Bram Bosveld
Co-founder YoungCapital

Meet Bram Bosveld

Bram Bosveld is one of the co-founders of YoungCapital, an innovative recruitment agency that connects young people and companies to create jobs, thereby boosting the growth of both. Project Leader of Global Young Leaders, Christiaan Caanen sat down with Bram to discuss his story, and how he created his personal and professional life on his own terms, guided by his own vision and determination.
Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur instead of working in an existing company?
Well, it wasn't really a choice. I've had the odd jobs working for people, but I always earned my own money alongside it. Having experienced both, I realized very early on that I wanted to work for myself instead of for someone else. This realization turned into a dream, and when the Internet started to come up, I saw opportunities to earn good money fast through buying and selling domain names. Then reality hit and I found out that that is very noble idea, but that really only a few domains were going for substantial amounts. Looking back on it, this was one of the first times I realized that there are no shortcuts to success and you have to work for it.
Entrepreneurship is about transferring a creative idea into something real, concrete and substantial. What do you experience within yourself when you are creating? How does creative expression manifest into something real for you?
Everything begins with an idea but what you notice very quickly is that you cannot achieve anything without doing things. Nothing will happen unless you act. That's the same way I look at creating. You create an idea, you develop that idea, and then you act on that idea. Your actions are the engine that makes that idea a reality.

Firstly, it depends on the kind of person you are. Everyone has ideas, but many people don't chase after those ideas. Secondly, environment has a great impact and can deter or fuel that desire. When I was 10 years old going door to door, who was there alongside me? Hugo (de Koning, co-founder of YoungCapital). 25 years later he's still sitting next to me doing the same thing. We motivate each other. Those factors make the difference. Lastly, it depends on the kind of boss you have. With YoungCapital, we are creating the environment in which our people feel the room and possibility to come to me with new ideas without their life and job depending on it. If it's a good idea we will listen and provide the resources and time to realize and develop it.

Mindset is one of the elements that fuels the engine that turns ideas into reality. What role did mindset play for you personally and how does YoungCapital utilize mindset to be successful?
Well, where it starts for me is doing something that you love to do. When I take myself for example, I hated studying. It was a necessary evil that my environment wanted me to pursue, that I didn't want to spend much time on. Doing something you love naturally excites you. You will make the time and pay the attention necessary to learn and grow.

And, when you translate that to building a company it's exactly the same. You have an idea and for us that started with creating a job agency for students. That's great idea, but how are we going to do this? And while you're building the idea in your head you need to be prepared to adapt, instead of blindly trying to hold on to that first idea. You need to take the time to learn what works and if what works requires you to adapt your original idea then do it. That is a crucial part of the growth mindset. You need have desire to learn, dare to adapt, and especially don't be afraid to invest if you believe in it.

Growth mindset is crucial, and that is exactly why we have implemented it at YC. It means that you believe in yourself and are constantly working on developing yourself. We test our (prospective) employees on whether they have it or not. In order to realize success you need to have an indestructible belief in the goals your chasing and pursue them at all costs.
"I was 17, I didn't want look at the world from a distance; I wanted to experience and interact with it."
Negative thinking can be detrimental to realizing growth. How do you deal with it personally?
If you make a decision and it doesn't work out well, it can be frightening. I remember when we made the move to a larger building of which our stay was dependent on the revenue we brought in. This was scary, but at the same time it served as a motivator to stay moving and chase after our goals. You have to make sure that fear doesn't stay fear but turns into an opportunity to grow and do things better. That is the most important thing. Of course I've woken up with fear and negative thoughts like "shit, we're not going to make our target." If this customer drops or that employee leaves we have an enormous problem. But ultimately, those things represent opportunities rather than threats. Transform those fears, separate them and make them smaller. Then ask yourself: what is the actual the risk here? Often you realize that your mind is just playing tricks on you and that the risks are small and manageable.

Trial and error is an integral part of life, but quite a lot of young people today are risk-avoidant and exhibit a fear of failing, spending a lot of time on finding the right path before taking action. Are there specific tools that you have used to create that mindset for yourself?
One of the main tools is realizing that there is always a round two. It is about accepting the situation and looking forward. Make sure that you learn from the experience and use it as preparation for the next one. Making mistakes is allowed as long as you do not fall into the same hole twice. There are plenty of moments where we sat at the table and did not make the deal. You cannot create a business or success without trial and error.
Practical experience taught you the importance of staying on the move, experiencing, and the fact that trial and error is a natural part of life. This is something that education often does not account for. How do you value learning through experience versus learning theory out of a book?
I first studied small business and then marketing management. Again, experience is key. And my experience told me that I liked undertaking and doing things. What I didn't enjoy was getting a gigantic bundle of books in front of me with cases that did not speak to my imagination. I was 17, I didn't want look at the world from a distance; I wanted to experience and interact with it.

Another element that could be done better in education is bridging the gap between theory and practice. For example, I learned the AIDA model in marketing, but what is AIDA exactly? How does it translate into practice? We had to write a proposal for hypothetical clients in class, but that doesn't come alive until the moment you have to write a real proposal and cultivate interest among real clients. Only then you think to yourself, hey this is marketing set that I have learned, and if I put that on paper in this way and apply it to the client I'm dealing with, then I can provide value. Only then can you create a lasting interest in your mind about the topic and the necessary skills. It manifests itself, because you're attaching it to real life as opposed to imaginary cases. That's what I find one of the most challenging things about education. You have to learn a lot of things that you don't apply or for which another solution is already available by the time you graduate.

During my bachelor I started my own company, which resulted in my studies taking a step back. It was so much more exciting. I started building my company and only then I realized how theory translated to real-life and what the differences were between what the books tell you and what happens in practice. Education should offer a lot more opportunities to bridge that gap.

How do you utilize these ideas within your hiring strategy at YoungCapital?

I see education like getting your driver's license. You learn basic theory through your driving instructor. But when you start driving, you have to implement and apply all the actions you have learned into practice. When young people start working here I know they have a certain level of knowledge, that driver's license. They have already gained some practical experience during an internship. But then they need to learn the dynamics of real-life situations and challenges. That can be confrontational. Once again it depends on mindset. To what extent are they willing to adjust and learn?
Do you see possibilities for education and businesses to work together more closely in order to prepare young people more adequately?
This is precisely the reason why we started our own higher professional education track (YoungCapitalNext). 4 months of boot camp in which you learn the basics and practical skills for your coming year. You go to work 4 days a week and back to school for one. You learn with two goals only. Applying theory to practice and developing yourself. We receive a lot of positive feedback from the business community because they come into contact with talent at a very early stage. We not only do this at the higher level, but also at the vocational level. You need to bring people into contact with companies at an earlier stage and let people learn their trade on the job.

We want to scale this up but we are confronted with the fact that the mindset of educational institutions and companies are not ready for this model. For instance, they still ask for a resume. But what kind of resume are you going to submit? You delivered pizzas and stocked shelves at the supermarket? Perhaps worked at call center or restaurant once in a blue moon. The last two are relevant (for sales); you can already discard the first two. At Young Capital, we focus on looking at what kind of person we have in front of us. Where does he or she want to go and to what extent is that person willing to improve him or herself?
A big part of having a growth mindset is setting your own standards and measurements on which you evaluate yourself. How do you measure yourself and what role does environment play in that equation?
Sure your environment is important, but I create my own goals. I am not concerned with what the outside world thinks about it. Especially when you start a business and haven't accomplished anything, you get comments like "are you sure it is a good idea to be working so hard? Should you not do this or that? Are you sure you want to make that investment decision with that risk involved?" If I let my decisions depend on that, I will get nowhere. I listen and talk to myself a lot. I am the standard. Of course I listen to what my environment says and sometimes you adjust your goals to that, as long as I think it has added value.

If it doesn't align with your environment, you have to enter into a dialogue. Especially with the people closest to you. This is what you expect from me, but I expect something completely different from myself. These are tough conversations, but in the end both of you will be happier. As long as you stand behind your choice with full commitment, you can legitimize it, and take responsibility for it. You must be able to be who you want to be and not the person others want you to be.
— That sounds very powerful and close to yourself
There are million books that illustrate this example. You have to create your own happiness. Someone else will never do that for you. You are always the main character in your own film. We are having a conversation now. Maybe I give you some insights; maybe you give me some insights. But afterwards, your film continues for you, just as my film continues for me. I want to write the script of my own film.
YoungCapital Co-founders Bram Bosveld, Hugo de Koning, and Rogier Thewessen