Get to know Propeller’s world-class team in our ongoing employee spotlight series. Today, we talk to Jan Wouter Kruyt, who serves as business development lead for Europe. He is based in the Netherlands.
What do you do at Propeller?
I lead the business development in Europe, but as the first guy on the ground in Europe, I’m really a jack of all trades. I do a bit of sales, but most of the time my efforts are spent on setting up the European dealer channels and the relationships with our local partners. Right now, we have a few dealers that were set up before I joined, but the bulk are being onboarded today.
What’s your career background?
I have a background in aerospace engineering, and went into research first. I dwelled on the lovely biomechanics of birds—learning from birds how to make robots better fliers, basically. It was a lot of fun. I worked at Harvard and Stanford, and it was amazing to do this kind of research with my colleagues there, but I had to be at that place to realize it wasn’t for me.
It was then that I pivoted to industry, where I ran into Francis and Rory, Propeller’s founders. I started the drone delivery startup Flirtey with them and three others. We were building drones that could fly to you and lower a package into your hands with a winch. We built that hardware and software in a matter of weeks—I was super impressed with what we were able to achieve in such a short amount of time.
After that, I moved back to the Netherlands, where I spent four years in technical management roles in the drone industry, and rose to VP of strategic partnerships. Then, finally, Propeller decided to move to Europe. I’ve always wanted to get back with Francis and Rory, and this was the right time.
Before working at Propeller, what’s the strangest or most interesting job you’ve held?
Working in research is pretty strange. Sometimes you find yourself in a wind tunnel looking into a strong gale and being shat on by parrots. Working with live animals was amazing and unexpected, but was so worthwhile. I had a lot of fun training parrots and working with them. That’s probably the right phrase, too, because if they don’t want to work with you, you’re not working with them.
Where are you from? Where have you lived?
The north of the Netherlands, close to a town called Groningen. I was in the States for my research, in Massachusetts and California, and then I was in Sydney, Australia, when I worked with Francis and Rory the first time. Now I’m back in the Netherlands, in Leiden.
What’s your favorite Propeller memory?
First week on the job in Thailand wasn’t bad, that’s for sure. It was my first time meeting the Propeller team, and I was super excited to start because I knew the engineering team would be stellar. But everyone, really, was that impressive all across the board—every field, was full of amazing people. I didn’t expect it to be excellent all around. That was pretty cool to find.
I also just finished up a business trip around Europe with John Frost, which was pretty great. Seven countries in two weeks. I could keep going, but the other thing is how supportive the Trimble team has been. They’re good people all around, and it makes for a wonderful experience.
If you could be any piece of worksite equipment, what would you be and why?
The drone. The high-energy, all-over-the-place one—that’d be me.
If you could attend any professional sports game, what would it be and why?
The world championship of football where the Dutch beat the Germans in the finale while playing in Germany.
Do you have an office nickname? What is it?
Janny (pronounced like “yawn-ee”). When I moved to the US, my full name, Jan Wouter, didn’t work, especially with the Dutch pronunciation. Just “Jan” also didn’t really work, they said it like “yawn.” So when I went to Australia, I introduced myself as “Jan” (said like “yawn”) and they immediately changed it to “Janny.” Rory says “my Janny,” which sound like mayonnaise.
If you could do any job at worksite for just one day, which would you choose?
I haven’t been at Propeller long enough to drive the big machines on site. So I’m dying to get on those big earthmovers, like an excavator, or a giant dozer, or a motor grader. That’s something I really look forward to.
Any fun facts, talents, or superpowers to share?
I’m Dutch, so I can make more guttural sounds in a minute than you.
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