The innovators series: Think big

By Amy C. Cosper
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Family Business takes a look at what innovation looks like in a family business environment. We sat down with Edouard Thijssen to ask about his experience as an innovator.

 

INNOVATOR: EDOUARD THIJSSEN

COMPANY: TRUSTED FAMILY

ROLE: FOUNDER & CEO

LOCATION: BRUSSELS, LONDON, NEW YORK

LOCATION DURING PANDEMIC: LONDON, BELGIUM

BACKGROUND

I’m a NextGen member of a multigenerational Belgian family business. Our family business is in the building material industry.

THE NERDY STUFF

During my last year in high school, I had my first real entrepreneurship experience at a Belgian entrepreneurship program. I also learned to code.

THE A-HA MOMENT

I wanted to hack the most common problem for family businesses: Communication. Over the generations, all business families go through similar cycles: Complexity increases as the family gets bigger. Stakeholders scatter around the world. The question then becomes, how can stakeholders have access to the right information to make decisions, communicate and build trust? So, I built a mobile app and a web app that manages all family business meetings, sensitive information, communications and workflow.

WHY IS INNOVATION IMPORTANT TO FAMILY BUSINESSES?

We live in a world where things change so quickly, we need to be open to new ideas and pivots disrupted today. For family businesses to stay successful in the long term, it’s critical that they build a culture of continuous innovation and risk taking.

HOW DID YOUR FAMILY BOARD REACT TO THE APP?

The initial feedback was positive, but the board was concerned about the long-term evolution of the app and, of course, the cost. They challenged us to think bigger We decided to turn the idea into a company.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO NEXTGEN-ERS WHO WANT TO INNOVATE OUTSIDE THE FAMILY BUSINESS CORE COMPETENCY?

Think big — it takes the same amount of time. And, also, have no fear. It slows you down.

Issue: 
March/April 2021

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