Joëlle Frijters: The Digital Non-executive Director
Tech Entrepreneur Doing What Makes Her Heart Beat Faster
If there is anyone who meets the description of an entrepreneur as sketched by management thinker C.K. Prahalad, it is Joëlle Frijters (1974). After completing her Hospitality Management studies, she went on to work for companies such as KLM, Microsoft and Sanoma, but in 2008, she gave up her steady income to chase a dream. Together with Janneke Niessen, she founded Improve Digital, a digital advertising marketplace. As she told FD Persoonlijk, “I was used to being an employee. That did make for some doubts in the beginning. However, I had great faith in our plans. I put everything on the line, even my home, though I had not really intended to put so much of my own capital into the business beforehand. It was before I had children, though, which does make a difference. We were also working 100 hours a week, so I did not have much time to spend any money anyway.”
The business proved a success, and they eventually sold it to Swiss telecommunications, IT and entertainment company Swisscom in 2016. Frijters had no more worries about her mortgage, but that was not what drove her. “It is about doing what makes my heart beat faster,” she told Sprout Magazine. This also applies to her next project with Niessen in 2013, the non-profit InspiringFifty, an international diversity platform which aims to improve the visibility of successful women in tech through lists of 50 role models. Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner in charge of the Digital Agenda at the time, asked Frijters and Niessen to meet with her in Brussels and inquired about what they themselves were doing to increase diversity in tech. Frijters and Niessen dreamed up InspiringFifty on their way home.
Supervisory Portfolio Scaling
In the meantime, Frijters has moved on to other activities such as startup mentoring, investments and supervisory duties. She holds supervisory positions at CM.com, tech startup accelerator HighTechXL, med tech company LeQuest (chair) and Timber and Building Supplies Holland, which belongs to investment firm HAL’s portfolio. These gained her a spot on the Next50, our own list of 50 inspiring up-and-coming top non-executive directors. To make our other list, the Non-Executive Directors Top 100, Frijters and her digital skills will need to score a few more impressive supervisory appointments first.