Leader Spotlight

Fabian3Fabian Pfortmüller (Young Leader 2012)

Co-Founder, Holstee; Co-Founder, Sandbox

What do you like most about Switzerland?
Even though I live in the U.S., Switzerland is home and probably always will be. I love how Switzerland, in my opinion, takes very good care of its citizens. I feel very proud and privileged to be Swiss (despite recent very unfortunate political decisions).

What do you like most about the USA? 
I'm in the U.S. to build startups and there is still no better place in the world to do so. Nowhere else in the world can you find the talent, the innovation, the hunger and the openness for new ideas like in the U.S.

What defines your leadership style?
With my startups I'm still learning every day what leadership actually means and I don't have a final answer. But again and again I see the importance of three elements of leadership:

1) Why is more important than what. Always ask why.

2) Questions are more powerful than statements. Allow people to come to their own conclusions.

3) You can not say "thank you" too often.

Who inspires you?
I am who I am today because of my parents. It is thanks to their openness, their kindness, and their never ending emotional support that I have been able to follow my dreams, pursue an entrepreneurial path and build organizations with a focus on positive impact. I hope I will be as open to supporting the crazy ideas that my kids have as my parents were with me.

What is your greatest achievement?
I believe life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them. I'm extremely proud of building Sandbox together with Nico Luchsinger and building Holstee with Dave and Mike Radparvar.

Do you have any weaknesses? 
Too many to fit here - where to even start? Currently I'm working actively at becoming a more reliable person, being more focused at work, being sure not to over-commit to things and still keep a healthy balance in my life. But again, that's only the tip of the iceberg...

Where do you live?
In Gowanus, Brooklyn, New York City.

What is your favorite place in the world?
I can't think of a more beautiful place in the world than the many Swiss Alpine Club cabins, small volunteer run mountaineering cabins, all over the Swiss alps.

What is the best book you ever read?
The Conference of the Birds, by Farid ud-Din Attar, a wonderful piece of Persian poetry.

What is your goal in life? 
To build very deep relationships with people I love and create things with them that have a positive impact.



About Fabian Pfortmüller
Fabian Pfortmüller is a Swiss entrepreneur in New York.

Fabian is co-founder of Holstee, a design studio that creates inspiring artwork with the intention of encouraging a mindful lifestyle. Holstee's designs have been shared over 100 million times online and are sold in the form of letter-pressed cards, posters, art prints and frames. The company's manifesto has been described by the Washington Post as "the new just do it".

In 2008, Fabian founded Sandbox - the leading global community of entrepreneurial minds under 30. Sandbox exists to provide every young doer with a trusted group of peers and a place to learn, connect and support each other. Sandbox counts 1,200 members from a variety of backgrounds and has active hubs in 31 cities worldwide. Sandboxers have been featured for their work on the front pages of Wired, Fast Company, Forbes, the Boston Globe and covered in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC, Inc Magazine, Vogue and many other media channels.

Fabian is a frequent speaker at various organizations and universities around the world, including Harvard, Yale and Columbia on the topic of entrepreneurship, value driven startups, Gen Y and community building. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London and was recognized as “Top 99 Under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders” by the Diplomatic Courier in 2011. Fabian holds a B.A. in Middle Eastern languages and cultures from Columbia University. You might see him at the office desperately trying to pronounce Arabic words.

Follow Fabian on Twitter: @pforti

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