Community//

Jan Steenbrugge: “If we build it, they will come”

Get to know your local business owners. They are real people who genuinely care about what they are trying to do. Help them by going to their shops and purchasing their products or services — invest in them! On the flip side, local businesses want to know their customers too, it allows them to better […]

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Get to know your local business owners. They are real people who genuinely care about what they are trying to do. Help them by going to their shops and purchasing their products or services — invest in them! On the flip side, local businesses want to know their customers too, it allows them to better serve their community. Knowledge is more powerful than assumptions.


Aspart of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jan Steenbrugge.

Jan Steenbrugge is the Founder and President of Fundopolis, an equity crowdfunding platform focused on helping small businesses raise capital. A serial entrepreneur, Jan is also the Founder & President of Ad Meliora, a real estate investment firm with over $200M in assets under management, Ad Meliora Construction and AM Building Supply — an import/export business providing products for the real estate development market. With over 15 years of experience in diverse areas of the commercial real estate and investment industries, Jan is a visionary leader with a track record for setting company strategy and driving execution. Jan makes frequent speaking appearances on the topics of entrepreneurship, real estate and investing. An accomplished musician, Jan sits on the executive director advisory council of Berklee College of Music and is President of the Board and Principal 2nd violinist for the Boston Civic Symphony.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ithas been an unexpected path for sure! I came to the U.S. when I was 17 to study violin at the Boston Conservatory and returned to Belgium to get my Master’s degree in violin and orchestral conducting. Shortly after graduating, I unexpectedly needed to take over the family business managing Real Estate properties in Belgium. Realizing there were more investment opportunities in the industry back in the States, I returned and asked some friends to invest with me. This was my first “crowdfund” project; I quickly fell in love with the idea that we couldn’t do it alone, but together, we could move mountains. I wanted others to have the same success my friends and I experienced — and Fundopolis was born.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

Work-life balance is hard with any job, but it’s extremely challenging when building a company from scratch. You need to work your day job that pays for the startup expenses, keep your family safe and happy, and of course grow your startup. Finding great people early on lightened my load and gave Fundopolis a chance for success.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

I’m stubborn. Even when the hurdles for starting Fundopolis were nearly insurmountable, I persisted. I believe with my whole being that what we do is important and meaningful, and it just wasn’t in me to quit.

Being self-aware. I know there are certain things that my employees can do better than me — that’s a huge win, not a threat. I’m glad to let those who are more technologically inclined lead the way on development, the same goes for marketing, sales, etc.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Partner with a well-versed CTO that you trust who can develop your technology the “right” way and not the “quick way.”
  2. Getting your business off the ground will likely take more time and money than you think. Make sure you are committed and have the financial backing to carry you to launch (and beyond).
  3. Forget the mindset, “If we build it, they will come.” It takes time and effort for others to buy into your vision.
  4. Proposed: Your employees are your strongest assets; alternatively, they can also be your weakest. Don’t be afraid to let employees go if they are not right for what you need to accomplish.
  5. Not shaving your beard until you launch is a terrible idea

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think we can all do with some distraction at times — music is that distraction for me. When I’m overstressed, I pick up my violin. For others, it may be working out, playing games or simply reading a book.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My mother supported me every step of the way — from elementary school to Fundopolis. Without her, Fundopolis wouldn’t have been possible. She gives without expectation of return. From cooking for those in need to helping a friend renovate her bathroom so she can shower — I strive to be as caring and supportive as she.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

On a personal level, my one and only goal is to make sure my kids are happy and thriving. It is important to me that they receive a good education and get to know the world while they’re young while giving them the tools to become well-rounded, caring adults. Professionally, I want Fundopolis to help change the world. I think people inherently care for each other and want to help. By giving them the tools to do this, we can empower them to change their world. They can support local businesses that inspire them while giving them a way to share in the wealth that is created. I envision an inverted self-fulfilling prophecy: Good things happening lead to more good things happening.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

That no one knows me, but everyone knows the owner of their local restaurant, pet shop, dry cleaner, etc. Businesses need their customers, but customers need their services. We should help each other, and we can help each other!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

Get to know your local business owners. They are real people who genuinely care about what they are trying to do. Help them by going to their shops and purchasing their products or services — invest in them! On the flip side, local businesses want to know their customers too, it allows them to better serve their community. Knowledge is more powerful than assumptions.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jansteenbrugge

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