The long & short of my story, so far…
I was born in Port Vila, Vanuatu, a tropical island in the Pacific Ocean. I grew up on coconuts, mangoes and bananas and spent a lot of time fishing and snorkeling on coral reefs. It is a time I look back on with wonderful memories, however, it was also a turbulent childhood as a result of two alcoholic parents, which resulted in a broken family environment for my 3 sisters and I.
From the age of 4 through to the age of 13, my sisters and I were often flying between our Father, Mother, Grandparents and numerous Guardians who were often on opposite sides of the globe (Vanuatu, Australia and France).
At the age of 13, I was sent to boarding school in Brisbane, Australia where I learned a lot of self-reliance; something I now realize has been instrumental in my development. At the age of 16, I moved into my own apartment and paid my own way through high school by working weekends at Pizza Hut, where I worked for 4 years.
I graduated high school in 1993 and took one year off to work full-time at Pizza Hut before commencing University. At this stage of my life I was an adventurer. I would spend all my school holidays walking across Queensland’s Great South East. I would leave Brisbane (Australia) in the early hours of the morning and start walking in a westerly direction with only the clothes I wore, a water bottle, a knife, a compass, a map, a slingshot, some fishing gear, some flour to make damper by the campfire and a light-weight army blanket to keep warm at night. The very simple bare necessities I would need along the way. I would often walkabout for 2-3 weeks with the longest trip lasting 10 weeks. It gave me a chance to reflect, recharge and come back to civilization with a fresh look on life. I learned a lot about who I was.
Upon high school graduation, I took a year off to work full-time at Pizza Hut. The following year (1995), I commenced university at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). I had a very shaky first year and decided to take another year off in 1996. At the time, I was rowing at a high level and had to make a choice between an academic career and an international sporting career. I was invited to take part in trials for the Australia Olympic 8 but declined and decided to pursue my academic career. I also fell in love with a Dutch girl which resulted in me spending a year in Holland (Groningen of all places) washing dishes, rowing and studying Dutch amongst other things.
AT QUT, I started with a Bachelor of Applied Science, where I ended up majoring in Biotechnology and Microbiology. I studied hard in the last 2 years of the degree (98-99) and upon my return from Holland and managed to score perfect grades (GPA 6.8/7). I then went on to do an Honors program, which is an accelerated Masters degree that was awarded to the top 5 students of my Bachelor degree. I ended up getting perfect grades for my Honors with a GPA of 7/7 and Cum Laude. It was not easy. I studied hard and due to lack on money I was often homeless and living on the streets, studying by street light in the evenings. Getting robbed while asleep was a common occurrence. But I persevered and succeeded in getting high grades in the end.
I then decided to pursue my academic career with a PhD. I moved to Amsterdam to rejoin my dutch girlfriend and started a PhD in medicine with a focus on biotechnology, specializing on the HIV-1 virus. My thesis details the development of a vaccine against HIV and the discovery and characterization of the first drug-dependent AIDS virus. I also authored some popular reviews on the topic of HIV-1 drug-resistance and drug-dependence and Inhibiting HIV-1 entry with fusion inhibitors.
In all, I managed to publish 10 peer-reviewed scientific articles during my PhD and created new approaches for scientific research in viral drug dependency and vaccine design. Here I am defending my PhD thesis with a self built presentation in flash (when flash was still hot) in May 2007.
In 1998, I got my first taste of the Internet entrepreneurship through the development of a website to connect students with tutors online. I had been tutoring first year students to help them pass their exams and they regarded me highly due to my perfect grades and teaching skills. I realized I had a talent for teaching but very quickly demand exceeded supply and I needed to find other people like myself willing to teach students I could not cater for.
So I developed a website to connect students and tutors online and self-taught myself HTML, PHP and SQL in order to automate the process of sign up and match making. The service was a success and shortly after I took the free service worldwide. In the year 2000, there were over 4000 students and 2000 tutors connecting via the website free of charge. Although the service was free to use, I suggested to tutors to install a small advertising bar on their desktop, which paid them and myself money for being online. This got me through university and resulted in low 4 figure checks each month in the mail, which was a lot of money as a student in those days. The company that was paying me went bust in the dot-com bubble bust.
While I was working on my PhD, I had a strong affinity for Internet and in 2003 I started a hosting and domain registrar company selling hosting solutions and domain names. It was a very simple concept that was well accepted and grew to over 5000 active clients by 2004. Clients would pay a $5 setup fee for a basic free hosting plan. I would then up-sell them on hosting services and domain names. I remember having to deal with over 500 support questions each day and answering them in my spare time and while on breaks between experiments; handling HIV virus in a Biosafty-3 lab one minute and helping a customer setup his/her website or email the next. It got a little overwhelming, although it taught me a tremendous amount on domain names, email, hosting, websites, blogs, forums and everything to do with getting online.
In 2005 I decided to sell the hosting company and its clients and moved my attention over to celebrity blogging. With my strong understanding of SEO and online marketing developed from past projects, I very quickly grew ad impressions and revenues to a 6-figure annual income, relatively passively as I was still doing a PhD at the time. I used this income to acquire and resell domain names and websites and formed a holding company in 2007 (Baldemia) to manage the assets, shortly after completing my PhD.
I did dabbled in the stock market as a day trader for about a year and managed a significant sum of money. I traded primarily in Technology, Health and Energy sectors, which I was very interested in and enjoyed learning about. Due to my analytical skills and being able to see trends and extrapolate data, I had a talent for day trading but quickly lost connection with the value of money, which I did not like. I was fortunate enough to be in a bull market (2006/2007) and traded on a rising tide. I pulled out of the market just before the downturn and economic crisis hit due to other priorities and responsibilities.
Mid 2007, days after completing my PhD, life started to move very fast. I formed a company in India in order to outsource SEO and link building services which grew to 35 employees in the first few weeks. I had the opportunity to work for one of the leading SEO firms in the US, quickly rising ranks to become their Chief Technology Officer and leading a team of over 75 talented individuals across sales, marketing and technology. I facilitated the development of 1000’s of websites generating considerable revenues, oversaw 100’s of client SEO and marketing campaigns, developed software solutions to automate and cut costs and learned from talented entrepreneurs and individuals with expertise beyond what I had been exposed to. It was a very fast paced environment and had me traveling the world.
After 2 years of fast-paced corporate life, I decided to slow things down a little and focus on my own company(s) (Baldemia). I grew revenues fairly easily and consistently to high 6-figures and re-enforced my development outsourcing team in Romania, which later grew to 14 employees (Baldemia Dev). My largest client, who subsequently became my business partner and good friend, started investing equally into domain names and websites and together we built a portfolio of over 8000 domain names and 3000 websites by 2011. It was a land grab and we were buying domains very cheaply, focusing our efforts on acquisition for the purpose of development and re-sale. Baldemia ultimately had company representations in 5 countries: Netherlands (Baldemia), France (Baldemia SARL), United Kingdom (Advanced Resource Integration LtD), Romania (S.C. Baldemia DEV S.R.L) and India (SEMWEB Services LtD).
Then came a time to reflect on my life. In 2011, I decided to buy a house in France and move there with my family. 2011 and most of 2012 where rest years for me, reflecting and planning for the future while enjoying life at a slower pace. Together with my family, we enjoyed the French lifestyles at Villa Billy with our cats Tigris&Frizby, our goats Lilly&Lalla, our rooster Raymond and his lovely companion Gertrude and his many other chickens. We sold the house and moved back to the Netherlands in 2017 which was our plan from the beginning to live in France for 5-6 years and then move back to the Netherlands for the schooling of our children.
In early 2013, I shifted my attention from building out long tail exact match domains to focusing more on higher worth properties, which would produce higher yield returns if developed correctly. In the process, I was fortunate to meet Jeanne Barnett on Linkedin (Founder of CysticFibrosis.com, Medrise.com and a 501(c)3 not-for-profit CFTechnology.org) and we were an instant match for each other. We decided to work together and focus our attention on the Medrise portfolio of which CysticFibrosis.com is one of the major properties in that portfolio. I helped to run the CysticFibrosis.com community, a project operating under a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization called CFTechnology.org which I helped manage.
I also grew and managed the fastest growing Cystic Fibrosis facebook page in 2013 and brokered premium domain names through Medrise Inc. like Ostepath.com, Hydrotherapy.com and another dozen similar medical domain names. I also developed and sold Houses.co.uk for a significant amount.
In later 2013, I also joined a non-profit organization called the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD), which is an organization diffused over many disciplines focused on improving the quality of life of everyone on this planet. It is part of a large consortium of organizations and was led by Prof. Joep Lange, who was also one of the two promoters from my PhD study. As part of AIGHD, I work on an incredible variety of projects ranging from technology to science to education to business to innovative thinking. I was also fortunate to come at a time where a new initiative was being launched called the Amsterdam Health & Technology Institute (AHTI), which focused on sourcing technology to improve health and healthcare.
We had a very unfortunate and terrible event in 2014 where we lost 2 colleagues in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane crash. You can read about Joep Lange and the AHTI team in this forbes article (Picture of the AHTI team with me on far right and Joep on far left).
We were successful in launching AHTI in November 2014 and awarded 17 million in funding from the city of Amsterdam.
In early 2015, I took on a project as head of SEO for Europcar, where I manage a 9-figure SEO channel across desktop, mobile and apps on europcar.com, 9 corporate countries and 100’s of franchises.
In 2016, I joined a digital performance agency called Traffic4u in the Netherlands. Traffic4u became part of IPG mediabrands in 2014 and its a very exciting and dynamic group of people working together under different labels.
I helped the people at Traffic4u open their eyes and ears to the future of technology, data and the role a digital marketer will play in this future. We developed a new mission and vision for the agency to future proof it for the next decade. Most of my effort was actually spent communicating to company and industry colleagues about the future and our roles as people and marketers in this technology driven world we live in.
So I started becoming a speaker. From company events to industry podiums in front of hundreds of people. I found a new talent I never realized I had. Public speaking of all things!? The #1 fear people have, sometimes in front of death (think that was a Jerry Seinfeld joke 🙂
So I started speaking. I built a model in order to communicate the message I wanted to get out to the work. Its called meaningful connections and I have written extensively about this model on my blog. I am currently (2018) writing a book about this model and my philosophy on building relationships through technology to help brands build meaningful connections with the customers they serve.
I grew organically into a change agent role at IPG Mediabrands, speaking, pitching, running workshops and training’s to help people adapt and change their way of work and thinking to thrive in the digital age we live in.
In 2018, I decided that I could have more impact for the agencies I worked for and the advertising and marketing industry as a whole by going out on my own again. So I formed a new company called 10x Digital. Its mission is to leverage the exponential nature of technology to grow organizations with the desire to do good.
to be continued…