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A Nomad discovering a wonderful world

I am a Nomad not a Serial-Entrepreneur.

When I founded World Investment News in December 1996 at 8 Rue Agar 75016 in Paris, I was simply looking to maintain the nomad life I had spent the previous 15 years creating for myself. I wanted to take advantage of the new fascinating tool called the “internet” and work exclusively with the best renowned media outlets worldwide as well as provide through customised publication, like eBizguides launched in 2000, and internet business intelligence information.

I felt it important to keep the Pioneer Spirit I had come to know and love while visiting remote places like Belize, Nicaragua, Chile, Armenia, Togo, Vladivostok, and Beirut back in 1992 for the first time. I wanted to hold onto the feeling I had while taking a full sabbatical year to travel all over the Americas in 1990—from San Antonio, Texas to Patagonia, Argentina in a Volkswagen Van. What’s more, the feeling I had studying in Beijing, Seoul, and San Francisco from 1985-86 was something I did not want to lose!

I quickly got to work, and after five months, I came up with my final business plan that proposed the three pillars the future company was to be based on:

· Media Partners

· eBiz Guides

· Internet

Three core values would also course through the veins of this company:

· Pioneer Thinking

· Make Things Happen

· Nomad Spirit

I have since continued this idea, creating new products and finding new opportunities all around the world.

It all started with our first project in Ghana. It was far from easy, but it did work out in the end. I traveled there with Nathalie Briat. Unfortunately, after only two weeks of work “in the field” she had to leave due to a ruptured Achilles tendon resulting from a tennis accident. It was not an easy start—believe me! Thank God that just before she left (to write our first WINNE Training Manual from her bed over the course of five months), she was able to close a deal with Mr. B.L.T Sakibu from Ghana Highway Authority. This first success gave us hope and the economic means to continue on with the project. As always, luck seemed to be on our side—if only a little bit.

After Nathalie left, I found myself alone in Ghana, having invested quite a lot of money into the project, and not knowing exactly what to do next. I tried making sales on my own, but I quickly realized that this job is meant to be done in a team—I desperately needed a partner.

I will always remember a very nice anecdote that happened to me the day Nathalie left and could just happen to you in Africa. I was left alone having spent more than 7 months working on this project!! I figured out that everything could go away if I panicked. Going out with a taxi driver out of Novotel , I was in the back seat and just when we were about to leave the parking, suddenly, a little beautiful Ghanaian girl of 7-8 years of age looked at me and said one of the most beautiful sentences: I love you! I heard that, and the taxi turned right to leave the hotel…The whole story lasted maybe 5 seconds, but it made my mind and heart very happy. When you are not in your best mood to go through such experiences and value them, it makes your life much better. I took it as maybe the message for me to keep going on.

At this point, the most important thing was to find a new partner for this project. I decided the best course of action would be to ask Jean Belda, my father and a skilled pioneer in the sector since 1976, for help. Ultimately, he was able to find the best candidate to come and help me out: Sophie Lens. She already knew Ghana, loved Africa, and had extensive experience in the industry. The project ended up being a huge success; we even published more than 8 pages in Forbes Magazine. I was also happy and proud to have been able to get the African continent mentioned for the first time ever in this magazine. Prior to our case-study, the continent was not very well known, and now, there is even a special African edition of Forbes, which is managed by one of our very first nomads, Frederic Van de Vyver.

Now that this first case-study was written, the next big challenge was to further develop World Investment News.

After coming back to Europe, Nathalie began searching for more candidates to join the WINNE team. She found the wonderful Corinne Semaille and the previously mentioned Frédéric Van de Vyver. It was the start of a truly magical adventure.

We then packed our bags and left to Bucharest, Romania in November 1998. All four of us stayed at the Hilton Hotel, and in January 1999, Corinne and I left to start a short eight week project in Uganda. I still remember trying to use the Internet Phone to communicate with the team in Romania—calling from Kampala to Bucharest despite the constant power shortages!

Shortly thereafter, we saw the need to establish our first real NH so I decided to make it in Paris, the city of light. Six months later, Tatjana Blankenstein joined us and was followed by Alexandra Ignatieff and Emmanuelle Lemerle. From there, we recruited great people like Manuel Sueiras, Verane Bergeron, Marisa Mueller, Fabienne Muzy, Jochen Schell, Nicholas Bruneau, Xavier Bruneau, Christa Halby, Vanessa de Sampaio, and many more. I remember back when we had more than 20 people in the company, and all 20 of us were on the road. Nobody wanted to be sitting comfortably in the Nomad House so everything was coordinated in the field through emails. Our first case-study on Ghana was published in October 1997 and by June 1998, we had already published our second. There is something great about this amazing starting team is that each of them made WINNE bigger and better and I believe the opposite was the same.

We are the only company that has consistently used the same company name, World Investment News, regardless of the Media Partner we are working with. This is because we are proud of our work, and in line with this idea, we decided to brand our trade mark, WINNE, through winne.com We have been pioneers in offering our customers customized publications, like our eBiz Guides, and now we also have eBiz Africa Review, a magazine that has shed light on the positive aspects of Africa since 2009.

World Investment News will always keep its pioneer way of thinking, we will always encourage results-driven work, and we will always understand and promote the meaning of possessing a Nomad Spirit. This is shown through our work and allows all who come in contact with us to accomplish their dreams, which, in the end, is what life is all about!

Part 1/3

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