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'I broke 22 bones and lost a year's memory'

Kees Koolen taking part in the Dakar RallySymbol copyright
Kees Koolen

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Kees Koolen is the one individual to have finished the yearly Dakar Rally in all 4 major classes – bike, quad, automotive and truck

The BBC’s weekly The Boss sequence profiles other trade leaders from around the globe. This week we discuss to serial Dutch entrepreneur Kees Koolen, whose newest corporate is battery producer Lithium Werks.

After Kees Koolen and his bike somersaulted down a rocky hillside in Western Sahara in 2006, the native ambulance group stated there was once not anything they might do to save lots of his existence.

“They stated I’d die needless to say,” says Mr Koolen, taking a look again at the crash. “So they did not need to do anything else.”

On the time the Dutch businessman was once 41, and had taken day without work from his task as leader working officer at commute company Reserving.com to compete in a long-distance bike race in north Africa.

He was once nearing the top of an afternoon’s using when, overtaking a automotive and some other bike, he did not realize the pointy drop to the aspect of the street.

Plunging down, he broke 22 bones, and suffered critical head trauma after his helmet cracked open.

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The Subsequent Speaker

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He was once introduced up in a faraway a part of the Netherlands the place they did not discuss Dutch

Fortunately for Mr Koolen, he had some pals with him, and so they pressured the ambulance group to no less than attempt to save his existence. “My pals were given into a large combat with the ambulance males,” he says.

Mr Koolen was once in the long run flown again to the Netherlands by means of non-public aircraft for emergency surgical operation, and an overly gradual restoration.

“Now not handiest had I damaged 22 bones, however I misplaced my reminiscence,” says the 53-year-old. “I nonetheless do not take note anything else from the following 12 months of my existence.”

In health center for 6 months following the crash, Mr Koolen was once sooner or later in a position to stroll once more and go back to Reserving.com.

Probably the most corporate’s earliest buyers, he went directly to be its leader government from 2008 to 2011.

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Then from 2012 he urged some other corporate he had invested in – US taxi-hailing company Uber – on its international rollout, whilst additionally taking a look after his investments in ratings of alternative tech corporations.

And whilst maximum folks would by no means have long gone bike racing once more after a crash like he had, Mr Koolen determined to up the ante and get started competing on his motorcycle in the yearly Dakar Rally, which will also be so long as nine,000km (6,000 miles) and most commonly on unpaved roads.

“When I am operating, I do 20-hour days each day,” he says. “I will’t forestall, so taking 3 weeks off once a year to compete within the Dakar forces me to change off from paintings.

“After which I all the time make the most efficient trade selections once I go back to paintings as a result of I am recent.”

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Kees Koolen

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Mr Koolen takes 3 weeks off paintings once a year to compete within the Dakar Rally

Nowadays Mr Koolen’s major center of attention is his lithium-ion battery trade Lithium Werks, which is primarily based within the town of Hengelo, within the jap Netherlands.

Even though the corporate was once established handiest originally of this 12 months, after it purchased present US company Valence and fellow Dutch trade Tremendous B, Lithium Werks already has two factories up and working in China, and some other at the manner.

The rechargeable batteries are geared toward each electrical automobiles – the whole lot from taxis, to ships, forklift vehicles and lorries – and for energy garage at sun panel installations and wind farms.

With international call for for such batteries predicted to develop by means of up to 16 occasions present ranges by means of 2030, as the sector turns clear of burning fossil fuels, Mr Koolen needs Lithium Werks to be some of the largest providers.

“Turnover this 12 months will probably be $80m (£63m), and I are expecting as regards to $1bn subsequent 12 months, after which rising farther from there,” he says. “Call for for batteries goes to be large going ahead.”

Engineer to Ironman

Born and raised on a small dairy farm within the south of Netherlands, beside the Belgian border, Mr Koolen says he did not depart his village till he was once 11.

“I additionally by no means spoke Dutch till I went to secondary faculty and had to be told it,” he says. Till then he had handiest spoken the Brabantian dialect.

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Lithium Werks

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Lithium Werks was once shaped previous this 12 months after it purchased two present battery manufacturers

After completing faculty Mr Koolen studied mechanical engineering at a school within the town of Eindhoven. It was once round this time that he began to compete in Ironman triathlons – a 2.Four-mile (three.9km) swim, adopted by means of a 112-mile (180km) motorcycle journey, after which working a marathon.

On the other hand, after his knee was once injured in a automotive coincidence when a under the influence of alcohol driving force ploughed into his automotive, he switched to motor sports activities.

Mr Koolen then studied for an MBA (grasp of commercial management qualification), sooner than beginning a a hit profession as a expert, advising a number of businesses that he additionally began to put money into. The sort of was once Reserving.com, which was once shaped within the Netherlands in 1997, and ultimate 12 months had revenues of $12.7bn.

Mr Koolen’s investments through the years have made him a multimillionaire, with a Dutch newspaper estimating in 2013 that he had a private fortune of €115m ($130m; £101m).

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Media captionLithium Werks’ batteries are being suited for Amsterdam’s canal excursion boats

However he’s proper to be so bullish about Lithium Werks and the worldwide call for for lithium-ion batteries?

“Lithium-ion batteries are completely key within the transfer no longer simply to electrical automobiles, but in addition permit us to grasp the whole possible of sun and wind energy thru affordable and simple power garage,” says Richard Anderson, spokesman for generation assume tank RethinkX.

“So there is no query call for for those batteries will rocket, however in fact that does not imply that everybody generating lithium-ion batteries will probably be a hit.

“This will probably be a shockingly aggressive market the place quite a few giant, well-established firms corresponding to Tesla and Panasonic already perform.”

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Lithium Werks

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The corporate’s batteries also are suited for a number of bus fleets throughout Europe

Regardless of how busy Mr Koolen is with Lithium Werks his enthusiasm for competing in motor game rally occasions is undimmed.

He has now entered the Dakar Rally 9 occasions, and is the one individual to have finished the race in all 4 major classes – bike, quad motorcycle, automotive and truck.

The chance of damage does not hassle him, he says, even remembering the time in 2013 when he broke his again whilst coaching on his quad motorcycle.

“I used to be about to head over a leap and the throttle were given caught,” he says. “I fell from the motorcycle and broke 4 vertebrae.

“I imagine in destiny even though. Everybody dies when it’s their time.”

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