From founder leadership to growth leadership - Welcome Eva in her new role as CEO

Originally published at:
The story straight from the source - blog written by Bas van Abel

Five years ago, in 2013, I took a massive leap of faith: I decided to transform the Fairphone campaign into a company. At that point, I had no experience running a company, and I had certainly never made a phone before. But what I did have was a clear vision – I wanted to dig deeper into the electronics supply chain and help people understand how the industry works. I wanted to change the way people think about the products they bought and owned. And I wanted to make a direct contribution to creating fair electronics.

By training and by nature, I’m a designer, maker and instigator. All of these qualities were essential to getting Fairphone off the ground. We were creating something out of nothing: “building the plane and flying it at the same time”, as I like to say. Our small but mighty team slowly grew, and our accomplishments grew along with it. We made two different phones, sourced conflict-free minerals, collected e-waste and introduced worker welfare programs. What we were doing struck a chord. We not only got attention from the press and our peers, but more importantly, our movement started to take off. We had a fiercely loyal community who believed in what we were doing, while constantly challenging us to go the extra mile.

From product innovations to supply chain improvements, the team was achieving amazing things, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. As the company began to move beyond the initial start-up phase, were undergoing some growing pains, which affected everything from our cash flow and production schedules to my personal health. So we started to make some major changes to prepare Fairphone for successful, sustainable growth.

Over the past two years, we’ve been focused on creating a stronger foundation to scale up our company. For example, we’ve improved our financial position by attracting new impact investors, and recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign. These investments will help reach new markets and further professionalize our supply chain operations to improve the availability and quality of our products. In addition, we’ve strengthened our governance by establishing a supervisory board and building a more experienced management team.

In September 2017, we hired Eva Gouwens as our managing director. With a more practical, operations-driven background, we recruited Eva specifically for her experience in running a growing business with social and environmental goals. At Tony’s Chocolonely, Eva led an impact-driven social enterprise through a crucial transition and helped them achieve their next wave of success. Her skills complement my own, and personally, I was very enthusiastic about having her on the executive team to share the responsibility of leading our company.

Over the past year, Eva and I have been working closely together to define areas for improvement and develop a shared vision for the future of Fairphone. We’re aligned on our mission to establish a market for ethical products and motivate the industry to act more responsibly. And we know that to achieve it, we have to keep scaling up. That brings me to our next transition as we prepare for successful growth: It’s time for me to pass the torch on to Eva, and allow her to lead Fairphone through this exciting new era as the company’s CEO.

This is not a decision I have taken lightly. But as our company transitions from the start-up to scale-up phase, our leadership has to transition along with it. The type of leadership required to create a company is not the same type of leadership required to help a company mature. Therefore, the next logical step for Fairphone’s success is to move from founder leadership to growth leadership. Eva is the right person to do this, and she’ll officially be guiding the company forward in her new role from 1 November.

I’m excited about what this transition means for Fairphone, and I’m happy to share that I’ll still be part of the company in the years ahead. After a short sabbatical, I’ll be returning to take up a founder position in the supervisory board. This will allow me to have more distance from the operational aspects of the company, while still being able to anchor Fairphone’s creative and strategic vision throughout this next phase.

I’d like to be the first to warmly congratulate Eva on her new role, and I’m looking forward to being part of Fairphone’s next era of growth, albeit from a slightly different vantage point.


Women to the top! I’m all for it. :+1:

Fairphone: Where glass ceilings shatter more easily than screens.


Thank you for your passion and relentless hard work for Fairphone, Bas!

Always stay on board!


Hi Bas,

When I heard about this, I was initially worried about what it meant - I assumed that the new impact investors that Fairphone were courting had asked for this change. Now I’ve read your post, it’s much clearer to me now and puts my mind at rest. It’s great to hear that you’ll not be gone forever, that you’ll be coming back. However, as a member of the supervisory board I assume this means you’ll no longer have an executive role in the company, is that right?

Enjoy your sabbatical, although I’m sure you’ll still be working on some grand project!

Cheers :smile:


The fact that she’s a woman is irrelevant. The fact that she’s more suited to bring Fairphone into a better growth is.

I think it’s a really good move from Bas to let go of his position for somebody better suited; definitely not an easy thing to do, especially when you start to be successful. And that he appointed a woman is yet another proof that Fairphone is fair in every aspect, so congrats to both of them :+1: :heart:


Congratulations Bas for your long involvement in this project, and hopefully for contributing to a possible change in industries’ practices. I have read you are taking a sabbatical, I would like to ask you for an interview, for a documentary I am currently writing. Is this an option ? Thanks ! Best, Marc

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If you don’t get a reply here, there’s a press contact form almost all the way at the bottom of Fairphone’s press pages.


Thank you Bas for all the work and personal sacrifices which now make it so easy for so many to participate in something so fundamentally important.


I`d like to be the second then to say: Hi Eva and congratulations :wave:!

Welcome on board and all the best to get Fairphone rolling further down the road while it’s growing just as a snowball.
We are a strong community behind Fairphone enjoying it to be listened to. This external business value should be taken into account by many future decisions. Hopefully Monica is as close to you as she is to us here.
We will follow you if there’s a proper course set.

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Dear Bas,

Thank you so much for everything you’ve done.

I live in Australia. A group of us ordered 5 phones (via a friend in UK) in the first crowd funding campaign. I remember the day I got my first Fairphone - the excitement to finally be holding an electronic device that was so much more ethical and transparent and represented the hope of more fairness and equality in the future. I would have bought it on that principle, to support your vision, alone. But what’s more - it was a beautiful fully-functioning smartphone to rival any others! People couldn’t believe that my Fairphone was actually a good phone! And I remember all those special little touches added like the inscription that I had one of the first ones inside the cover, the happy introduction when I turned on the phone, and the peace app you included.

As I have given feedback before and told many friends and family: I love Fairphone! I love the vision and the execution and that you have taken every step with integrity. Had it not been for the ethics, I still would be with Fairphone because your customer service is the best and most consistent I have received from any company in any industry anywhere.

What a huge decision for you to make to take a step back. It sounds like it’s the best thing for the company, cause, and you personally, but I imagine it was very hard to acknowledge that - and the kind of thing many never do. Congrats. You are so brave. And I LOVE that you’ve handed the top position to a woman. Thank you.

I hope all you have done to date and this decision is affirmed in years to come with more success for Fairphone, while maintaining its purpose and integrity, and good health and wellbeing for yourself Bas. You are truly amazing and I cannot thank you enough for what you have done and how you have done it. The mind boggles at how you got this off the ground - it’s phenomenal.

Thanks again and a huge congrats and thanks to Eva abs every other member if staff and board at Fairphone - we’re with you every step of the way. Let’s go!

Adelaide, South Australia
(Written on my Fairphone 2)

PS pretty please can you start selling Fairphones in Australia?! :wink:


What a wonderful tribute, @Deanna_Howland! Much more reasonable and convincing than my own very personal, somewhat sentimental view on this. :wink:

As a child of the 1970s, my parents (esp. my father) raised me with an often unabashedly positive view of the Netherlands of the time. Like many children of the late 1960s student „rebellion“ in Germany, for me this remains forever inextricably linked with the music and appearance of Herman van Veen and his early foray into Germany and German (children) TV then. And as weird and embarrassing this might seem to the younger ones here who never experienced this in their childhood, for me reading of and seeing Bas van Abel has frequently brought up that memory of Herman van Veen and the Netherlands image of my childhood in me. I’m not even sure if it’s flattering in your ears, @Bas_van_Abel. Anyway, it’s not just my personal sentimentality that makes me admire your legacy (so far!), but also the astonishment that you haven’t „just“ made such a strong case for fairtrade in a business that everyone declared impenetrable altogether for fairtrade, but also your audacity to launch a modular smartphone which even Google shelved after just a few months and last but not least the well-known personal sacrifice you have contributed. Thank you. :slight_smile:


I hope that Eva got the job not simply for being a woman, but because she is the best for the job! :grin: :+1:


Not to spark up this (off topic?) discussion, however many companies don’t hire women as their CEO despite them being at least as capable as their male counterparts. Simply because male-populated companies automatically favour male CEO’s. That’s why it ís to be applauded every time a woman becomes CEO. Simply for improving the diversity in decision making.


Dankjewel Bas voor je dappere en oeverloze inzet voor dit initiatief. Ik hoop dat je nu de tijd en ruimte krijgt om ook meer aandacht te besteden aan de andere belangrijke dingen in je (privé)leven. Veel geluk!

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