Chris Veeningen has been working in the financial sector for 20 years, first in the equity department of a bank and then ‘on the other side’, as a corporate financier. As the financial adviser of the Start Foundation, a Dutch non-profit organisation, he wishes to help people with a disadvantage on the labour market. By means of a social profit grant, Chris took the two-day Venture Capital and Private Equity Programme at Vlerick.
“Actually, it's quite simple: without the social profit grant I wouldn't have been able to go on this programme, as my employer simply doesn't have a budget for it,” begins Chris Veeningen. “That's why I was very pleased when I learned about the existence of the grant during an intake interview with Vlerick's programme coordinator. After submitting a well-substantiated application, I was given the green light fairly quickly.
Vlerick is also very highly regarded in the Netherlands, and when I moved from Rotterdam to the border area and started focusing more on Belgium, it seemed a good idea to examine which Vlerick programme suited my needs. I discovered the Venture Capital and Private Equity Programme on the website and immediately knew that it was right up my street.”
“There were around 40 participants. It was quite a large and also very diverse group, with investors and lawyers as well as bankers. I expected major differences between ‘my world’, that of NGOs and social entrepreneurs, and the world of fast and easy money. There are differences, of course, but what struck me most of all were the similarities. We all look critically at risks, we all need the courage to invest in something small that still needs to grow bigger, and we all want something in return for our commitment. But in my case, this is not money or a participation in the form of shares, but social impact. After all, at the Start Foundation we invest in people with a disadvantage on the labour market who are looking for opportunities to finance their dreams and experience rapid growth.”
“This programme gave me the insights I was looking for. Of course, I did have some notions of venture capital and private equity, but am now much better at assessing the value of both forms of investment in a particular context. Thanks to this programme, for example, I now know that as an NGO, private equity is the most appropriate way for us to participate in companies. Thanks to clear case material and exercises, we not only gained insights but also genuinely learned to play with parameters. And the interaction with the other participants was very enriching too. I enjoyed sharing my drive with them, but it was also interesting to learn from their experiences. Look, as a social entrepreneur your work is often driven by a very strong passion, and you need courage to set things in motion; while in the hard-core financial world it is often reason and well-founded calculations that make the difference. But you need them both in equal measure to be successful.
The most important thing I have learned is that I need to attend programmes like this more often. To get away from the everyday hustle and bustle for a few days and focus completely on a field that is close to mine. Yes, you can acquire a surprising amount of knowledge in just two days, but you are also provided with sufficient tools to develop this knowledge further within your own organisation. And I think that is exactly what Vlerick's offering for executives is for.”
Chris Veeningen, Professor Entrepreneurship at Avans University