While Handprint’s journey is still in the early days, our cofounders have known each other for a longer time. Even before they met, each of them had a burning passion to make a difference for the planet, regardless of their profession. The story of how they met and decided to collaborate together is the stuff serendipity is made off.
Before you grab some popcorn to join us on Handprint’s journey, let’s meet the cofounders. Their names and the roles each of them plays in the organization are as follows:
- Mathias Boissonot, Chief Executive Officer
- Dr. Simon Schillebeeckx, Chief Strategy Officer
- Dr. Ryan Merrill, Chief Impact Officer
Cofounders from Academia
Like most good things, Handprint’s story starts from academia.
Simon, a professor at Singapore Management University had just received a grant to study “innovation in the natural world”. At the same time, Ryan was at the Department of Energy in Washington DC after finishing their PhD in Environmental and Energy Policy and was looking for a new opportunity.
Both of them met at the 2017 Academy of Management Annual Meeting “At The Interface” in Atlanta, Georgia. Simon discussed his work in digital sustainability and announced his intention to hire a postdoc researcher to work with. Immediately, Ryan showed interest and they got hired the next day during a social event at the conference.
Ryan & Simon: Global Mangrove Trust
A short while after, Ryan had the opportunity to witness the miraculous abilities of the mangrove trees to pull greenhouse gases from the atmosphere during a trip to Myanmar. This experience inspired Ryan to begin working on Global Mangrove Trust (GMT). GMT works with local impact partners and leading teams around the world to ensure mangrove forestry empowers businesses and families in local communities.
Initially, Ryan was working on GMT alone however they soon discovered that they needed Simon’s expertise in making GMT operational. This partnership would become the early foundation for Handprint.
The Third Cofounder: Mathias
GMT went on to work with DBS Bank to create a blockchain solution to improve transparency in climate financing. But they struggled to make the project scalable. Enter the third cofounder: Mathias.
Even before GMT, Simon had known Mathias. At the time, they were personally acquainted as two people new to Singapore with little interest in each other’s profession. However, when Mathias came to know about GMT’s work on blockchain with DBS, he began to see the entrepreneurial potential of the project. Unlike Simon and Ryan, who loved academia, and felt slightly handicapped by the field’s lack of visible impact, Mathias had bought out the company that he was working at by this point and thus, had a lot more freedom on how to spend his time.
Mathias began working with the other two cofounders, pro-bono once a week to turn GMT into something much more advanced than what it was. After numerous pro-bono sessions, the three of them realized that they liked working with each other. Each of them focused on their individual unique strengths to define what role they would play. For example, Simon was good at talking to people, therefore he was the best fit to be the front-facing founder of what was to be Handprint. Ryan was very capable of organizing complex systems to ensure that everything on the backend worked seamlessly while Mathias had the panoramic overview required to execute business goals.
From a trio of two PhD holders and an engineer in 2020, Handprint has grown to a team of more than 45 employees, all working to regenerate the planet. Since launching, Handprint has partnered with some of the biggest brands in Asia and leveraged its technology to make impact projects more transparent. Some of Handprint’s biggest partners include e-commerce giant Lazada, leading Payment card technology company Idemia, and global media platform Teads. Under the leadership of these three cofounders.
Handprint has won numerous sustainable business awards, including the 2021 Microsoft Singapore Green Tech Challenge, the 2021 Cities of the Future Urban Innovation Challenge, and the Huawei Spark Ignite 2022 competition in the sustainability category.
Handprint has also concluded two funding rounds: with the latest happening in December 2022. Handprint’s CEO, Mathias Boissonot summarizes the journey of the organization thus far;
“Handprint represents a transformation in corporate sustainability. For decades, companies have focused their attention on reducing harm and offsetting their negative footprint. We need a new approach, and this funding round will enable us to accelerate our vision to build the sustainability infrastructure for the internet, making it simple, easy and impactful for companies of all sizes to move beyond offsets and help protect and regenerate the planet.”
It is quite surreal to think that all these achievements became possible due to a few serendipitous moments: Simon meeting Ryan in Atlanta, Georgia, Ryan finding his interest in mangrove trees in Myanmar, and Mathias having met Simon in Singapore.
With this lucky momentum and a commitment to positive impact, Handprint’s journey to the galaxy might be shorter than expected.