This is the Leadership Journey series on the Choosing Leadership Podcast.

I believe we all have a lot to learn from each other’s stories – of where we started, where we are now, and our successes and struggles on the way. With this series of interviews, my attempt is to give leaders an opportunity to share their stories and for all of us to learn from their generous sharing.

In the interview, Theo shares how he has been exposed to a very multi-cultural environment ever since he was a child. We talk about the importance of building a great organisation instead of just building a great product, and the difference between urgent and important things. We talk about transparency, courage, and loneliness as a leader; and how perfectionism is not a scalable strategy, and the value of thinking long-term.

You can find Theo at the below links

In the interview, Theo shares

  • So moving around is not something I decided myself. It was mainly driven by my parents back in the day. But I think I’m quite grateful for all of these experiences because I got to see quite a lot of different environments. So I was always exposed to a very multicultural environment.
  • I would say more than particular events, it was more the people that I met. So I’ve been surrounded, I think by entrepreneurs which came in all sorts of well different kinds. Some had this entrepreneurial mindset but we’re effectively building new businesses as part of a larger organization. Some were really starting their own businesses and that was really an, in very different industries. I have three siblings. Two of them are also entrepreneurs. So I think maybe there’s something and then the upbringing as well. 
  • I think it always gave me lots of adrenaline in a good way in the sense that was always super excited to wake up in the morning and catch up with everything that was going on
  • It’s one thing to build a great exchange or a great product in general, but it’s something completely different to build a great organization around it.
  • As an early stage company CEO there’s a lot of urgent things, but it’s important to still find the time to work on the important things.
  • We spend a lot of time thinking about how we want to structure the organization, how we want to structure the dynamic between people. 
  • I consider myself very lucky and I’m very grateful to be working with people who I also really look up to in terms of their expertise, skillset and in a way we’re also very much like-minded.
  • We like to foster an environment where basically it doesn’t matter whether you’re a founder or an intern, but we need the best arguments should win in a debate and that’s how decisions are made. 
  • I’ve never learned as much in such a short amount of time because as a founder, as a CEO you basically have to do everything. So I find myself doing things that I never thought I would ever have to even think about. But that’s actually the part that I enjoyed the most coming from a mathematical slash finance background. I never thought I would have to deal with HR matters, which I now found extremely interesting, for example, again, that comes back to concept of building an organization.
  • I try to surround myself with people who can and are willing to give me advice. So that can come in the form of advisors to the company. It’s also our investors. So we raised two funding rounds and I have these bi-weekly calls with them that are that take the form of a sort of feedback session, but we’re basically, I’m mostly able to express my challenges and hear their take on it because they also have a different perspective.
  • I’m a big believer in transparency and that’s also, again, an environment we try to foster here at D2X.
  • A lot of courage is needed and I do have to get out of my comfort zone. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • While it does get lonely sometimes I still feel that as an organization we’re really in this together. And I try not to be a leader who just dictates what people should do. I really try to empower people as much as possible. I think that’s probably something a lot of CEOs would say, I’m not sure if we all do but at least it’s really one of my guiding principles.
  • With giving freedom comes the responsibility of letting people make their mistakes
  • I think especially as a, as an organization when you’re growing fast if you basically decide to micromanage. It’s not going to be a good outcome in most situations just because it’s not possible.
  • I personally had my fair share of challenges when it comes to delegating tasks. I’m a bit of a perfectionist in certain things and I think I used to be a bit of a control freak in certain ways. but I’ve been working a lot on that. I think it’s not a scalable strategy. So the sooner you realize that the better off you are. What really made the difference was surrounding myself with people that I could trust.
  • Instead of basically surrounding myself with lots of people, I would rather surround myself with a smaller number of people. I look up to so that I can fully trust them and that they will actually deliver a good output in terms of quality in terms of time. 
  • Being able to take a step back and see that the big picture is really helpful. 
  • It’s still something I’m working on. It’s still a big challenge. I think the pressure is constant. I used to see entrepreneurship as as a marathon rather than a sprint. And then I realized it’s actually probably a marathon, but at the pace of a sprint.
  • It is really important to be able to release some of the pressure But I’ve found it extremely challenging, especially at the start was disconnecting. But I think it’s necessary. If you’re able to disconnect, then you can basically keep up 
  • At some point decided to basically stop looking at my phone during the day, I was also able to achieve a lot more because I was able to focus.
  • We all think or at least most of us think we’re super humans when we started these things and we think we sometimes overlook the mental health component. But again, this is a long-term thing. You want to build a lifestyle that is healthy and sustainable.
  • To me, success will really happen when we have an organization where people are fulfilled where we are, we’re all great performers and we’re achieving great things together. I see this more and more as as a people’s experience rather than just a personal one. And yeah, so I’m really committed to making that happen. 
  • That’s really the difference between urgent and important and you need to do both right. Urgent needs to be done now, but important. It needs to be done. Nonetheless so again, it’s finding this balance.
  • Being scared is absolutely normal. I was extremely scared when I did it. I remember the day I resigned from my previous job. I think 15 minutes later, I was almost shaking thinking, oh my God, what have I just done? Am I really doing this? 
  • I think fundamentally there’s never a perfect time to start, but if you’re really driven if something really drives you there’s something you really want to do.
  • All of these experience basically they make sense in hindsight. But yeah, it’s impossible to have everything figured out in the present.
  • The moment you say that this is what I’m feeling, that makes it easier for you to actually move forward from that.