Yves Prössler, COO of paybonsai, on what drives an entrepreneur

“The question you have to ask yourself is: what makes you happy?”

Question: apart from studying at Vlerick Business School, what do the entrepreneurs here have in common? Answer: they are all driven by passion. Yves Prössler, COO at FinTech start-up paybonsai, is living proof of that. His inner entrepreneur is fuelled by four personal motivators. He went from living in a surf bus, through the mangroves of Madagascar, to the “best thing I ever did”.

Yves Prossler - Paybonsai

“I can’t wait to get up on Monday morning”

How do you find the things that drive you as an entrepreneur? According to Yves Prössler, the answer resides in a simple question: what makes you smile?

“A few years ago, I applied for a job at Google. In the middle of the interview, the manager asked me out of the blue: what does your Sunday night look like? My answer was pretty run-of-the-mill. I watch a bit of TV, I surf the internet. To which he said about his Sunday evenings: ‘I can’t wait to get up on Monday morning’. He was so driven by his work in that innovative company that it filled him with joy.

That is also the question we have to ask ourselves as an entrepreneur: what makes me happy? You can find the answer in what you look for on the internet after work. I am always checking out technology. That is my first motivation: innovation.

The second is education. I love learning from my colleagues and my mentor Peter Op de Beeck. The third is ownership. It is crucial to own your project and get recognition for that. And the final one is sustainability.”

Why I am an entrepreneur

“Sustainability is an important factor, because I do love this planet. That’s why I’m an entrepreneur: I want to have a positive impact on the lives of people. Not only around the corner, but in all corners of the world. I get a warm feeling from thinking that I might go to another continent and see someone using paybonsai because that person wants to do something good for the planet.

I took me 7 years to find my drivers. It could have taken less than that. Then I would have become an entrepreneur sooner. You don’t have to have four either. You can have fewer, or even more. And you don’t necessarily have to tick all the boxes. If you can fulfil half of your motivators with your business, that’s enough to get you out of bed on Monday morning with a smile on your face.”

Living in a surf bus

Yves fulfils his four motivators as COO of start-up paybonsai, a green payment app for the consumer market. For every 10 payments customers make, paybonsai plants a tree. Currently, the company is planting a mangrove forest in Madagascar through its partner Eden Reforestation Projects.

The slogan of paybonsai, ‘pay back the planet’, appeals to its target market. Millennials and Gen Z are concerned about sustainability after all. Success is looming, even though starting out wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.

“All around me, I saw the typical Belgian mentality: I’m 25 years old, so I have to have a house. In my circle of friends, I’m the only one without a property. The people around me don’t understand why I would invest in a business instead of bricks. My mother lost all hope when I left my job, put all my savings into a start-up and had no income for two years. To have ‘skin in the game’ though, creates a unique dynamic. That is the purest form of ownership.

It was a drastic step to take, coming out of conventional education. Instead of renting an apartment, I went to live in a surf bus. I fitted a solar panel on the roof, installed heating and a battery and lived on four wheels for a whole year. That’s when I realised that you don’t need much. Living in a few square metres is fine. Although you can’t do it for decades. You have to set goals and deadlines. Albeit closer in time than five years down the line.”

From oceans to entrepreneurship: just a small step

As Yves has already mentioned: he loves this planet. In fact, before obtaining a Masters in General Management at Vlerick Business School, he studied marine biology. There aren’t many entrepreneurs with that background. However, the COO of paybonsai sees clear similarities between these two paths.

“We know less about the sea than about the universe. That made studying marine biology very diverse. It was precisely that wide spectrum that I found so interesting. In the Masters in General Management, it’s the same. In barely one year you get a grasp of all the aspects of entrepreneurship. That broad overview appealed to me, because I want to do lots of things. I learned a spectacular amount in that one year. I can really say: Vlerick was the best thing I ever did.”

My tip for budding entrepreneurs is: work with people who really are at the top of their game. This is what paybonsai’s success is based on. We have a small team, but the people are so talented that we can act really quickly and, for example, make new systems go live in only seven months. In a normal bank, that takes seven years. And you can find those brilliant people, because there is enough talent out there. When I studied at Vlerick Business School, there was an incredible amount of talent around.
Yves Prössler’s tip: work with the best
COO of paybonsai

Is ownership your driver too?

If so, pay a visit to the Vlerick Entrepreneurship Academy. Here, you’ll find the tools and guidance to successfully build your own business from scratch, just like Yves Prössler. And you’ll meet a whole community of skilled budding entrepreneurs to inspire and support you.