Advice from Bas van Abel

The founder of Fairphone & De Clique took time to discuss his learnings with us. We're taking the time to transcribe as we think it can help many others to achieve the change they want to see.

We talked to Bas van Abel, the founder of Fairphone and De Clique about entrepreneurship, about how to succeed a presale campaign and how to build a team. His input was incredibly valuable and, as we think this might help others, we are publishing it here. We've clustered our conversation into different section for you to be able to pick up what you're the most interested in.

Thanks again Bas for your time, your willingness to create change is a true inspiration for us! 🙏


  • Be open about your challenges and dilemma's.

  • Be radically transparent about everything, don't hide anything.

  • Never underestimate the promise that you make to your customers, the promise of constantly striving for more sustainability.

  • Awareness campaign was crucial for the first presale of Fairphone 1

  • Brand equity is key


  • "At the beginning, it's possible that you'll be less sustainable than some of your competitors but the promise that you'll constantly go towards it - and that will be the very core of what you'll do - is what truly matters."

  • "Embrace dilemma's and talk openly about it."

  • "Sustainability is a dirty business, there's no easy choice."

Building a team

  • Start building your first team based on your network.

  • There's a tricky trade-off between people coming from the corporate world - who have more experience and are used to work with more structure - and people with less experience who should be able to grow fast.

  • A lot of people want to work for a company with a deep mission. However, remaining critical is important because people at the wrong place will do the wrong thing - not benefiting anyone.

  • "You need to look for someone who can take one step back in order to move forward. You need a good balance."

Building a first prototype

  • "You shouldn't have it all at the beginning but you shouldn't be opportunistic either."

  • Identify areas where you want to make a difference (= Minimum Viable Promise).

  • Change can be symbolic to begin with but it should always be scalable.

  • Transparency matters at all stages.


  • You have to know with whom you'll work and have an idea on what you'll do but no in-depth research is needed to start.

  • Your first product should be good enough but it can't/doesn't have to be perfect.

  • A good understanding and management of the while supply chain is crucial.

  • Identify one thing per category/phase of your product that you want to change and the ambition you have to create impact.

  • There are legal forms to make sure your company doesn't drift away from its purpose (example: Steward ownership), but it isn't really necessary in a B2C sector because consumers will simply stop buying your product if you drift away from your mission.

Impact Model

  • Make sure your KPIs aren't conflicting. Example: you want users to keep their product as long as possible but you need to sell new products at the same time. Put the right pressure at the right place to have KPIs that serves your cause and push your impact!

  • Change happens from within the system.


  • Structural change takes time (between 3 to 4 years).

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