Growing Fairphone to 16M€ in one year & transforming the entire electronics industry: an entrepreneurship and mental health guide

Bas van Abel – Fairphone

GT Impact

If you are into circular economy, electronics, product design. This episode is for you.

Only 15% of old phones get recycled.
And that’s not the biggest problem.

When you get your new phone in your hand, most of the harm has already been done. 70 – 80 % of the phone’s footprint is in the making, not in the usage.

If we use our phones longer, less resources are needed for their production. And there will be less electronics waste.

But how do you design a phone for circularity and longevity?

Fairphone managed to create and grow a phone company with a circular and fair model:
A phone easy to repair
100% electronic waste neutral
Made in fair factories
Repairable, sustainable, ethically sourced

It all started with a campaign back in 2011.
Bas van Abel, founder of Fairphone, was raising awareness around conflict minerals and mining practices in the electronics industry.

They came up with the idea of a made-up, non-existing Fairphone.

People loved the concept so much: they got 30,000 people on the pre-order list.

That first year Fairphone made a turnover of 16M euro. They became the fastest-growing technology start-up in Europe.

Fairphone was officially launched in 2013 and today they have:
– 40M euro turnover
– sold 500,000 Fairphones
– released 5 phone versions
– 150 employees across the world

Listen to the episode with Bas van Abel, founder, board member, and ex-CEO of Fairphone, to learn How to balance a sustainable mission with a profitable business model, while taking care of your health as a founder

In this episode you will learn:
– How to operate a circular business model and make it fair
– How Fairphone found their product-market fit through campaigning
– What conflict minerals are and the complexity of the supply chain needed to make a phone
– How to make the supply chain as fair as possible
– How they managed to set up the Fair Cobalt Alliance
– What makes Fairphone fair?
– How to create a business model that supports a longevity mission and is profitable at the
same time
– How to move from an old to a new reality through the theory of change and set impact milestones
– How steward-ownership can help to have a healthier relationship with your stakeholders
– When is the right time to raise VC
– How to hire a management team
– How Bas went into a big burn-out and how to take care of your personal health as a founder

Don’t miss out on this insightful episode – listen here

Watch the full video interview on YouTube – watch here


When you run a media campaign you need either a bad guy or a solution. We didn’t have a bad guy, so we went looking for the solution.

Supply chains are messy. There is no textbook answer. You have to find on your own what’s the best course of action for your product.

We have such a personal relationship with our phones, yet we have no idea how they are made. I try to build a healthier relationship between people and the devices they use.


Bas van Abel LinkedIn

Fairphone website


The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt


Watch my video presentation “3 key strategies to grow a following of 7500+ changemakers on Linkedin” -> watch the presentation

Let’s create a sustainable future

Join Mission First podcast’s & GT Impact’s newsletter (max 2x / month) and

  • Receive the BEST OF episodes of the first season of Mission First (10 audio episodes shorter than a coffee break)
  • Be notified of every new podcast episode + receive the Entrepreneurship Do’s and Don’ts of each guest
  • Receive advice about growth marketing and Linkedin strategy

    No Spam. Unsubscribe easily in one click at any time.

    Most popular episodes

    More recent episodes

    Episodes by topic

    Browse episodes by industry and topic below:

    Get in touch

    We will take 15 minutes to discuss your challenges and evaluate together how and if I could support you.

    It is free and non-binding. 😃

    In French with a Belgian accent,
    in English with a French accent I’m trying to hide,
    or in German with a French accent I am not trying to hide

    Free case study: 3 key steps to reach 7250 green followers on Linkedin