The Hacker Mindset - Bas De Vries

By Nasos Papadopoulos, EF Head of Content

EF is proud to announce the first close of its new Global Fund amounting to $115 Million. This will allow us to continue funding even more incredible individuals from all over the world to build game changing companies. Sebastiaan (Bas) de Vries, LD9, is the Co-Founder of Limbic, a company that’s trying to understand the neuroscience of emotion and package it for developers. 

The hacker mindset is a big part of what makes the best founders so great. And if there’s one of our founders who embodies that willingness to move fast and break things better than anyone else, it’s Bas de Vries. Ever since he was a little boy, Bas loved building things — whether it was playing with lego as a toddler or making his own snow plough to clear out the driveway when the weather turned cold in his hometown of Schoorl, just outside of Amsterdam.

As he got older he directed his creative capacities towards the computer, teaching himself web development to build basic websites. He soon caught the bug and it wasn’t long before he turned his hand to more challenging projects, starting off by building a set of algorithms to trade Dutch stocks aged 14 before solving a more practical problem closer to home.

His mother was looking to buy a new car and was having trouble finding one that fit all of her requirements. So Bas decided to build the solution, creating a simple search engine that allowed for filtering across a number of different categories. He spent about a year on the project and by the age of 16, he’d finished it and even got a little press in the local news for his efforts. “What was interesting to me was that despite my age, people were taking notice of what I built…and I liked that” he said, reflecting on the experience.

Encouraged by the search engine project, Bas built his first company Uncover Lab, a tattoo shop for objects, during the summer holidays before his senior year in high school and opened a pop up shop to test the concept. The shop was a big success and gave him an early taste of business as well as the confidence to go bigger on his next project, which would take him into the emerging world of cryptocurrencies.

Inspired by the early developments in Bitcoin community, Bas started building a P2P bitcoin payments app, Florin, that allowed users to quickly and easily send and request money using their phones. Along with his co-founder Andre, a friend from high school, they were convinced that if they could persuade their friends to adopt it, the app would spread rapidly because it was so much better than any alternative — and they turned out to be right.

Within the first week of launching the app, 2000 people were using it, including some key figures in the crypto community like the founders of Coinbase. Bas was asked to speak at the National Bitcoin Conference in the Netherlands, sponsored by the largest bank in the country, ING, and his work with Florin attracted a great deal of attention there.

The big banks in the Netherlands had been working on their own payment apps for years, with little success and were intrigued by what Bas and Andre had built. “We were beating the other apps in consumer reviews,” says Bas “which pleased me because we were a couple of 17 year olds working from our bedrooms against an army of suited bankers with huge resources. I definitely took pride in that.”

ING were so impressed that they invested in the app and Bas dropped out of university to focus on it full time, spending most of his waking hours coding away in his room. He continued for another year, but after failing to raise another round from ING and a set of unsuccessful acquisition talks, Florin was closed down and the assets of the company were sold.

Keen to take some time to reflect, Bas began thinking about going back to university. But those thoughts were interrupted by a post on Facebook in the autumn of 2017; “I don’t remember which one of my friends posted it, but I remember seeing the announcement that Reid Hoffman had invested in Entrepreneur First. I did a bit of research and decided pretty quickly that this was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Bas applied and was accepted to our ninth London cohort, where he met his co founder, neuroscientist Ross Harper. “I went onto EF just wanting to build something really cool that could change the world. I spoke to lots of people during the first week, but Ross had this idea of building emotional intelligence into computers that I just kept going back to. I decided that was the sort of goal I wanted to contribute to and I’ve definitely not regretted that decision so far.”

In one sense, now that Bas is helping computers understand human emotion at Limbic, he’s entered a completely different world to the ones he’s previously occupied. But in another, he’s doing what he’s always done — moving fast and breaking stuff. From playing the stock market to disrupting the financial system, the applications of the hacker mindset are unlimited — and at EF, we believe the upside for Bas is too.

At EF, we want our founders to build world changing companies because the opportunity cost of not doing so is too great. If you want to scale your ambition like Bas and build a world changing company apply now for one of our next cohorts in London, Berlin, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong or Bangalore at joinef.com.

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