Live like a dolphin:
intelligent and happy
Interview with Floris Koumans by Hilda Bouma
“I want to live like a dolphin does: intelligent and happy.”
The dolphin is the animal with which serial entrepreneur Floris Koumans identifies. Artist Tim Boin made one especially for him. And another one. And that led to further collaboration.
After high school, Floris Koumans (53) had two options, either employed or studied. But because he didn’t want one and couldn’t do the other, he left for Paros, in the Aegean Sea. I became a poverty-stricken fisherman on a Greek island. Lying in a bay near a campfire – it was March – he thought he had been happiest as a child when he could build huts and think of new things. Suddenly he knew: He had to become an entrepreneur. Setting up innovative businesses, and when they were up and running, starting the next one. That’s how he could make his dreams come true.
Koumans returned to the Netherlands and set up his first company to develop an alternative to antibiotics. I come from a medical family; on both the father’s and the mother’s side there are generations of doctors. I wanted to make the world a better place’, explains Koumans in his farm in the Green Heart. ‘Everybody declared me crazy. Now millions of products are sold all over the world every year.’
While his empire with the name Orange Pearl grew steadily to a total of 18 companies operating all over the world, he regularly returned to Paros with his Greek wife and their five children. Also to go out to sea again with his fishing friends. Then I heard “whoem” and saw from a distance how they threw sticks of dynamite between a group of dolphins. As a fisherman, I myself had also been troubled by dolphins tearing your nets to pieces. They cause great damage.’This experience led to yet another company in his group, SaveWave, which among other things produces transmitters to use sound to keep the dolphins away from the nets.
The dolphin is Koumans’ spirit animal, he says, the animal with which he identifies. He also has one tattooed on his arm. ‘Got it from my wife at the birth of my eldest son. I want to live like a dolphin: free, intelligent, social, happy, playful.’ That his favorite work of art is a dolphin will not surprise you. He has two, both by artist Tim Boin. He remembers them from the days when they lived in the centre of Delft. ‘Tim was a very talented guy from the neighborhood.’
Geometry of life
When they met again a few years ago, Koumans was impressed by his art. ‘Tim works on the basis of hidden geometry. That is the geometry of life, the mathematical proportions that determine everything in nature. It is also called sacred geometry. Think of a severed nautilus shell, which is mathematically perfect. But you also see it in crystals.’
With one dolphin, made of wood, Boin slowly transforms the natural shape of the marine mammal into geometric planes. The other dolphin is entirely made of flat glass in stainless steel. It’s hand polished. Every piece of glass in it consists of layers with a nanocoating through which they reflect. Tim plays with the light.’ His meeting with Tim Boin was one of the reasons to rearrange his life, says Koumans. ‘I was always on the road. When the wind blew, I wanted to surf, but I didn’t have time for it. But hey, I was free, right? Apparently I wasn’t.’
Koumans divested most of his businesses, leaving eight smaller ones, mainly in the health sector. Now he only wants to do things he wants to jump out of bed for in the morning. He wants to build the proverbial huts. A ‘business hippie’ his family members call him. Two days a week he can still be found in the office, the rest of the time he fills up effortlessly. He pours his homemade elderflower lemonade. ‘You have to pick the flowers just after the sun has risen,’ he says. He also distils his own eau de vie, from the fruit that the birds have left hanging in his top fruit trees. And he gives master classes. ‘Everywhere in business it’s all about growth. I think and live from nature, and there growth only makes sense when it flourishes. Nobody finds the green stem interesting, only when it becomes a daffodil or a tulip does it acquire identity’. With his Grow and Flourish Foundation he helps organizations to define the flourishing and subsequent period of contemplation. To then, consciously, enter a period of growth again. In the meantime Koumans has started to finance Tim Boin. In December they went together to Art Basel Miami, one of the most important fairs in the world for contemporary art. The dolphin was also there, in another version, as one of the ‘Jewels of the Sea’ that Boin showed there.
Boin also makes work for the public space. Last January and February, a whale, a squirrel, a bee and a polar bear took turns at the entrance to the Central Station in Utrecht and on ‘het Plein’ the main square of The Hague in front of the Parliament buildings, to warn against the pollution of the oceans, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and climate change.
The organiser was Awareness Art. And whose foundation is that? Right, from Koumans. ‘I think art should carry a message more often and should be brought to people much more often.’