The Startupbootcamp Meet the Mentor series are interviews profiling inspiring stories from our extended network of mentors at Startupbootcamp. Today features Startupbootcamp FinTech Dubai mentor Adrianus School.
We sat down with Adrianus School, a Dutch lawyer based in Dubai and currently working as a partner at White and Case. Adrianus is an experinced mentor specialized in financial services regulation, licensing and raising funds.
Hello Adrianus! Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I am from the Netherlands. and I started as a Dutch qualified lawyer. I guess that gave me an entrepreneurial edge, coming from a small country that is punching above its weight. I have divided my career between being a regulator and being in private practice, having worked for the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets, the Ontario Securities Commission, and the Dubai Financial Services Authority. I am currently a local partner at White and Case where I am responsible for the financial services practice in the Middle East. I enjoy being in Dubai, mostly because of the myriad of different cultures, the can-do mentality of the government as well as the influx of entrepreneurs attracted to a favorable investment climate. The weather certainly helps also! My hobbies are older cars (restoring to former glory), watches (my father is a jeweler) and generally thinking about how to make the world a better place, supporting those that are in a position to do so. I am a firm believer in technology, and connecting people and I see that those two elements are huge contributors to how we are constantly re-defining our future.
Tell us about the SBC startups that you are mentoring. How do you plan to help them throughout their journey?
I do not have a portfolio just yet and I am keen to be mentoring specific startups shortly. I have mentored a variety of startups that are now well underway with financial services licensing and capital raising. My forte is financial services regulation, and understanding the peer market, and having inroads into the financial services establishment (who themselves are also clients). I can tap into the regulatory way of thinking, and that usually makes a difference. Also, being with White and Case, a premier law firm with firmly established relationships here in the GCC, I can connect with the various specialists that we have on tap, on both the banking and the corporate side.
Were you mentored in your career? If so, what impact did this have on you? If not, why have you decided to embark on mentoring?
I am a lawyer which means that I have been through 3 years of “on the job” training. My mentor (in the Dutch legal profession: a “patron”) in those years was a high-power, Ueber-bright female lawyer who took me under her wings. From an early stage in my career, I was involved with conversations around diversity and seeing first-hand the value add of having specialists, both male and female, from different backgrounds. I think we are heading to a society where hopefully, the word “diversity” is no longer something we aspire to because diversity is the norm, and diversity ultimately becomes another metaphor for being united in our ambitions and goals. I see that reflected here at White and Case, and I feel very fortunate being part of a team with so many different nationalities, with a healthy male/female representation. Another key take away was that she allowed me to fail, her role was that of a safety net, and she was able to strike a fine balance between allowing me to experiment with specific yet widening boundaries. That enabled me to rely on my intuition, and intelligence and I am extremely thankful that she was part of the early years of my career.
What do you wish to gain from mentoring startups?
Seeing that an idea “in the rough” makes it through to fruition. Feeling the enthusiasm and excitement of being part of market disruption and making sure that start-ups remain committed to their core values and ideas by ensuring that the regulatory framework and investor expectations are there to facilitate, not to dictate possibilities.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
I don’t really believe in “greatest achievements”. I believe in collaboration and to me, the greatest example of collaboration is to try to truly understand how things hang together, understand all the relevant dynamics, agendas, history and mission objectives in a given project. I have helped create a number of regulatory frameworks / market infrastructures in the Gulf and to see change take place that is there to help grow an industry (in a responsible way) is addictive.
Recommend a “must read” book for founders?
I have never read a self-help book. Frankly do not be led only by what others tell you. Unfortunately, we are each equipped to only really see a fragment of what we call reality. We try to piece it together to see where these fragments intersect but the glue of those fragments is your innate wisdom. Hence, I restrict my reading to regulatory rulebooks, as boring as that may sound. And I prefer to listen to firms and individuals that interact with those regulations.
Any final words of wisdom that you would like to give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
You are courageous enough to have stepped away from the beaten track. Please feel empowered by that thought, and help change this beautiful world for the better by showing us the new “normal”.