Founding a successful company comes with trial and error. Fortunately, there are plenty of books on entrepreneurship that can help you further. In The Golden Reading Tip , successful entrepreneurs talk about the book that brought them the most. This week: Bas van Abel (42), who wanted to market the first fair smartphone with Fairphone.

  • Entrepreneur: Bas van Abel
  • Company: Fairphone since 2013, started De Clique last year
  • Book Tip: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

In your phone, the whole world comes together, through all the raw materials and mini parts that are taken from everywhere. This includes conflict areas, as do factories where underpaid labor is the norm, and waste is dumped in nature. Bas van Abel was a thorn in his side, so he started thinking about alternatives. The idea for Fairphone was born.

After a crowdfunding campaign in 2013, the company delivered the first 25,000 phones a year later. Fairphone 2 followed in 2016, and there is now a third variant on the market. The smartphone is still not 100 percent fair, which according to Van Abel only emphasizes how complex the chain is.

Being the only company in an entire industry committed to fair production: that is quite something. The book title you chose sounds appropriate.

"Absolutely. It was not my ambition to start a telephone company, but to bring about a system change. We chose not to say from the outside how to do it, but to see for yourself with this company what you will encounter if you try . "

"What I learned is that you have to accept that you are facing a lot of dilemmas in this regard. My first big decision was to bribe the Minister of Communications in Congo (here the mineral coltan is extracted, ed.) For 250 dollars. Then I thought well: it will be a difficult task to do it honestly. "

"Still, I thought the whole David and Goliath setup, where you compete against the big phone industry, was super cool. That wasn't the difficulty I've struggled with the most."

Then what?

"What I mainly ran into is that your company grows at rapid growth. Within a year and a half, we had employed forty people, sold tens of thousands of telephones and generated 16 million euros in turnover. While I had never run a company before."

"You are building an airplane while you have already taken off, and you have never learned to fly at all: that is what we did with Fairphone. It is super fun to do new things every day, but at some point uncertainty strikes. "

"Being a CEO is also very lonely. I often said honestly that I didn't know because I was doing it all for the first time. Around 2015 or 2016, leading Fairphone started to weigh on me. Then one of the people I was given this book as a gift to me from the start. "

"One of the biggest dangers is identifying yourself with the company and its peaks and troughs." Bas van Abel

So the book hit rock bottom?

"Yes. You only have so many hours in a day and do what you can, but you also leave things behind and the people around you remind you of that. I found that very difficult, because I thought that everyone was entitled to certain attention. "

"This was a therapeutic book for me because of the recognizability of this man 's struggle and the loneliness he felt as CEO. He had to make choices he couldn't share with others and talks about the underexposed, tough side of establishing One in three marriages of start-up CEOs break up. Fortunately, I was fine, but I have three children, and it all came down to my wife during the first period. "

"One of the biggest dangers is identifying yourself with the company and its peaks and troughs. That can't be sustained. Now I have to say, I didn't keep it up. At one point my girlfriend had to finish me deliver to the mental health service, because I fell over physically. "

"If you read that even one of the most successful startup CEOs and investors has struggled with this, it is reassuring." Bas van Abel

So that was after you read the book?

"Yes, but the book also helped me with that. Because burnout is one of the biggest risks with start-ups, and these kinds of books help you to see that. It is even more difficult with social enterprises, because people whose values ​​and mission are so similar to what they live for, that it is more likely to be absorbed by them. "

"If you read that even one of the most successful start-up CEOs and investors, Ben Horowitz, has struggled with this, it reassures you. It is really hard work. A quote from Horowitz that I really love is: ' As a start -up CEO I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried '. "

"Still, despite those dark sides, I would do it all over again. I wouldn't have missed it."