Api the Dragon – CEO at New Black
(This interview is in English due to Api’s international character.)
On one of the highest floors in the WTC Almere building, a rather exceptional tenant set up shop. Visionairy, not only because of his corner office with worldly view, but because of his view on work, business and leadership: “making plans for world domination”.
An entrepreneur of remarkable breed and stature but a surprisingly laid-back character. Just taking care of business and his nerd-herd (#squadgoals): a team of a little under 20 techies – mostly software engineers – in a spacious and carefully decorated office.
Seated in his own corner office, Chief Api explains what his New Black team is all about: Right now our most important venture is “EVA”, a disruptive Unified Commerce Platform invented and developed by New Black and totally inspired by helping “machine like” static businesses to get closer to human nature and become (much) more adaptive to change.
Did EVA teach you to get closer to human nature as well?
Maybe a little.
Is EVA your idea of a perfect girlfriend?
EVA is a cloud based data management platform..
Is that why you wanted to work in a skyscraping office? Because you needed to be closer to EVA?
Ok. Let me try and explain again.
So EVA is, in the core, a cloud based data management platform. It’s so powerful that it is able to replace legacy ERP solutions and all their surrounding applications and tools that make most Enterprise Architectures look like a plate of spaghetti.
Ok, plate of spaghetti. Now we’re talking.
Yes, EVA reduces complexity and is able to facilitate all common and specialized enterprise processes across all touch points for a fraction of the cost and with a multiple in speed and flexibility.
To make it more tangible: as example our (now only 9 months old) EVA is put to work in large retail environments with hundreds of stores where it replaces all online, offline and back office applications and tools. So every aspect to run as one on- and offline commerce operation is handled by EVA.
Now I get it! Sounds pretty cool actually.
It is! And it gets better: EVA makes all information in real time transparent and re-usable to improve processes and customer offerings. From the cash register system and online store to the digital marketing tool, financial administration and the workforce management solution to have the right number of staff at each moment of the day in each individual store to best serve the visitors.
The main goal is that our clients get to focus on what makes their customers love them, what makes them relevant to their customers now and in the future.
Focus on the important stuff.
Yes, your customers in the first place. Me, together with the New Black team of nerds and EVA, are helping you to succeed in the digital revolution, to make your customers happy and be adaptive to change by equipping you with the latest technology.
This makes EVA not only the best choice as a core system to run business or your main processes, but also to collect and analyze your own big data. And what makes EVA really unique is that it has the ability to use any data or conclusion from that data instantly to alter your processes or content to improve the way you interact with your customers, employees and suppliers. Or as I like to state it: “Data is the voice of your customers and content is your response”.
EVA helps corporations to speed up their digital transformation; helps to stay relevant in a fast changing world. We think that’s pretty impressive.
Ok now you’re just bragging.
Maybe a little. I just really love EVA, she is so clever.
So I was right! EVA is your idea of the perfect girlfriend!!
Ok whatever, you win.
And who exactly benefits from EVA? Our platform is most useful to medium size / big companies, managing 100.000 or (many) more transactions. Right now we are focusing on our own soil but our cloud will take us to worldwide domination.
What is your vision on the future of retail? Retail has changed and will continue to keep changing, this should come as no surprise. It’s about personal contact, experiences and memorable encounters. Shops that focus mainly on their physical store struggle with the adaptation to the online world. And the other way around: shops that focus on online particularly, miss out on a lot of opportunities as well. That’s where we can be of support. Our clients pay for EVA per transaction, an honest motivation for us to support them on getting the best out of their business.
Api, you don’t shy away from the public. You often display your work-habits on Instagram and like to share your vision. What is the most important message you feel you need to get out into the world?
Cut the Crap. Stop making things more complicated than they need to be. One example of how we feel this translates to doing business: work with small(er) teams and don’t have too much overhead. And yes, we work the Agile way.
You chose to open your new office in WTC Almere. Is this part of the same vision?
Absolutely. As is the environment we created within our own office, and the way we choose to make use of the space. It provides us with a fresh and open vision of the world every day. It is a way to motivate our team and an environment that speaks for the way we want to do business. To boldly go where no man has gone before.
Some people who only get to know your personality online may think you’re a bit of a show-off. In real life you are so relaxed. Why do you choose to portray yourself in this fashion?
It’s my alter ego. I guess I’m kind of like Darth Vader, I have a dark side. I often joke that it’s about building an empire and world domination, when really it’s not at all what keeps me occupied.
How well does your dark side correspond with your inner nerd?
No problem. I speak fluent nerd. But I like to keep my street knowledge in check as well. It’s all about balance.
How do you stay close to the street, when you’re high up in the sky and surrounded by nerds…
I listen to gangster rap a lot.
And nerd is the new black?
No doubt about it. I’m blind to white, no joke. Even Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles know how to hit the white keys, I couldn’t. It’s so bad that every now and then I slam into a wall of our office, especially when I run around.
Running around the office?
Yes, I just run around our office a lot. We’ve installed an infinity-track made out of stones all along the bottom of our windows, which kind of makes it look like you can step onto the clouds. I like living on the edge a little, so I run a few laps on this track every day. It’s especially marvelous at night, when the LED lights up the track. It’s a very feng shui asset of our office; we have no problem working late hours.
Is the LED and stone-track the best feature of your office?
We spend a lot of time in the office and enjoy coming here. This office is our second home so actually, having a lot of room is the best feature. The abundant space allows us to not invade each other’s space too much, plus we have different settings to work in. And we want to keep it that way. We don’t want to grow out of our office; in other words we’d like to keep a small team.
So lots of space and a small team. And a giant sofa right? Yes that’s actually a nice anecdote, since our sofa is so giant that it didn’t fit into the elevator when we moved here. But we insisted on having it in our office, hence: we had to carry it up ourselves. It took us 4 (!) hours to move the thing up the staircases. We are totally ready for the vertical run here in WTC!
And how about your corner office with amazing view? Yes it’s a real tailored crib overlooking Almere; it took my interior designer months to finalize the design. But it was worth it. Chicks dig it. Not that it matters much, I keep it a steady 35 to 40 degrees in here. Yes, I’ve noticed that. So this is obviously not where ‘the magic happens’.
Some magic is going on in your life. You say “work hard play hard”. How do you balance work and private life? I carry all the power I need inside myself already. I learned that from J.K. Rowling (awesome woman). Plus, I always stay on top of my game. No pain no gain. Meaning? Not a lot of time for private life. All my social contact goes through my agent, that’s not very sexy. But to the readers: if you work in WTC, feel free to stop by. And if you have any inspiration or ideas to share, holler.
Do you have any ideas for WTC Almere?
Yes! A rooftop terrace. And more charging points for electric cars.
Two last questions then, to share the inspiration.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
On the 31st floor, instead of the 29th.
But that’s the office of Traffic Builders. Yes, we know 🙂 It’s ok, we’re cool.
Ok, finally: who’s your inspiration? Easy. Rick Ashley.
Api out. (↓)