Richard van Hoolwerff
Raised in North Brabant in the Netherlands, Richard left school at the age of 17 to join the Royal Dutch Navy. For the next four years, he sailed around the world on a submarine working as a sonar operator. And it was here, in the cramped quarters of the Sea Lion, where he truly understood the meaning of teamwork. Richard went on to study psychology, cognitive science and international relations at the University of Amsterdam and this is where his entrepreneurial nature really came into its own; he organized numerous conferences on campus and launched Skek, a thriving restaurant in the heart of the city. At SPARK he uses his experiences to help entrepreneurs in post-conflict countries aspire for and achieve the dreams of their own. He has been instrumental in establishing the Liberia marathon, the first official marathon of the country. Additionally, he established the SPARK Hub, now the cornerstone for entrepreneurship development in Liberia. In the same manner, he established the Ignite Fund Liberia, and SME investment fund bridging the gap for SMEs in need of capital for growth. He is also the founder and CEO of Emergi, a Dutch renewable energy technology startup. Emergi’s mission is to create social impact by developing sustainable energy products for emerging markets. Emergi is currently developing zero-carbon cooling technology, based on solar adsorption, for Africa. Whether it’s someone knocking on his door claiming to have taught himself to build water-boat taxis or a young woman who wants to clean up the streets, Richard knows how to capture that enthusiasm and transform it into a business.