My views on life and innovation

At the core of everything I do is customer understanding and empathy. I believe that the activities of “problem solving” and innovation start with a holistic understanding of the problem and the owner of the problem; their world, their context, their needs. Especially in topics such as personal finances or health, it’s not a simple task to generate in-depth understanding of people’s values, beliefs and mental models because these are topics people (understandably) do not enjoy talking about and/or have never had talk about before. Often emotions such as shame are involved, and someone may (with good intent) try tell you how things should be rather than how they are; false data on which you do not want to base your strategic decisions.

 

Through my experiences, and working closely with expert anthropologists, I’ve developed valuable and effective approaches to challenges such as these. For example, visiting these types of topics in the past tense, focussing on lived experiences rather than assumptions, and creating tools (templates and maps, cards etc) to help people tell me and my teams their story. These methods – many borrowed and adapted from applied anthropology – generate the in-depth understanding and empathy needed to enable creating desirable, meaningful and effective solutions and journeys.

A quick overview 

I am an innovation strategist and researcher with a MSc degree in Strategic Product Design – cum laude – from the Delft University of Technology and 8+ years of global experience in customer-centric new product and service strategy. I currently work in-house at Yoco Technologies, however I have worked with a range of multinationals, startups and NGO’s including Standard Bank, ING, American Family, Intel and Africa A+ (NGO) – based in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Cape Town – and continue to work on a consultancy bases through the STUDIO WOLFRAM brand. 

Apart from the work itself, I thoroughly enjoy coaching and sharing my learnings with others. In my years in Barcelona I have worked together closely with Startupbootcamp Data & IoT and helped select, mentor and teach a range of inspiring startups including TakeAFile (p2p file transfer platform) and Combine (mobile financial assistant). In Cape Town I have mentored multiple startups via Rise Cape Town, including: Vidr. (fast video content market place) and Re-Fuel Concept (healthy food truck fleet/ wellness brand). I have also had the pleasure to work with WeAreMonsters to develop a custom 3-day sprint exercise to super-charge their business development and improve their success rate bringing in new projects.

On November 18th 2020 one of my passion project launched: the fintech startup Daylight. Daylight is the first and only digital banking platform in the U.S. specifically designed for and by the LGBT+ community. Daylight’s card, app and digital services prepare their members for the future by helping them navigate the financial system, generate smarter habits and connect with a community working together to build the life they deserve without compromise. Daylight was largely shaped by the research I designed, led and executed – fully remotely throughout 2020 – in close collaboration with the CEO and co-founder Rob Curtis and his team, ensuring the full richness of new data and knowledge was shared and owned by the team. Based on the learnings the team build a beautiful product and brand, which will hopefully positively impact many lives as well as set an example for other financial institutions to be much more inclusive. I’m still very much engaged in supporting the team as they move onwards and upwards.

I have been fortunate to work with many exceptionally inspiring, passioned and smart people, and I look forward to partner up with more. See my lucky path, so far, below and my portfolio here.

 

My Curriculum Vitae

Head of Customer Insight & Experience   Yoco, Cape Town
March 2019 – present
“Yoco is an African technology company that builds tools and services to help small businesses get paid, run their business better, and grow. We believe that by opening up more possibilities for entrepreneurs to be successful, we can help create more jobs, enable people to thrive and help to drive our economy forward.”

When I joined Yoco, my role was not clearly defined – rather a response to a realisation in the founding team that a better understanding of the market would help enable them to create a better customer experience. There was a clear need for (and potential opportunity brought by!) customer empathy and engagement, not just in the maker spaces but across the company. Yoco had grown fast in the previous years and lacked a proper deep understanding of their customer and market, had a skewed idea of who their customers were and the problems they were trying to solve. By building a Customer Insight team and Research Community (Yoco merchants happy to engage), I created a research capability which over time has expanded from broader understanding and empathy to in-depth support to product teams, growth marketing and brand, as well as strategic longer range projects to enable a needs-based segmentation of the market and identification of unserved “jobs to be done”, determining the direction of the company for the next years.

Last year I have also taken on building a UX team (from scratch), which is a work in progress, and I am closely working with the Heads of Product, Design, Data and Marketing on how we organise, enable and support cross-functional teams around a customer need or “job to be done” and set them up for success. In my role in the leadership team I am also working closely with the CEO and CTO to drive a higher level of customer centricity and internal initiatives towards a higher quality Customer Experience.

Strategist & Qualitative Researcher   STUDIO WOLFRAM, Amsterdam, Barcelona & Cape Town
September 2012 – Present
STUDIO WOLFRAM was created to enable my (collaborative) work in new product/service development by using ethnographic tools and methods, design and business thinking. Through this brand – occasionally in partnership with Widerfunnel in Toronto – I have helped clients develop human-centric and competitive product / service strategies as well as helping them build their own in-house research and innovation capabilities.

Under this brand I will soon be launching the STUDIO WOLFRAM COLLECTIVE, a vibrant collective of talented local young artists from Cape Town Area. This project aims to create accessibility for these artists to a local market of “lovers of pretty things with a story, and with money to spend” by applying the knowledge I gained over the years. I also assist them in building their small business around their talent through coaching and mentoring on the financial side of building a business. The first 19- and 20-year old artists, from Kuils River and Khayalitsha, are a visual artist and a fashion designer working on art posters and elegant comfortable (work from) home wear.

Strategist   Fabrique [merken, design & interactie], Amsterdam
April 2018 – February 2019
“Fabrique is a strategic design agency. We believe in the innovative power of design. Design as a power to change and to improve things, to create an impact.”

As strategist I work with my clients to uncover the source(s) of their pain and to address their challenges effectively through innovative and interactive branding, service and product concepts. The beauty of Fabrique is it’s urge to challenge reality and generate direct impact by realising these concepts in-house and through strong tech partnerships.

Principle / Manager   Claro Partners, Barcelona, Spain
June 2016 – May 2017
At Claro I led and contributed to multiple global projects – including a research consortium with six multinational banks – in the financial, new tech, manufacturing, automotive and Insurance industries (among others), exploring disruptive shifts happening in society, technology and business, in order to help my clients spot new opportunity spaces, shape a successful role for themselves in new landscapes and develop their businesses at a strategic level.
Senior Associate Nov 2014 – May 2016
Associate May 2014 – Oct 2014

Mentor / Coach / Jury / Organiser   Startupbootcamp IoT & Data Tech, Global Service Jam (Amsterdam & Barcelona), Startup Weekend Barcelona, Women4Tech, Creative Catalyst Barcelona
May 2014 – May 2017

Product Designer   Qelp, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 2013 – December 2013

Marketing Strategy Officer  NightBalance (now part of Philips Healthcare), Delft, The Netherlands
May 2011 – February 2012

Head Coach / Section Head heavy weight rowers   Rowing Club DSRV Laga, Delft, The Netherlands
August 2007 –  January 2012

Finance manager  Carerix, Delft, The Netherlands
May 2007 – February 2011

 

Executive Program Exponential Technologies
SingularityU, South Africa
2020

MSc. Strategic Product Design   cum laude
Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering TU Delft, The Netherlands
2010 – 2012 Graduation Thesis at Philips Research, Eindhoven

BSc. Industrial Design Engineering
Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering TU Delft, The Netherlands
2006 – 2010 

 

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