Eckart Wintzen (1939 - 2008)
In Fond Memory
On March 21, 2008 the world lost a remarkable, creative and good soul. Eckart Wintzen was an unconventional Dutch entrepreneur who has inspired many, many people in the Netherlands and abroad.
At Ex'tent we consider ourselves incredibly lucky having had the opportunity to work with Eckart. As our Chief Chaos he created an atmosphere where 'the office' felt just as safe as 'home'. He demanded a high level of dedication and quality, bringing the best out of people. He knew that a compliment gives everybody wings. Sometimes he'd be worried or grumpy but he was always in for a joke and interested in personal lives. Inviting you to his home, he used to mix the best caipirinha's you'd ever taste. At conferences he would stand out among the business suits, wearing jeans and colourful shirts. He was crazy enough to dedicate his fortune to improving the world, rather than to his own luxury. He had a higher goal in life. Spiritual and down to earth, a rarely failing gut feeling, small glasses, big bushy eyebrows and an ever infecting laughter. Eckart used to send a totally creative birthday and christmas present, always including a hand-written personal message (only to several hundreds of people each year...). He made you feel special and loved. We cherish our memories of Eck and every fun Ex'perience.
Please feel free to roam this website to read more about Eckart's ideas, publications and the story of Ex'tent.
Eckart's public life began by building an IT service providing company, called BSO (Bureau voor Systeem Ontwikkeling). BSO was not just a successful business, it also introduced an inspiring new way to organize a business: the ‘cell philosophy'. Eckart longed for an alternative to common management structures. He was convinced that it is most effective (and fun) to work with a maximum of 50 colleagues. The idea being that you work best with people you know and also that having the opportunity to take responsibility is the best motor for enthusiasm and quality. As soon as the 51st employee entered the company, the group would split to create two independent ‘cells'. This process went on and on. The holding company provided a system for reporting, as well as the ground rules (or ‘ten commandments') of the company. Also, the company logo and office furnishing were strictly dictated, so clients would easily recognize the different cells to belong to one organization.
Eckart had the rare capacity to truly trust his co-workers and to share responsibility. BSO was a sought after employer, communicating in the most creative ways, for example by publishing an annual report written for children. In 1990 BSO was the first to publish an annual environmental report showing how much CO2 the company produced. In 1996, when Eckart stepped out of BSO/Origin (as it was then named) the company had offices in 75 cities in 20 countries. It had merged with Philips C&P and had 10,000 employees worldwide. You can read more about the history of BSO in the truly entertaining book Eckart's Notes (sorry, not translated into English).
After stepping out of BSO/Origin Eckart decided to put the fortune ("which the universe had placed in his hands") to good use. He initiated Ex'tent (meaning Eck's tent or Eckart's shack). Eckart wanted to prove that sustainable businesses have the future. He wanted to help stimulate the free market economy to move towards more welfare through services and digital entertainment rather than material consumerism. Also he wanted a more fair distribution of welfare across the globe. Right from the start, Ex'tent Green Venture Capital financially and mentally supported companies which work towards the green and social mission Eckart had set out. Ben & Jerry's (the ice cream) for example, Greenwheels (car sharing) and Advanced Immuni T (a possible medicine for auto-immune diseases). An overview of current portfolio companies you will find here.
Besides the (financing) activities of Ex'tent, Eckart has advised many entrepreneurs. Loads of business people, charities and fortune-hunters used to pass by his offices in search for help, advice or one of his well known outspoken opinions. There is hardly anyone who left his room without being inspired in one way or another or without being touched by his bellowing laughter. Eckart also served on many boards of both commercial and non-profit organizations such as the Dianne Fossey Gorilla Fund and the Carbon Disclosure Project. He was a great supporter of the Worldwatch Institute and The Home Foundation. See also his life story and c.v. in Dutch.
Eckart was terribly worried about the climate crisis. He did everything he could to convince others of the urgency of the matter. He wanted the economic system to shift towards a system taking better care of planet earth. He felt it is ridiculous that in our current system we tax labour instead of natural resources, giving companies the wrong incentive to increase the use of material and cut on labour! Eckart pleaded for Value Extracted Tax (VET) instead of the current Value Added Tax (VAT). VET (in Dutch: BOW or Belasting op Onttrokken Waarde) will boost labour participation and reduce the consumption of our natural resources. You can read Eckart's opinion in several press articles and in the exchange of letters with Lisette Schuitemaker called de Briefwisseling van Betweters (you've guessed it: in Dutch).
During his lifetime, a large number of articles and interviews appeared in the (mainly Dutch) press. You can roam the archives and Eckart's entries to the weblog and take a look at the press pics. If you want to hear his voice: youtube will help you with that. Scroll down on this page to find some books which inspired Eckart.
As you can imagine, our world stopped turning for a while on March 21, 2008. And for many people it felt the same. Our thoughts are still with Eckart's family, friends and fans. Over a thousand people gathered for Eckart's farewell ceremony in Amsterdam March 30th, 2008. And a great number more visited the register of condolence.
We have decided to continue with Eckart's legacy, by creating a wave around his range of thoughts about the economy and the environment. If you want to help us sustain Eckart's message or if you want to follow the progress we are making, please let us know. We need every help we can get to continue the work which this great and wonderful man has started.