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#FoundersFridays: Meet Bibi Schmidt

Meet Bibi Schmidt, founder of Blue Feniks. Founded in 2020, the company has created an innovative software that aims to provide safe and inclusive work environments.

Portrait of Blue Feniks founder Bibi Schmidt
Image from Blue Feniks

#FoundersFridays is a StartupAmsterdam interview series: for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. Each hero answers questions on their entrepreneurial journey, their learnings, milestones and bottlenecks, as well as on Amsterdam and the Dutch startup scene. It’s a platform for entrepreneurs to speak their minds freely and pass on their learnings to anyone who’s thinking about founding a startup as well.

This week we spoke to Bibi Schmidt, the founder of Blue Feniks, an innovative platform that aims to provide safer working environments and empower employees. Employees can use the company’s Safe at Work app to easily report incidents and dangerous situations, map needs and carry out workplace inspections. This allows managers to improve company culture.

How did your career journey lead to you founding Blue Feniks?

In Blue Feniks, many of my personal interests come together – from human behaviour to artificial intelligence. I’ve had a range of jobs from my university days onwards. After getting my master’s degree, I worked for an innovation company and as an assistant in strategic marketing at a renowned business university; later, I was a business analyst for a tech investor and I also worked for several IT companies.

Encounters with undesirable behaviour in the workplace sparked an interest to learn more about its causes and eventually to come up with a product that can help address it. From personal experience, but also from many other examples, I realised that this problem is omnipresent. One in six people suffer from the emotional and even physical impact of unwanted behaviour at work. 

Often, problems such as bullying go unnoticed for long periods of time, all while causing a lot of damage to employees and companies alike. Inappropriate behaviour or, simply, ignorance can cause so many problems. They can result in a loss in productivity, depression, an increase in work-related accidents, burnout, even PTSD. Most people do not speak up. One in four eventually leave the company they work for because of these problems. It is therefore essential to identify and address issues as soon as possible.

For many organisations, their actual wealth lies in the knowledge, experience and skill of its people, yet this seems to be under-appreciated. From there, Blue Feniks was born. I wanted to ensure the success of the most valuable part of a company: the people that work there.

Graphic from Blue Feniks with drawn figures holding up cards related to diversity and workplace culture topics.
Image from Blue Feniks

Why did you choose Amsterdam to start and grow your business?

Blue Feniks develops tools that are widely applicable to forward-thinking organisations. Amsterdam is known for companies with a forward-looking approach. It has a great tech and innovation community. And a focus on diversity and inclusion. It is important for Blue Feniks to be able to start close to a forward-thinking community, after all short lines of communication ensure better and faster solutions.

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?

A good friend, who did his Ph.D. research in the field of behavioural economics, and as such, was fascinated with the way people make decisions, gave me the advice never to make decisions based merely on assumptions. This notion has helped me be more open to the world and is a great starting point for discovery and innovation.

When you start by acknowledging you are not the fountain of all knowledge yourself, this creates space for learning. From this place, you venture out into the world on a queeste to discover the experiences of others. Explore other people’s needs. Asking questions, listening and empathising are not just useful to ensure that one's opinions or decisions have an accurate foundation. They are also foundations of good leadership.

Being open to someone else's experiences enables inclusion. The human brain is by nature primed for fear. Our minds are always subconsciously occupied with the question: “Are we safe here?” Allowing others to have a voice, to be noticed and feel valued, to be able to contribute meaningfully, to have ownership. It all starts with listening and an open mind.

Similarly, listening and being able to speak up are crucial assets for teams to function well. We all have a tendency to make assumptions, many of which are fear-based. Unfamiliarity and differences between people can lead to misunderstandings and frictions. Especially when there is no place for dialogue and constructive feedback. 

The most important advice: to empathise. It’s a mindset and attitude that is so useful in life. Be it in innovation and design thinking or interacting with other people. Understanding begins with observing and listening.

Which were the local communities who have been the most helpful in getting you to where you are today?

I have had a lot of help from different groups of people, all highly regarded within their field. They include statisticians, psychologists, IT specialists, UX and UI designers and a number of professors in different fields. I also had a lot of support from experts in the field of starting and running complex businesses.

In addition, it was really great to participate in the accelerator programme from Women in AI. It’s tailored specifically to female innovators in the field of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science. It’s always nice to be part of an active innovative community!

What’s a recent achievement you’re proud of?

I am very proud of the product we were able to develop. It is not just a reporting tool, but also a measuring instrument which gives you insights into the safety culture of a company as well as the possibility to help improve it. 

One of our team members has a great track record in the field of IT and building complex ERP systems, both for small and large companies. This has helped us tremendously in building a high quality product which is also elegant and simple to use.

Bonus question – You’ve been selected to exhibit at TNW2021 with StartupAmsterdam. What are you looking forward to the most there?

I’m most excited about being able to present our product on a larger scale. The Safe at Work app is a simple tool that can have far-reaching benefits: safer work environments, fewer production mistakes, fewer work-related accidents, higher efficiency and happier employees. I really look forward to connecting with other innovators and the many bright minds that will be attending TNW2021.

If you’d like to learn more about the women breaking through in Amsterdam’s startup scene, check out this roundup of Amsterdam’s wonder women