Business With a Porpoise

Floris Koumans,EO Netherlands
Article by:
Floris Koumans
EO Netherlands

I was never what you would call a “mainstream” kid. After high school, when most of my friends enrolled directly into university, I decided to become a fisherman on a Greek island for a year. The goal was to spend some time away from my family and figure out what to do with my life.

That year, while my friends were studying, I was sailing a little boat, trying to plan my future. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to become an entrepreneur. I wanted to develop innovative products that would make the world a better place. I wanted to make a difference in my community.

I got the idea when I was interacting with the dolphins that routinely swam by my boat. These gentle creatures of the sea were beautiful but pesky— they would steal fish and rip my netting to shreds. While they caused me a lot of trouble, these dolphins would come to define my calling as an entrepreneur.

Though it’s been 20 years since I sailed that boat, I find that the dolphins are still with me. After that journey of self-reflection, I came to learn that dolphins are in constant conflict with fishermen around the world. They cause massive damage to the catch and nets, and they can be a great burden on the income of hard-working men. On the other hand, dolphins often die as unwanted bycatch. The casualties number in the hundreds of thousands per year, and some species are bordering on extinction.

It saddened me to think that these wondrous creatures would die on their natural quest for food. So, in 1997, I started SaveWave, a project aimed at developing ultrasonic devices that are placed on fishing nets. These transmitters disturb dolphins’ sonar systems, keeping them at a safe distance without harming them or the environment. The item also prevents damage from occurring to fishermen’s catch and nets.

I believe that to develop a sustainable innovation in today’s business world, an entrepreneur needs to make sure that the knife cuts on both edges. In our case, we aimed to offer clear ecological benefits for the environment and great economic advantages for the people who use our products. It took me two decades to help the dolphins, but the feeling of contributing to their welfare makes it all worthwhile.

Floris Koumans is the Dga of Top Floor B.V. E-mail Floris at [email protected].

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