Eric-Theodore Yepao is the CEO and founder of Nordland Holding Europe GmbH, a company that creates private cities. A private city offers residents the basic services of a state within a defined territory with all rights and obligations being defined by contractual obligations. Currently he has dealings all over the world including cities like Paris, France.
Eric-Theodore attended Harvard University and became involved in investment banking. He felt disillusioned with investing in countries that violated human rights or in companies that did not give back to the communities where it is present. He then became passionate about corporate responsibility. Eric-Theodore believes strongly that businesses have to play a role in the society for the wellbeing of all stakeholders, typically the employees themselves, but also the community where the business is.
Where did the idea for Nordland Holding Europe GmbH come from?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: I have been an investor for a while, and I was thinking of how we could do business differently in order to change the world for the better. I think businesses should have a human face. I think we should have a long-term strategy in business to act in a responsible way towards the community.
Previously when I was in investor at various companies, I felt there was too much focus on making a quick profit. There are more important things to consider. As a socially responsible investor, I will not invest in countries that violate human rights. I will not invest in companies that are using child labor. I also will not invest in polluting industries. Businesses do have power to change the world and improve it. They can improve the wellbeing of their employees and of the areas where they are present.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: I awake very early in the morning, about 4:30 to 5:00 am. I like learning all the time- doing searches, reading the news and finding out what is going on in any corner of the world. Whether it is politically, economically, or culturally, I like learning and doing searches. I am very passionate about discovering new things. When I get all this information, after all of the searches, I ask, what can I do to improve a business and how can my business have a positive impact on the community where I am present.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: I’m passionate about putting ideas into practice. I always try. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. Even if an idea fails, it is not the end of the world. I will be learning from the mistake and I will try again, but this time without the mistake.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: Every trend is exciting to me because I am a very opened minded person. I am not an egocentric person that focuses on one field. I am open to many fields. I will learn something from any field. I consider any sources. A very important trend is curiosity, searching, learning, discovering, and trying.
In many businesses there is a lack of innovation and passion. Many businesses are following each other. Today there are very few true entrepreneurs. Many people set up businesses without being passionate about it. They might go into an area because it seems fashionable.
I am the opposite because I am an entrepreneur. I am willing to try anything, any ventures, and put new ideas into practice. I always try to be a disruptor.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: My habit is to always work and always be learning. Learning is the key to everything, learning about our own business fields, learning about our environment, learning about our partners- simply learning all the time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: I would advise my younger self to be open minded and curious. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to move outside of your comfort zone.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Eric-Theodore Yepao: I believe in freedom of mind. I don’t believe in something just because it comes from an authority. Of course, I do not agree with rebellion, but I always encourage people to think outside the box, stand out from the crowd, and to think for themselves. People often disagree with me on this and think I should follow the trends or more accepted ways of doing things.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: Entrepreneurs have to believe in what they do and to be truly passionate and optimistic. Believing in yourself, not giving up, and being persistent are very important.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: I am someone who likes communicating with people. Communication, constant learning, and innovating are all things that have helped me to grow my business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: I can look back now and see that early in my career, I was naïve, unprepared, and even at times immature. I was setting up hedge funds in technology companies, especially in ecommerce, around the time of the DotCom Bubble. Stock prices were rising. We did not really check the viability of some of those stocks and do the proper due diligence. We were following along, like sheep, without thinking. Unfortunately, April 2000 was the end of the DotCom Bubble, and there was a crash on the stock exchange. But of course, I have learned from my early mistakes and my experience. I do not just blindly follow the crowd anymore. It is important to make your own assessment. I will not rely only on advisors or experts without checking things myself or doing my own inquires.
The most important thing is not being scared to make a mistake. Trying and making a mistake is a blessing because we learn from our mistakes. The worst thing is to make a mistake and not learn from it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: The concept being advanced by my company is the establishment of private cities. My company specializes in developing private cities. If you look at what is going on around the world in public cities, there is a low quality of life. There are issues with crime. People are getting depressed in the big cities around the world. Private cities offer a higher quality of life for their residents, freedom, privacy, and safety.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: When I was in England, I was able to buy some old stamps dating back to the time of King George. I bought them for the equivalent of $100, but it turned out they were worth over $4,000.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: Wikipedia is a mine of knowledge in so many areas, and it is a great place to start researching.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: I recommend The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was a Chinese strategist 3,000 years ago. It describes how to win a war without using force. Instead he focuses on using a strategy of charm and disarming your opponents. It is the ancestor of what we call today “soft power.”
What is your favorite quote?
Eric-Theodore Yepao: “Knowledge is power.”
• Learning is very important.
• Be curious.
• Stay open minded and innovative.
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