago. We were talking about the same things. Back then the technology was not ready. It was far too expensive anyway, but the ideas were good. Right now, satellite imagery, a lot of it is freely available. Cloud computing wasn't possible a few years back. It's now also very affordable. So in that part, the technological developments have been conducive. That's all nice, but still the market has to be conducive, as you say.

I think what we are seeing now is that the acceptance with people that things have to change, is bigger than ever. it is also the right time, basically. It's the right time, and we see leaders who are taking their responsibility in changing things. For example, we started working with a trading company, Bunge, four years ago. They were really forward-thinking about, "Okay, we have to use satellite information with our own information system on a supply chain, in the factories, mills, et cetera, and combine that to give transparent information to clients, to make our work accountable."

And they see that that is helping their reputation, but also contracts. And that's what I see we're moving towards right now, that in procurement and that the financial people... Usually we used to be in contact with the sustainability people, the sustainability department, back And also even now with some companies, that that's one person who cares about these kinds of sustainability issues, and has a huge task. But we see more and more that it is shared with procurement, it's more integrated with all these big companies.

And I think that is also a trend that helps in the understanding, the transformation that the whole world, the whole market has to go through. And we see that happen right now. So I think that is a combination that, even during these COVID times, we see even increasing interest in making the world a better place, actually. So I think this trends will continue.

Jeremy Au: [00:16:58] I mean, there's a lot of truth to that, right? Which is the market has changed tremendously, I agree with you. I think 50 years ago, the technology has changed, but I think the market for sustainability has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Because I think 15 years ago it was like, " If the problem happens in a different country, we don't care." That's what companies were, right? And then their consumers have gotten a lot smarter to be like, "Oh, even though I'm using toothpaste here, I care about how the toothpaste was made every step of the way."

Niels Wielaard: [00:17:23] Yeah. We see that also with the current consumers. Millennial consumers, they are very tech-minded, and they also just want to know, "Okay, don't tell me something, show me the provenance of my goods and your sustainability credentials." I think that is also part of the situation at the moment.

Jeremy Au: [00:17:40] Yeah. I think that's something that's often underrated. And I think a lot of credit goes to all of the lobbying and consumer education groups that out there, right? Because a lot of people are like, "Oh, consumer education, it doesn't do anything." And I'm like, " No, it does." Because when consumers care, then the firms will slowly care. And like you said, the one person who's supposed to care about it, the sustainability officer, and then slowly the rest of the company cares about it. So it's a slow process.

How did you get your first customers? I mean you started out, right, and then you had already been working in satellite imagery and so forth, but how did you get your first clients at the door? What was it like signing that first sales meeting or sales contract?

Niels Wielaard: [00:18:19] I think what was very critical, is the 20 years of experience on the ground, and the network. Yeah, like I mentioned, partnerships are very important for implementation, but also in our case for sales. I think it is evident that... Why I mentioned this thought leadership, bringing in also experience from others. Because this is an emerging field, it is an emerging technology in an emerging market. So everything is kind of new, everyone is piloting things. And in that sense, I think it is important that I see also my role, not only as a CEO of the company, but also our company as a whole to help share examples, and to inspire also a company, showing things that really work other clients and other partners.

 

Jeremy Au: [00:19:05] Could you share with us what was it like if you went back in time to your first client, like your first sales contract. How did you get a deal? You know, your first ever customer. Because most people struggle with that, right? They always tells you like, "All your customers after the first customer, is much easier." But what was your first customer like?

 Niels Wielaard: [00:19:20] What really helped, is the network I set up in 20 years' time. So the early days were... People know me. I know the people working in the forward-thinking companies needing our kind of information. And then to be honest, I have not the exact way that it went, but I called out. I said, "We're monitoring these in these areas and your company is working there. Good to join forces. If we can see what's really happening on the ground, and that you verify our satellite data." And they said, "Yeah, this is exactly what we want to do." And then of course it was fantastic to have that, but I think it's all about relations.

And we actually didn't do our first year, any proactive sales. It was all based on word of mouth. that was really nice. And then we knew that, "Okay, if we want to scale further, we would need to have more a proactive sales approach," which is including a lot of explaining the technical stuff that we're doing. So basically more consultative selling in a way. That has been a very conscious decision, to focus a lot on that.

Jeremy Au: [00:20:21] Yeah. That's amazing. You know, I think it's interesting because, you've been one of the few people who have done that really commitment as... You were an employee for 14 years at the same company, and then you made the jump to becoming a co-founder. And today, you know, nobody wants to spend 14 years at one company, right? I can't imagine anyone who is like, " I'm willing to spend 14 years before I go build my business." How do you feel about those 14 years? What parts have been really useful, and what parts have you had intention to change about how you work?

Niels Wielaard: [00:20:51] Yeah. I'm really grateful for that opportunity to be able to learn for myself, explore the world. I'm tremendously grateful for what I've learned, but also, I learned then that I was a very eager guy. That has also to do with my upbringing. I've been a competitive swimmer for a very long time, since I was a small boy, five years old, until my early twenties. I was in the water every day, with my head under water, training for goals. So a goal-setting was really very important for me. And that's very individualistic, with your head under water. I think that what I miss, is that I was working at a very individualistic company. And a company that was also doing say more science for the sake of science, with less attention to customer service, and doing real service provision.

So although at the beginning I never felt off working at any other company, in the end I thought, " If you want to have done something right, maybe take charge of your own future." I think that's a very important one. So don't depend on other people for making things right for you. Take proactive action. And that's when I thought, "Okay, what's important for me? How do I think that I can help transform the commodity production sector?" And that set up a company in a way that I did. But that also brought some challenges along the way for my personal role, obviously."

Jeremy Au: [00:22:18] When you think about what you've done and progressed, how do you personally upscale or change how you work, right? So you're an employee, right, for 14 years, you learned how to work there, then you became a co-founder, but then you must've been learning a lot. Were you reading anything, and then obviously then became, as the company has grown now to over 20 people, obviously the way that you work has continued to change. how do you change the way that you work?

Niels Wielaard: [00:22:44] it is quite a challenge. Because as she said, I've been an employee and then I've been doing my own thing for a long time. And then, in 2016 I thought, "Okay, I start this company." At the same time I had my son. So it was very tough. During the night I was a father, preparing milk for this baby, and during the day I was doing legal, financial, product development. I was doing basically all the tasks together with my two colleagues, were starting out there.

And a year later we got seven more people in. Also our co-director Arjen Vrielink joined, and then it grew really fast. And what was most challenging for me, in my role in leadership, was that the changes went so fast, and that I had to change from... I mentioned that I used to be a swimmer, and I was very much hardwired, "Achieve goals, do that on your own." And then I was, say, part of a big team, where my team could take charge for all kinds of tasks. And it was evolving so fast that it was difficult to get adjusted to that role, because that role was changing all the time.

So I didn't have to do the actual development of products or the operational parts. There were days that I was doing the remote sensing, GIS stuff on my laptop, which I miss occasionally I have to admit. But there's now all kinds of other people doing that. And in my role now, is more building this sense of community and inspiring. That has not been easy.

So I'm happy you asked about, "Okay, what kind of things do you read?" And for me, it was a lot of learning by doing, but also making sure to have, say, a small ecosystem of people who know better than me, and get inspired by them. I think that is important. And it also relates to when I was small, I was the swimmer and my family were my support team. And the objective was that I would win medals and stuff like that. And I think that individualistic look had to change to the team, and that my role would be more to inspire the team with my 20 years experience, and how things can work out and stuff like that.

And there, I had also the support of a coach, which I started working with last year. So that's a very long answer. Read yourself on the internet, because it amazes me how many founders and business people don't inform themselves, apparently. They're just doing things, and then it turns out, if you look on the internet, that people have already invented the wheel. And you can learn a lot from that, through podcast or whatever. There's a lot out there.

So I think that is very key. And then having a group of people that can support you in your leadership role with advice. Always be prepared to take advice from people who know much better than you, but still have the mindset of questioning everything. Be critical. I think those are the main things for that.

Jeremy Au: [00:25:30] But what's interesting as well, when you shared all of that, is that you have a coach and I myself, was sort of an executive coach. So it's funny because so many founders, our super weapon is a coach, right? And I remember someone was telling me, he was like, "I thought the whole point of being a founder is that you don't have to report to anybody. You don't need to have a boss or a mentor. You can do it yourself." So that's been an interesting part for so many people, is that position around the fact that every founder is part of a community, and needs a lot of help.

Niels Wielaard: [00:26:01] Yeah. And it helps also in reflecting on my role and how I work. I'm working with Gloria van Ewijk with Life Impact Company. And one key thing, she helped me, I have to do it. So that you're still in charge of yourself. But she hands me examples and feedback, which is really useful to see things in a different perspective. And that's something that I value so much. It's just like she says, "Okay, here's the light button. You can click it on like this." And then I know, "Oh, yeah. Maybe I can deal with the situation in this way." That really helps. Especially as I told all of you about this transformation from this individualistic sportsman to a team inspirator kind of role. So yeah, I'm very glad that I took the decision to do this.

Jeremy Au: [00:26:53] What's interesting as well, is that you've been coached and then you're learn how to change yourself. So I'm sure there are a lot of companies and environmental sustainability come up to you and ask you for help or advice. What are some common pieces of advice that you'd normally give to people who are looking to enter environmental sustainability, and looking to build a startup or an organization inside that field ?

Niels Wielaard: [00:27:18] It's funny that you say that, because just last week we had a request from a computer phishing company. They came all the way from the tech side saying, "Yeah, can you advise on what we're doing?" I really love those kinds of requests. And I'm always open to discuss these kinds of things. It's just very fascinating. I think at this moment, it is hard for me to pick some generic things. I also think because it's all so new, it's hard for me to think of some from very good, concise recommendations or things.

Jeremy Au: [00:27:51] When you were early in the stages of the company, do you remember any advice that you got in the early days of the company that you liked, or remember?

Niels Wielaard: [00:28:01] I think that being open to learn from people who've been there, that is key. A lot of the challenges are not challenges that are unique to you, the founder of a company. There are many more people around the world who are struggling with that. So I think I started reaching out to people also with setting up the company, we had also an adviser, a very experienced remote sensing person. He helped us out a lot with the basics, so legal, who to go to for financial things. So also here it is, go out and find yourself some good advice. That will be the key thing.

A lot of the things that we learned, were not so much that people advised us to do so, but more the common sense and talking to my advisor and friends and the supporting ecosystem, as I mentioned, which helped to grow us as a company. I think that that is more a key thing.

Jeremy Au: [00:29:05] One of the interesting things is that, when you're getting advice from people and you're meeting people, a lot of people will tell you, "It's a good idea, we like you." But it's also a lot of people who tell you, "It's a stupid idea. It's a bad idea. It's not going to work. The market doesn't care."

I think for my previous two companies, each time in the early days... The first one was like, "Oh, the clients don't care. They don't want to improve." Second one was like, "Oh, the market is not ready for this," et cetera. My feedback of that, when someone says like, "Oh, I don't think Satelligence is going to work," or, "People don't care about the environment," or, "Maybe you should change your customer." How should a founder think about it? Should they be happy? Should they be sad? Should they be like, "That's not true." How should you receive such negative feedback?

Niels Wielaard: [00:29:51] I think Satelligence is kind of an unusual example in that me and several of my colleagues had been working in this field for say 10, 15, 20 years already. And that made that we knew exactly what we wanted to do when we started out. We already had the network. We had say kind of a proven product-market fit already. So in a way you could say that for us, it was kind of... Easy is not the right word, but I think the struggle had been before we set up the company. So maybe that's also setting up a business. People in Europe want to know for sure whether something will work. Or whether the startup mentality in the US is more like, "Hey, I have this crazy idea. Let's go do it. And we'll see later what comes of it." I also think it's a bit of the mentality here, but definitely also all the struggle we already had, to create a product-market fit, and really be conscious and look what's happening.

So for that reason, it's a bit difficult to comment on getting criticism of things that didn't work. It's also my competitive nature, because I set out to prove my point that we could do it. And it was like a swimming match like, "This is the target. We go do it. We know exactly what we're doing. We have been training for it for years." And yeah, let me think for some criticism, because we also embrace failure. I think that's very important.

There have been many things that, from an internal process, where we failed, and which we could have done in another way. But so far, I don't think like big things like people saying, "You're crazy doing this," so far. Maybe we're incredibly lucky that we set out the way we did. It's kind of a lot of success along the way, actually, after a lot of struggle. So it's not that we didn't have to struggle, but it was all before we established the company.

Jeremy Au: [00:31:51] No, I mean, that's exactly true, right? And yeah, I think you built it in a very common way, which is, you had a company, you saw the problem, you struggled while you were being paid by the company. And so you hear all the criticism, but the company was there, but that was a good, safe space to experiment and try. And like you say, you're competitive, so you wanted to prove something could work.

So I think it's interesting, right? Because I think a lot of people, they feel like they have to quit their jobs before they can do a startup, right? And I don't know if you saw that, like some of my friends were like, "Oh Jeremy, I've got to quit my job before I do my startup." And I'm like, "Wow, hold up, your startup is very high level right now. Maybe you should stay at the company for a bit longer, right? And work on the company while you're there." What do you think? Do you tell your friends to stay at a company for a bit longer before you do a startup?

Niels Wielaard: [00:32:40] I think gaining experience and thinking critically, is something you can do basically everywhere.

Jeremy Au: [00:32:48] Yeah. I agree with you about that. And also it's nice to be able to continue being able to eat food and pay rent. You know, I'm just kind of curious as well. If you go back in time, 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?

Niels Wielaard: [00:33:04] To have done this earlier on. But it's also maybe in my nature, is to cling to, "I'm here at this company doing what I want, trying to change things," but not seeing the context in where I was. It was kind of shackling me in a way, keeping me from growing the way I could. So maybe, which relates to the question you just added, is also it may be a bit that dare to get out of the comfort zone and just try if you can do it or not, you will find out. If you think it's a good idea, go for it.

Jeremy Au: [00:33:42] Awesome. Well, it's a pleasure catching up with you.

Niels Wielaard: [00:33:44] Thanks for having me.

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