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Stefan Peekel about driving growth at Owlin

At Owlin, we couldn’t do what we are doing without the great work of everyone working with us. In this interview series, The people of Owlin, we ask them about their daily work, background, and where they see Owlin going in the future. This month: Stefan Peekel, Chief Growth Officer. With his extensive business experience and passion for technology, Stefan has played a foundational role in Owlin’s success. Let’s dive into our conversation with him and learn more about his journey and the company’s growth strategy.

When did you join Owlin?

I joined Owlin in 2021 on August 1st. It’s almost a second anniversary for me now. Time flies!

What is your background?

As a child, I had an inherent fascination with technology. I often dismantled electronic devices, played with Lego Technic, and had a curious and investigative mindset. My first part-time job was assembling computers. During my studies in Information Management I ran my own company that sold computer hardware and  websites. After that, I worked at KPMG, writing security guidelines and conducting various research projects. Looking back, technology, innovation and curiosity have always been integral to my journey, driven by a broad range of interests.

During my time at KPMG’s Innovation Lab in the Netherlands, I had the opportunity to work on building trend indexes. During one of my first projects, I connected with Sjoerd, the CEO of Owlin. Meanwhile, I moved to the United States and in New York City I started building Owlin’s Trend Indexes with the KPMG brand. Gradually, Sjoerd and I transitioned from a formal client relationship to a friendly, close friendship. We had a lot of fun together and bonded over shared experiences. Eventually, Sjoerd asked me to join Owlin and expand its operations in the US. I was ready for a change, and I made the move to Owlin. 

As the Chief Growth Officer, what are your main responsibilities, and how do they contribute to the overall growth strategy of Owlin?

My role at Owlin is bringing together customers, prospects, and our product, as part of Owlin’s strategy to solve the problems our clients have. Clients are a golden thread throughout my daily work. An important part of this is ensuring  that our product aligns with the needs and expectations of our customers (including functionality they don’t know they need yet). With the latest developments in the AI space this is very exciting. From prospect to customer Owlin aims to deliver an optimal customer experience and top-notch service. Together with marketing, product, sales and customer success we work hard to accomplish that. As a team, we constantly seek new opportunities to leverage our technology, driving customer value and attracting new prospects. My prior experience at KPMG helps me and the teams getting the best out of ourselves for our ever growing customer base.

Owlin has achieved strong growth and success over the last couple of years. What do you believe sets Owlin apart from competitors and contributes to its strong market position?

I think several factors differentiate Owlin from our competitors:

Firstly, our team and our culture is unique and fully focussed towards building customer intimacy and providing a high degree of service and support. The customer is #1 and we live this value day in, day out. I strongly believe in a three-Michelin-star inspired approach.  

Secondly and equally important, our technology delivers exceptional results. We are consistently recognized for our ability to provide a broad coverage and unmatched level of detail for private markets at a global scale. We present our insights in our dashboard that some clients refer to as “the Apple of Adverse Media Monitoring”. Something that makes me smile and we should be very proud of. 

Lastly, our ability to adapt quickly. The speed in which we are able to develop and release new features is truly special. Customers are the cornerstone of our product development priorities and they love it. This collaborative approach enables us to develop better products that match our clients’ ever evolving needs. 

Can you share any key lessons learned during the growth journey of Owlin and how the company has overcome hurdles?

One important lesson I’ve learned is that, even in a fast-paced startup environment, it’s easy to become too eager and try to change too much too quickly. I’ve had to learn to pace myself and ensure I don’t overwhelm the team with too many ideas. 

On a personal note, It’s crucial not to take your previous career knowledge for granted and be open to change and adaptation, even if it feels challenging. My growth mindset has really helped me to drive the change Owlin needs.

Owlin has a global presence. How do you adapt your growth strategies to different markets and regions?

Although Owlin is growing quickly, resources are scarce and we need to optimize the use of these resources to maximize the outcome. We therefore differentiate our approach between regions where our brand is more established versus where we had to build from the ground up quickly (e.g. the US). Since we are an industry agnostic solution, our addressable market in the US is the largest. Unlocking that potential is not as simple as it sounds. Partnerships and partnership enablement has become a major area of value for us. A prime example is our partnership with Venminder. Together we have been able to help our combined customers and be successful together. Our complementary offering is actively adopted across North America. 

Owlin’s offices in Amsterdam and New York have their own local teams. How do you foster collaboration and ensure effective communication between these teams to drive growth and share best practices?

I believe it comes down to three key aspects to foster collaboration between our offices: 

  1. Coordination: Initially, I underestimated the importance of coordination between the Netherlands and New York. With a six-hour time difference, we have only three hours of effective overlap between the offices. To overcome this challenge, we prioritize coordination and establish specific times for communication.
  2. Alignment: Within the management team, making and adhering to collective decisions is essential. Consistency ensures clarity and prevents conflicting messages. 
  3. Cohesion: Building a sense of togetherness is essential. This sometimes requires sacrifices, such as adjusting working hours in the morning or evening. Being physically present with the teams is highly beneficial, as virtual team building can be extremely challenging. Our Owlin Culture is something I’m very proud of and this will be something we will foster and protect ferociously while we grow.

Could you shed some light on Owlin’s future goals and vision for growth, both in the short and long term?

In the short term, our primary focus is establishing Owlin as the leading adverse media provider within the risk management domain. We aim to double down on this proposition and leverage the introduction of large language models to enhance our capabilities and speed further. 

Looking ahead to the long term, our vision is to serve at least half of the Fortune 500 companies. Our goal is not only to assist businesses in managing risk but also to help them achieve their sustainability objectives. Our technology can detect problems related to poor working conditions, environmental pollution, and other issues, enabling companies to do good.

Any final thoughts or words of encouragement you would like to share?

If you have been contemplating a career transition, I assure you that climbing out of the ‘golden cage’ is not as daunting or challenging as it may seem. It’s an incredible adventure that brings new challenges and enriches your life. I encourage anyone hesitating to just jump and do it; you can always go back.  Embrace the opportunity for personal and professional growth, I’m still loving it every day!

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