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16 January 2024

Young and ambitious – that's Jesse van der Veen, just like Kees van der Leij when he joined the Kooi family a decade ago. Now, Jesse is stepping into the role of Managing Director at Kooi International, succeeding his mentor. The latter is embarking on a new adventure, leaving Kooi behind. "My significant advice to Jesse is: enjoy!"

The story unfolds in the winter of 2013. Seasoned sales manager Kees van der Leij commences his journey at Kooi by distributing Christmas presents to customers alongside founder Pieter Kooi. The young company, only a few years old, greatly benefits from Kees' sales expertise. Reflecting on those early days, Kees shares, "The round of Christmas presents spanned two days, taking us through Belgium, the southern Netherlands, and North Holland. And in the early months of 2014, I officially began my tenure."

Navigating through the early years: Learning from colleagues

Four years later, Jesse van der Veen joined the team. "As a young international sales manager, I frequently accompanied Kees on various outings, gaining valuable insights into sales techniques, customer interactions, and negotiation strategies. Naturally, I learned a lot not only from Kees but also from Pieter Kooi and other colleagues right from the beginning."


Greek adventure: Overcoming challenges in Evia

Jesse covered countless kilometres during this period. One memorable journey was to a wind farm on the Greek island of Evia. 'The route there was an adventure in itself, navigating through mountains with narrow roads and steep precipices, occasionally hindered by mountain goats. We had four UFOs with us, and it was our responsibility to keep them in the air. The combination of the challenging terrain—4,000 meters above sea level—the unique island location, and the language barrier turned it into a grand adventure. Thanks to the collective team effort, the project was a success, allowing us to make significant strides in Greece.'




On the photo: after the wind farm on Evia, more projects became possible for Kooi in Greece such as here in Agriokerasia (Enercon).

Solar Kooi Greece2

Spain and Nordic expansion

After 3.5 years, Jesse became the team leader of Kooi International and later the commercial manager. Growth opportunities abound at Kooi, after all. "I am most proud of our successes in the Spanish market, thanks to colleague Jelmer Kloosterman especially, which eventually led to an office and a trained team on site," Jesse looks back. Last year, he also spearheaded Kooi Nordic, the team that will supply northern Europe with UFOs and RED systems.

Jesse's Vision as the New Managing Director

As the new Managing Director for Kooi International, Jesse is now taking a new step in his career within Kooi. "I am particularly energized by dealing with people, witnessing their development, and steering this. Commercially, of course, I also want to achieve results and conquer new markets," he emphasises.


J.Vanderveen Kooi

Kooi = Life - A Reflection on Kooi's essence

In doing so, he takes over from Kees who, along with founder Pieter Kooi, will focus on mentoring young and promising startups. "Kooi is life. It's as simple as that," Kees reflects. "You wake up with it and go to bed with it. In the early years, it was uncertain whether Kooi would make it, and whether we would survive. When you see what's there now! And I've always enjoyed it a lot, overcoming obstacles together every day. With this energy, I always want to get up."

On the photo: Jesse van der Veen and his team will focus mainly on Spain and Italy.

Calabria: Triumph in Southern Italy

In the endless series of adventures, Kees mentions one exemplary job. "It was in the early years of Kooi, and we had a project for the German wind turbine manufacturer Senvion in Calabria, southern Italy. A challenging area in many ways. Trading there as a foreign company is a significant challenge. But it succeeded! That later turned out to become Kooi's trademark. In any country, any culture, and under any circumstance, we can do our work."

Focus on Spain and Italy

Jesse has now forged plans for the future together with colleague Jelmer Kloosterman. "We want to further expand Spain to a certain level. For this, we are going to hire two additional people for the team. We will also continue in Italy, with two new people and an office in Milan," Jesse says. "Colleague Dieke van Bolderen has already done wonderful preliminary work on this. Now, there is still a lot to do. 


Kooi present at a wind farm in Puglia, Italy


Finding joy in the journey - Kees' advice to Jesse

In doing so, Kees has a personal piece of advice for Jesse. "For me, a working week sometimes consisted of a car journey to Germany. There you would get on a plane to Poznan for an appointment. Then by car to Warsaw and from there by plane to Edinburgh, finally coming home on Friday, tired but satisfied. Looking back on it now, it was actually quite special. But did I enjoy it enough? No, actually not. So, my advice to Jesse is: enjoy! Enjoy the journey you are about to take!"

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Jens Ole Bentzon
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