Tom van Bokhoven – Co-founder of Green Claim

[quote style=”boxed”]Throw of all conventional thinking, lose shame and just start doing things. This helps me achieve everything I want and I meet cool people this way. When things don’t work out the way I want I’ll just start again or try something new, who cares about your failures.[/quote]

Green Claim is founded by three former Amsterdam students Tom van Bokhoven (27 and CEO), Mario Wester (25 and CTO) and Bart de Jonge (23 and CFO). Tom came up with the idea and met his two cofounders at the Amsterdam Center of Entrepreneurship. This was in September 2010 and just about a year later they are expanding abroad. Using twitter, joining all big entrepreneur contests and being picked up by the media their dream became reality.

What does Green Claim do? Well if you encounter delay, cancellation or overbooking, Green Claim has the solution. Green Claim makes sure customers receive the compensation they are entitled to. This is based on European law that regulates the amount of compensation passengers are entitled to. The only thing you have to do is fill out the three step form and find out what compensation you could get. Start submitting your flight number and date of flight in the ‘claim calculator’ and within seconds the database will say if you will be compensated. Green Claim uses this information (flight number- and date) to verify your flight using historical flight- and weather data; this way the passenger knows if the claim is valid. When a passenger is not entitled to compensation it is most likely due to a force majeure: ‘exceptional’ technical problems, volcanic eruption or a birdstrike.

Green Claim keeps passengers updated during the whole process. They obviously strive to pay your compensation as soon as possible but it could take up to six months.

Green Claim is a pay-what-you-want service. Just decide yourself what the service is worth to you. Their goal is to inform as much people as possible and they want to keep it as easy accessible as possible. Do you want to give them financial support for the provided service or support them in front, this is possible and you can pay whatever you like.

Then ‘the Green’ in the name. It means a great deal to all three founders that passengers are aware of the costs to the environment made by air travel. Green Claim has this aspect integrated into every claim they make. Of every euro a passenger pays or donates Green Claim, 20% will be donated to one of the five sustainable projects they support for reducing Co2. (e.a.: the average of all American companies is 1%)

The dream is starting projects on their own but this is still future.

What are you working on right now?

Green Claim is working on its internationalization. This means launching websites in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium in the beginning of 2012. For these countries we are preparing self-claim websites. We will provide  passengers all instruments like letters and data for claiming the airline. Next to this we will monitor and help you along the process through your online account. This way it is totally easy and won’t take much of your time.

Finding out and doing it by yourself it will take hours.

This new way of working makes us able to serve more flight passengers then we would with a full service website which eventually is our ultimate goal. This looks the work of a big organization but were just with us three founders, 2 part timers and for the next six months we have 20 interns. They are doing research on how we should approach these new markets.

Where did the idea for Green Claim come from?

Sitting at an airport in Greece in 35 celsius with no air-conditioning the idea started. I (Tom) waited for about 2 hours and 50 minutes of which I now know was 10 minutes short for a compensation of 400 euro’s. This experience set me to a little research, combined with an article in the newspaper about all European delays, the idea was born. The total amount that all passengers are entitled to could be 3 billion euro on annual basis. I wanted a website that informs and helps passengers. Accurate flight data is scarce and building a website with a system that links jurisdictional aspects with flight and weather data is though. But combining the competences of us three made it possible.

What does your typical day look like?

Usually I get up early at 6:30/ 7 o’clock. After putting on my glasses the first thing I do is checking my iPad (in bed) on Google analytics, my email and if there are claims submitted. This morning ritual repeats itself  seven days a week. The stupid thing is that I also check this  before I go to sleep at let’s say midnight. Since our websites are running in the same time level minus an hour in the UK it is almost impossible that anything has happened in between of going to bed and waking up, but okay.

I am responsible of the strategy, PR and business development for Green Claim. At the office I start with checking twitter and Google alert. I check these on people talking about their delays and next to this the news in the air travel business. I make propositions for cooperation’s with airlines, tour operators and so on. Every week I correspond with media, and a do a lot of network drinks.

The most unpleasant thing is the amount of emails I get a day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Telling them to my partners. I get several ideas a week but some are too crazy to mention but some of them stay upright. I enjoy having those insane ideas especially when everyone say they won’t work. I can be quite recalcitrant and optimistic. I raised a group of  Amsterdam’s young and most innovative entrepreneurs within two weeks and got sponsored by Deloitte/Philips/Accenture and New Venture. What I want to say is; everything is possible you just have to imagine/picture you’re highest goal, the worst thing that can happen to you is getting stuck in the middle. Next to this example stand at least nine failures!

On the moment I am working on the –in my opinion coolest incubator of Europe. This will be one with a relaxed vibe with a lot of big companies and institutes supporting it. Especially the location is unbelievable. (stay tuned)

3 trends that excite you?

The climate for young entrepreneurs in Holland gets better every year. Also for students that want to start a business. (Although I graduated I get annoyed by people who think undertaking is for people who can’t find a real job!);

  • After the invention of the wheel, I think the iPad is a blessing for every living soul;)
  • Brand experience gets more and more important. Brands (cool) want to be experienced and not just be chosen by its price, in my perspective a good trend

What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Delivering wine. Never work for a boss because I am to pigheaded and if you are the boss listen to the people you work with, be relaxed. My boss was an ass.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Be completely prepared for a big amount of business with a good backend this instead of talking to media without being ready. Would have saved me nights of typing letters

What is the one thing you did/do as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?

Throw of all conventional thinking, lose shame and just start doing things. This helps me achieve everything I want and I meet cool people this way. When things don’t work out the way I want I’ll just start again or try something new, who cares about your failures.

Tell us a secret…

Every time I visit my parents which live in the countryside I plant ferns. They own a piece of land in the south of Holland and I want to turn a few acres of land with nettles into a field of ferns. Started four years ago and only managed to plant about 100 m2.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

First; copying ideas is almost impossible. Your idea can only be executed by you and you alone. Someone could do it better but this is also possible when you already executed your idea.

Idea: I’d like the festivals. A lot of stuff is getting thrown away. I want to set up a business bringing these deodorants, drinks and so on to people who can use like the Salvation Army. Please contact me if you want to do something with this idea.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

Anything of Monaldi & Sorti but these are maybe a bit boring for some. Read something about Google, watch ‘The social network’ just really think you’re  alike and you can conquer the world.

If you weren’t working on Green Claim, what would you be doing?

I would be developing monumental buildings and empty office space. There dozens of new destinations to be found but the office market is mostly financial driven. In my opinion is that the wrong way to look at real estate.

Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?

I don’t follow any people as a private person. I am really amazed that people have to time to update the whole world on when they are going to the toilet etcetera. In a business way it’s a brilliant medium but I can’t recommend anyone.

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.

Just an hour ago. One of my cofounders has a bit of stain fear and chews on pencils. By lunch we touch his bread once in a while but last night the joke was brilliant. I chew on my pencils as well. I changed mine with his and on the moment he was chewing again we told him on this change and he went crazy. Good for a five-minutes of laughing. Quite childish.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Kees Zegers a Dutch serial internet entrepreneur who today published a book. He started very famous Dutch websites like Apart from this he has hilarious quotes and is very laidback. He still has 11 companies but today he said he is not going to stat any new ones. Let’s see.

If an investor did you a proposal; lose the green and I’ll invest in you or keep the Green and I am off!

This would be difficult and I would negotiate how much of green we would need to lose. Eventually I’d lose the Green and look for another solution to support nature. Continuity of the company brings opportunities  in later stadium.

Lose your bachelor degree or lose Green Claim?

Definitely lose my bachelors. I did two studies en studied for 7 years which was great but I would never want to miss my time with raising Green Claim although It’s just been a year.


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Tom van Bokhoven on LinkedIn: Linkedin

Tom van Bokhoven Email: [email protected]