Exeleon Magazine

Interview With Toine Rodenburg, Global Internet Innovator

Toine Rodenburg

Toine Rodenburg is an international investor and e-commerce entrepreneur, whose succession of online successes began way back in the early days of the dot-com boom. Ambitious and always on the go, he currently guides ventures and investments from his home in Portugal. Recently Exeleon Magazine caught up with Toine Rodenburg for an intriguing conversation, partially reprinted below.

Q: How has your educational background prepared you for success as an investor and e-commerce pioneer?

Toine Rodenburg: I was born in the Netherlands and I began my very first college-level studies there, enrolling in the Moller Institute and the Katholieke Universiteit, both in Tilburg, and later Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Given my career path in technology and e-commerce, my course of study now seems a bit disconnected or impractically eclectic. I focused on the types of courses that at the time were considered to provide a core education, foundational knowledge that every college-educated person was expected to have. In the States they refer to it as liberal arts. In my case, I sought out classes in philosophy, theology, history and French.

If you were to ask me how I apply philosophy to online businesses or investments, I wouldn’t have an answer for that, but looking back I’m glad I didn’t specialize in a highly technical career or course of study at an early age. After all, the field in which I later achieved my greatest success — the Internet — was in its infancy by the time I graduated. I learned what it was capable of, and how to use it in business and in life, along with everyone else in the 90s.

Q: There is a saying that failure is one of your greatest teachers. How did experiencing failure set you up for subsequent achievements?

Toine Rodenburg: Yes, and to be clear there’s been more than one failure. In retrospect I’m happy about that, because it means that I learned valuable lessons from disappointment and frustration at key stages of my career. As you’ve noted, I’m not embarrassed to talk about failure — in fact, I highly recommend the experience. Avoid it if you can, but make it your teacher when you find yourself going through it.

Not long after college I began an ambitious venture, Amsterdam Features International BV. It was my own television production company, but the project ultimately faltered. What followed was a string of part-time jobs, basically entry-level. I was a doorman, a salesman, a farm worker and bartender. I had friends who joked that I was living out the life of Jarod, the fictional character from the American TV show The Pretender, popular at the time. Each week it seemed I had a different job, a new adventure.

At some point, I became aware of this fantastic new invention, the Internet. Those were the days of boxy Macintoshes and dial-ups. The technology was limited, but the horizons were endless. It turned out to be the perfect sector for someone like me, an ambitious young guy with some good ideas. I learned how to apply the emerging technologies in new and creative ways.

Q: One of those ways turned out to be MyMalls, your international online shipping company. What were the keys to making this e-commerce venture a success?

Toine Rodenburg: MyMalls is a cross-border shopping facilitator focused on Caribbean, Canadian and Latin America markets. We have incredible market share in many of these countries, and it’s growing. Our partnerships are one element of our success. Early on, we partnered with DHL Express, Fedex and Sea Freight. Our innovative approach to international shipping and e-commerce eliminates the complications of cross-border purchases, which was a great need for many online consumers.

As our business rapidly expanded, we streamlined our supply chain by establishing a base of two large warehouses in Florida. In addition to shipping, MyMalls offers customers a large collection of lifestyle products in partnership with leading brands. Web stores and boutiques that sell through MyMalls include some of the world’s best-known, such as Mango, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, DKNY, Miss Selfridge, Forever 21, Stylebop, Steve Madden, Neiman Marcus, Forzieri, Sears and Macy’s.

This has really opened up choices for many international consumers, and we continue to refine the service. As I’ve learned in my career — sometimes more than once — a successful business is one that keeps pushing ahead, generating ideas and innovations that can transform an entire industry.

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