Authentically own a subject and don’t be afraid to share your knowledge!
Michiel Langezaal (33 years) is CEO and co-founder of Fastned. Michiel Langezaal (33 years) is CEO and co-founder of Fastned and responsible for the day-to-day operations. After high school he graduated cum-laude as Mechanical Engineer from Delft University of Technology. For a few years he worked as a strategy consultant at A.T. Kearney. After which he decided to join Epyon, a Delft University of Technology Start-up that developed and produced fast charging equipment for electric cars. At Epyon Michiel learned how to make a start-up successful. In 2011 Epyon was acquired by the Swiss electro technical multinational ABB. During this period, Michiel met Bart Lubbers and they fantasized about a fast charging network for electric cars. They found out they had the same vision about driving an electric car, you just want to feel free to drive everywhere and feel confident about the availability of charging stations. In 2012 Bart and Michiel founded Fastned with the purpose to realise a nationwide network of fast-charging stations. To build this network, they acquired concessions from the Dutch State to realise charging stations at 201 locations along the motorways. As of today, more than 35 stations are operational and Fastned is adding one new station every week. Furthermore, we are putting a lot of effort in opportunities to expand into other countries.
Where did the idea for Fastned come from?
Being part of the Epyon team gave me unique insight in the automotive and charging industries. I witnessed the development of charging equipment from up close and got some unique information on what’s next. It became clear to me, that in the coming two decades the electric car is going to disrupt the car with an internal combustion engine. Working on the charging equipment at Epyon and delivering the equipment to many different testing grounds for electric cars, gave me very early-on experience with electric cars and made it clear that without a network of fast charging stations throughout the country, electric mobility would not succeed. Therefore I started working on a business plan for a fast charging network. It was at Epyon where I met my co-founder Bart Lubbers. Bart was working on exactly the same problem as he saw his, father struggling to recharge his electric car.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
On a typical day I go to the office by bike as I live only a few kilometres away and we start with a wake-up cappuccino with the team. During our work and when taking decisions, we also try to keep in mind which route will bring us the most joy and early success. Why? because success solidifies our team’s belief in their ability to accomplish things. Make sure you work with people that give you energy and that you work on things that give you energy. That is our thinking and makes us very productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Making ideas reality is the difficult part! For that you need a team with dedicated people with a combined set of skills that, can do the job and they should be in there for the greater good with money earned in case of success. If you constantly communicate a clear goal and path within the team, people will work based on their own interpretation of what they need to do to reach that goal. Compare it to an instructive work style and think about the difference! The other part is ensuring you like each other, as the road to success is bumpy! Drink a beer once in a while and make fun on the way.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Sustainability over the last five years became business instead of what a lot of people thought, a green left wing hobby. It’s across the board, from electric cars and charging stations to solar and wind farms. Old-fashioned energy companies are reporting that they cannot compete with cheap wind energy. The Tesla model S outsells the majority of the established exclusive car brands in many markets. To summarize: around the millennium we experienced the Internet revolution, two decades later around 2020 we will experience the energy revolution: from fossil to clean.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My habit is that I keep thinking during my daily work “does this fit our mission and does it help us further towards our goal”. If it doesn’t, we don’t do it, we don’t spend time on it and we communicate why if necessary. This makes Fastned incredibly agile compared to many of the corporate structures where internal politics and personal goals slow things down.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Years ago I worked for a period as a consultant at a large property and casualty insurance company in the Netherlands. The difference between the culture there and one in which I flourish could not have been larger. Where I saw room for improvements and chances, the team there saw risks and additional work. Working in this environment made me very unhappy. Later during my period at Epyon I found myself among people who all worked for a greater good. Since that experience, I don’t spend energy in things that do not align with such thinking and I don’t work for initiatives that don’t align. This makes me very happy and therefore much more efficient!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have either moved business to Silicon Valley or used a time machine to return to 17th century Amsterdam. My god! Sometimes it seems that investors around Europe today seem to think that interest or return on investment is a given without taking risk and that the wealth we live in today will remain as it is by doing nothing. What do you think happens when Foxconn, LG or Samsung will start building electric cars and VW, Audi and BMW remain making products from fossil times? Wealth will shift to other countries. So let’s move guys and invest in our own future!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Authentically own a subject and don’t be afraid to share your knowledge!
At Fastned we try to think of it in the following manner; if you tell someone a great idea that you like to employ in your business or build a business on, that person is either smart or dumb. In case he is smart, he will join you and accelerate it. In case he’s stupid, he’ll try to steal it and do it on his own. The latter will find it difficult to build a business, because businesses are teams and this person failed on the first and best opportunity to join forces.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Follow the car, make the calculations and think big!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
After a thorough beauty contest between civil contractors, to choose who would build our (first) stations, and having made a choice things changed. With contracts practically signed the company’s management was replaced and the understanding between us and our contractor of choice was gone. So we had to start all over again.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
To what extend are consumer banks technically different from your email provider? Both are basically an inbox. In your email box are received and sent messages containing a subject, text and documents, in your bank account are paid and received transactions with an amount and subject. Today’s world could therefore almost typify a bank as an IT company. I think a group of smart bankers together with Silicon Valley style engineers could build a bank that would easily disrupt the existing players on costs and customer satisfaction.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was getting married. The wedding ceremony was to take place on the river Amstel in Amsterdam on a flotilla of small canal boats. Unfortunately the weather that week was not the hoped for spring heat of May. So we decided that I would go to Ikea and buy for a $100 or so in fleece blankets. The girls loved it! The entire event became a great success; people just loved the specialty of a marriage on a flotilla of boats.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
To many to name, but I recently started with F.Lux, a small and simple program that helps me to fall asleep better. It adjusts the colour temperature of your display during your day; cool colours at noon, changing to warmer colours during and after sunset. When staring at a standard computer screen with daylight colour temperatures at eleven p.m. your body just remains in the mind-set that sleeping is hours away. With a display that always has the right colour temperature set, your body and time of day are more in sync.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Initially I wanted to write down: the biography of Elon Musk, “Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future”, hoping that people read it and start thinking like him accelerating the momentum towards a Fantastic Future. But, not everyone is like Elon Musk. This brought my mind to the Book Clean Disruption, written by Stanford University professor Tony Seba. For those people, who still think that wind farms run on subsidies, solar panels will never be able to power millions of households and hydrogen cars will somewhere save us, it is a must read! Why read it? Because decisions we all take, play a significant role in accelerating and removing road blocks for people like Elon Musk in their journey building that Fantastic Future which benefits us all.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
An interesting person I’d like to meet is Peter Thiel. I recently read his book “Zero to One” and I really liked his analysis that the 70’s were a period of definite positive attitude, while today everyone in Europe lives with a mind-set of indefinite positive thinking. My visualisation of this is that James Bond movies like Moonraker (1979) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) put forward a very clear image about where to go: a city underwater or a city in space. Today James Bond has innovations around him which are more close to today’s technology, they do not put forward a milestone. Both have a positive view on things, but people today seem to find it difficult to picture their future and can’t think big anymore. To drive change we need Moonraker thinking!
Michiel Langezaal on Twitter: @melangezaal
Fastned on Twitter: @fastned
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.