Ief Winckelmans – Unbreakable Mindset to Thrive and Live Your Dreams – 005

Here is what is shared and discussed in this episode:

Links and Resources:

  • 36 Stratagems The 36 Stratagems is a Chinese essay used to illustrate a series of stratagems used in politics and in war, as well as in civilian life, often through unorthodox means
  • Ief recommends these books to aspiring entrepreneurs when trying to understand the mentality that makes companies successful and the mindset of entrepreneurs
  • Ief’s companies:
    • 3Q Impact – Join the movement and get help with your sustainable initiative
    • Ocean Impact Alliance – Get help with launching and growing your sustainable business.
  • Ief can be contacted through:

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On Ocean Impact Alliance and joining the 3Q Impact movement:

Ief founded Ocean Impact Alliance (OIA) in 2014, to look for and help ecopreneurs with sustainable businesses. Now, out of this and the consulting work OIA has started, a new initiative has born that is starting to live a life of its own! It’s called 3Q Impact and it’s becoming a movement!

The goal is purposeful and ambitious: helping to make a transition from the parasitic species that humanity is today to a more symbiotic species, where we live in harmony with the eco-system around us and keep it sustainable. If you would like to contribute and move towards making a positive impact and be part of the movement, you can join by asking yourself and answering these 3 questions:

  1. What are you doing to help create a sustainable society?
  2. What would you need or what would help you to make an even bigger, positive impact?
  3. With what you are doing now, how could you contribute to helping others with eco-friendly initiatives?

3Q Impact connects people and their initiatives with people who are part of the solution (expertise and resources) and people who can help with funding!

3Q Impact has developed the tools and the technologies to make the matches, available to everyone!


Ief Winckelmans is Founder and President of Ocean Impact Alliance, since November 2014, an alliance of experts, entrepreneurs and investors that actively contribute to ocean-friendly entrepreneurship and sustainable investing.

He sold his first VC funded ICT company in the mid-nineties, which led him to evolve into venture capital. He launched Xtend Capital in 2000, where he is still Managing Partner, to help entrepreneurs with fundraising and capital formation throughout all growth stages.

He has a big admiration of China and its culture. His story with China started more or less when he got an opportunity at Huawei (big global Telecoms company) and was invited to set up their European Sales Organization in 2004. A very interesting period learning how Chinese do business, and it allowed him to build a strong network in China. As Huawei is a Chinese company, he realized at the start that as a Westerner, he would never become one of the corporate executives. In 2008, he went on to found his own company in China.

China is one of the most difficult countries to do business with, in his experience, because of the difference in culture and values.
In the West, we have 2000 years of Christian values engrained in our culture. In China, they have a 5000-year history. And their history is not based on religious teaching, but on historical notes and documentation from the courts, emperors and politicians.

When you want to do business in or with China, you have to understand the 36 Stratagems. These Stratagems are directives that are used in the daily life of every Chinese. They get taught at school and are known as day-to-day manipulation techniques. The art of cunning so to speak. How to get people do what you want them to!

An illustration of this (one of the stratagems) is about an emperor who was afraid to go on a boat. But he was needed for negotiations in another place, which was across the sea. So, he was tricked. They built a ship that looked like a house, and they managed to have him cross the sea, without his knowledge.

This kind of manipulation and deception is part of the way Chinese people interact. In China, you will also never see someone throwing down the gauntlet, meaning making it clear that you have an issue with someone. A Chinese will strike you from behind when he wants to fight you, which is seen as very clever and smart. You get admired for that.

The words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ do not exist. What you say is either correct or not correct! It’s a different way of saying things. Ief noticed this many times during negotiations.

Chinese will also speak perfect English, but in negotiations they always use translators, so that they can hide behind their translator and not show their hands e.g.

Ief gives an example of the way Chinese people negotiate by taking us to his time with Huawei, when he was involved in contract negotiations between Huawei and a German telecom client. There were weekly meetings with the German client. Typically, in every meeting, 12 to 15 Chinese people joined. It turned out that every week, half of this group would be new people, so each time the context needed to be explained again and they constantly had to restart the contract review.

This went on for 4 months. After 4 months, the German client said they couldn’t continue with this lengthy process, because they had to start placing their orders. The surprising response of the Chinese party then was: “we will sign the contract as it was on the table from day one.” The Chinese then also insisted on a big celebration and big European press release to show that the contract was closed.

The next day, after the contract was signed, the orders from the Germans rolled in. But Huawei did not respond. Weeks passed by and the Germans became annoyed, understandably. The CEO of the Huawei got involved and he said: “Indeed we signed the contract, but we are not going to deliver the goods, because we do not like the terms and conditions and we will start discussing those now.”

Ief explains that what had actually happened was, that during this whole period, the Chinese only wanted to learn what was important to the client, to then use that to put the client with their back against the wall. To get what they wanted in the end. He got to know China this way.

And even after years of working with this culture, just a few years back, he lost his own successful Chinese company, because he also got tricked.

There are so many tricks that they use. However, Ief is very adamant that it would be wrong of us to judge the Chinese, because they just have another way to succeed in life. We have our systems and our believes, and the Chinese have theirs.

He feels that Western people think they can force their believes upon others. Of course, it seems rude and extremely mean to manipulate and fool others like that. But Ief says: “aren’t we in the West at times hypocrites when it comes to our values? Claiming to know what is right or wrong, but use our values as it suits us?”

The Chinese have a way of doing business and you have to simply accept it as a difference and not be judgemental about it. You have to know it and you have to educate yourself if you want to succeed.

And that is what China is all about. It is the survival of the fittest. China has a history of being an overpopulated country, so it is not a surprise they look differently to interacting with people, and have other standards to survive.

He himself got a bit vain and thought he had seen all the tricks. It costed him his successful business. When he thought he had all the basis covered, he overlooked the power of important families and a protective government.

In the interview, Ief gives us all the details of his tremendous loss. A stunning story!

But the main thing is: even after he got tricked and lost a fortune, he saw it as a lesson, nothing more and nothing less. And he took that lesson to focus only on the passion he’s always had: sustainable entrepreneurship and the oceans. When he lost his Chinese company, Yuwen Marine, he said:

“Now I’m gonna do what I really wanna do with my life! And that’s focusing on using my skills and expertise to help make the transition to a more sustainable society.”

He founded Ocean Impact Alliance. It has a huge and a big goal. People called him crazy for trying to change the world.

“But why else do we live if we don’t try to get the most out of life and see how we can contribute to making this world a nicer and better place?”

He wants to do it in a way that is responsible and fun, and allows him to have a nice life. And doing it in a way that is entrepreneurial, because that combines all those elements, and that’s how money is generated. You can push forward and have a very positive impact, if you do it right!

There is still a long way to go. There is negative news every day. We have become apathetic when it comes to the environment and we don’t believe we can win the fight against climate change and fight against pollution.

He feels he is very fortunate and the losses are a learning experience. He had plenty of opportunities where he made mistakes, had losses, and could learn and grow into something new, like what Ocean Impact Alliance is. He has the opportunity to work with world renowned scientists and conservationists. He uses what they discover and brings it to market. That is what motivates him today!

Go on a global quest and find opportunities that are ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible! And he is very privileged to see all these opportunities, technologies, and practices to do better and to drive progress. Change for the sake of driving progress!

Ocean Impact Alliance searches for opportunities that they can rationally assess on the ecological impact and bring the viable ones to a network of investors that are willing to invest responsibly. Ocean Impact Alliance also works with universities and scientists to dive in the research and search for opportunities that can help make a positive impact.

They already received 1200 proposals for funding to date (December 2017). But because they have to dismiss too many proposals that are not financially ready, Ief wanted and needed to do more.

So, more than just fundraising, he wanted to show new entrepreneurs how to start a business and share his expertise. Guide them through the minefield.

He also strives to find the common narrative between people. We all want a future that is good for our children. We have to go into a dialogue instead of blaming companies. By labelling companies, you then also label the workers! They are not the company. They want to do good too. We have to work together!

His view on things also comes from his experience with China; If you leave out cultural differences, you have the same feeling on what matters.

And his mindset got stronger along the years after meeting the most successful people in the world in business and in science, who believe that whatever it is you want to do, can be done! They don’t overthink or think negatively about it and just do it!

An important way of looking at failure is how in China they believe one does not exist without the other. In the West, we strive for happiness as the biggest goal. In China you don’t strive for happiness as such. Because happiness is part of life, just as much as sadness is part of life. You cannot be happy without knowing what sadness is.

That’s the same in business. That is also why he can be accepting of the failures and losses and mistakes he has made in business and in life. Every entrepreneur he knows understands this. You make mistakes, you learn and then you become better.

Don’t believe your fears.