Meet the 2014 EU Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winner: Willem-Jeroen StevensLast week, Willem-Jeroen Stevens won the 2014 EU Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award, in recognition of his success as a business leader. He is the founder and CEO of Transparent: an internationally-operating data mining company based in the Netherlands. We caught up with him just after the winners had been announced…
How does it feel to win the award?
It is a great honor to win this award. The competition was quite international, with some very interesting people and companies competing. When I was a student at EU, I was a member of a fraternity called Knights Club, so that might have helped with the number of votes!
In what ways has EU influenced your role as an entrepreneur?
The EU is an entrepreneurial institution. While I was there, most of the students’ parents had their own companies or were self-employed. This is one of the added hidden values at EU: you are surrounded by students who are already involved with their own or family businesses; a lot of the teachers were also self-employed.
How would you describe your participation within the Alumni Association?
The Alumni Association is something I try to get involved with frequently. I do not attend all their events, due to travel commitments, but there is always an interesting group of people attending. It also gives you the opportunity to regain contact with friends or classmates who you may not have seen for some time. During the most recent event I went to in Amsterdam, I met some interesting alumni who had gone on to do very well in the business world; our companies are now in discussion about working together!
What’s next for the future of Transparent?
As we are planning to grow this year by over 75%, we are quite busy managing that! Besides that, we are doing our best to execute another acquisition over the next couple of months. Basically we have built a structure with shared-services centers in the U.S.A., Europe and India, where we are able to process vast amounts of AP data from our clients. With this structure in place, we are ready for even faster growth.
Do you have a message for any alumni not yet involved with the Alumni Association?
I would advise everybody to join the fast-growing Alumni Association at EU. It is a great place to meet up with long lost friends and talk about business and the many opportunities available. Each time I attend an event, I take valuable information away with me – and hopefully the other participants feel the same way!
Source: Alumni Community – European University Business School, February 2015 - You can find the article on "ON THE BLOG" of the Alumni Community: www.alumni.udallas.edu
What brought you to UD?What brought you to UD?
Before I decided to join the University of Dallas (UD), I visited several universities all over the US. Together with my father and brother, we saw 4 universities in 7 days. It was very exciting. Visiting the UD made me feel quite at home. It felt as a mid-sized university. I didn’t favor the large universities and UD was not too huge. The ambiance and the MBA & MM structure I enjoyed very much. Besides this; a lot of my colleagues from the European University also joint the UD, which felt good.
What was your favorite class, professor, or memory from your time here?
I didn't have a favorite professor, but I think the graduation was something that was really special. In the Netherlands, we don't celebrate it like that. I remember telling my dad over the phone that I was going to graduate next week, and I remember he said, "What?! Why didn’t you tell me earlier?" He changed heaven and earth to make it, and he was present at the celebration so that was something really special.
How do you use your degree today?
I have an Industrial Management (MM) degree. We had several site visits, and that was very helpful because for example, we visited the Mary Kay distribution center, which was fully automated, which was rare in those days. There I learned what IT and automation can do to a labor intensive process, like Recovery Auditing. Also, I use what I learned in the classes, today in the analysis & optimizing of processes. In each process, or each thing that you do, there is an optimum way to do it, and a bottleneck. On a frequent basis I search for bottlenecks in our processes and how to solve them for the optimum production, which is really helpful.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
On a personal level, I'm proud that I married my wife, and we have four healthy children. On a professional level, I think what I'm proud of is that there is a huge market for our product, and we are trying to open up that market, get new products /ideas into this market, and I'm proud of where we are today. Transparent grew from a small local player into one of the major Data mining companies in the world. It's certainly an achievement.
Can you tell me more about your role at Transparent? How did you get started, and grow to where you are today?
We started Transparent almost 15 years ago with 2 people. It started in the attic on the fourth floor . We had to carry laptops and huge cases full of papers up and down the stairs. It was almost more manual labor than anything else!
From then on, We are growing on an average rate of about 50%. You sometimes need a little bit of luck, and you need some people who say "I trust you, let's go and try it." Fortunately, I had a lot of luck, and enough people around me to say they would give me the benefit of the doubt. Over the 15 years, we had three or four times in or history where we were sailing at the wind and if the wind would have blown a little harder; we would have keeled over. On average we grow organically 30-60% per year and that doesn’t' mean everything goes smoothly. I enjoy that challenge though.
I think the best achievement is that I'm with people that are an integral part of Transparent. I'm so proud of them. They make the difference - on your own you can't do it, you need great people around you. We're a very, very strong, united team. That means we can move mountains. We've grown to over 100 people now, have multiple locations in the US, South Africa, Mexico, and offices in four countries in Europe.
Do you have other interests? What causes or developments are you passionate about?
When I don't work, I like to spend time with my family. We do a lot of outside activities like swimming in the sea, or playing on the beach, playing chess with my kids. We go out to eat, and participate in some cultural activities, which my wife and I quite happily sponsor from time to time.
What things have been significant influences on the direction and shape of your career? What advice would you have for a student looking to grow in a similar path?
For study, read Jim Collins, from good to great. For personal development Stephen Covey, the 7 habits of highly effective people. Don't settle for the first thing that crosses your path. I say it to everybody who works at Transparent - if you don't like what you're doing, please go and find something else to do. It would be horrible to work for a company doing something you don't enjoy!
Source: Alumni Community - University of Dallas, by Halley Chavey, September 2014 - You can find the article on the Alumni Community: www.alumni.udallas.edu
WHAT’S MINED IS YOURS!EU alumnus and entrepreneur, Willem-Jeroen Stevens, founded Transparant, the datamining company, in 2000, which remains at te forefront of the sector. Communication skills, future vision, and entrepreneurial spirit, education and familial influence, along with international experience and hard work, have led him to where he is today.
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Source: ON MAGAZINE | ISSUE III - 2014 | by Eleanor Montgomery