Who is Steve van Zutphen?

Steve was born in Belgium but raised in the Netherlands and Spain. He moved to the UK, the Netherlands and later France to pursue his degree, PhD and further research. He is a chemist by degree, entrepreneur by discovery! He is currently raising three children in France, with the cultures and languages all mixed together.

Curiosity, respect and wanting to make an impact are what drive Steve to get out of bed every morning and pursue his various projects. Steve is also a climber; if it doesn’t involve chemistry, it will most definitely involve mountains: climbing, skiing, cycling and running, just to name a few. Visiting the mountains forces him to push himself but also to understand his own limits. He believes that in the end, no matter how hard you try, the mountain is stronger, tougher and more permanent than any person will ever be. Puts things in perpective doesn’t it?

His career – an unexpected discovery!

Steve never thought he would be an entrepreneur, let alone someone involved in sales. A career as a Research Scientist seemed the obvious path based on his education. However, when a “Friday afternoon” experiment at university led him to discover a new type of polymer and its rather unexpected interaction with metals, things took a different turn.

Once he made this discovery, he wrote the patents, thinking they could be sold to a company and he could continue on with his research. The reality turned out to be different. Steve found the only way to get this new technology to the customer was by picking up the project and developing a strategy himself. He needed to make the products and deliver them  to customers as quickly as possible. Like with mountain climbing, he took on the challenge.

This project took Steve and his team the next 6 years! With a great team who came together around the project, they succeeded in turning a lab experiment into a small company, complete with production, laboratories and sales. By 2017, they had a solid customer base of various companies. Steve and his team developed highly innovative applications, allowing them to recover metals, such as palladium and gold, often found in places where, without their innovative technology they would simply have gone to waste.

At this junction, Steve decided it was time to take the company’s growth to the next level. This is where he came across a fast-growing multi-national chemicals company that was looking to broaden its mining portfolio. Following some seriously tough negotiations, Steve and his team could proudly say that their innovative technology, which started as a university-funded research project, was now a part of a broad portfolio of mining and refining products produced by a large chemical company and shipped around the world.

Over the years Steve’s role at his own venture has changed many times; from researcher to business developer, with stints in finance, fundraising (and fund spending!), human resources, building and motivating his team around a common goal, and doing all the odd jobs that crop up along the way, Steve has worn many hats. The funny thing is, these are often the jobs that need doing but nobody is trained to do in a startup venture. Steve certainly wasn’t! But that’s how it is for many young entrepreneurs in today’s fast-changing economy. They wear multiple hats and must learn on the fly, in order to do what it takes to see their company grow!

Today, Steve concentrates on business development. He spends most of his time meeting with and listening to customers to see how, why, when and with what products and services his enterprise can make their lives easier (and, of course, sell some products while they're at it). 

Steve the Mentor

Steve believes that any change for the better starts with teaching. He feels that any positive impact he can have on a fellow entrepreneur through coaching, mentoring or maybe just lending an ear, furthers his mission to teach and support others.

Over the past years, Steve has learned about selling highly technical products to b2b customers. He has experienced that it is not about selling but about solving problems, and in fact, not even about solving problems, but about working with the customer to understand their problems. That is what builds a relationship that ultimately leads to sales. This is something Steve is dedicated to transmitting to other entrepreneurs making their way into b2b markets.

For Steve, teaching is much broader than the formal classroom setting. When you’re out in the mountains with a friend for example, you must constantly take turns teaching each other how to negotiate the next obstacle, often without even realizing you are doing so! Thanks to this, both parties ensure that each of you comes back alive, wiser, stronger and with a greater depth of experience. If young entrepreneurs want to negotiate the larger problems the world is facing, such as global warming, clean water and feeding the growing population, Steve believes the youth and seasoned entrepreneurs must come together, as both have a valuable role to play. By working in tandem, coaches, mentors and young entrepreneurs can put their heads together and help one-another to overcome some of the biggest challenges the world is facing!

What is your question for Steve?

Send yours to ye@yecommunity.com so he can be sure to answer this Thursday during ask a coach hour!

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