A Village of Socially Minded People

October 29

Nickolaas van der Velde –

“Finance creating social impact”


Walking around barefooted, stopping into the basement for a yoga session or petting the dog of a co-tenant on the third floor of Innovation Works all help Nickolaas van der Veld take proper breaks to perform at his best.

Sometimes even executives of companies [sit] in bean bags. It’s kinda cool. I like that. That to me, is kind of the way that we do work and the way that we can facilitate good work. Work-life balance is very much a part of the space,” he says.

The office space at Innovation Works isn’t one most finance guys experience. Van der Velde says most of his friends work an 8-5 schedule, wearing a suit. He’s all about work-life balance and says the environment in which he works makes a big difference in his productivity.

“I was next to some of the initial conversations about Innovation Works and what it may look like, and I fell in love with it. I’m like oh my god, this is a space designed for millennials!” says van der Velde. “This is almost like a village of social impact, or socially minded people. I love that.”

He doesn’t want to go to work with his head down, purely for the paycheck, like older generations have often done. He sees Innovation Works as the perfect structure for working hard, but with intent. On days when he’s feeling low, being in the building is an immediate mood boost. Calling his co-tenants, “authentic,” “selfless” and “open-minded,” he feels supported, which is how he can then jumpstart again. He appreciates the dynamics and in-depth conversations he has with those working in offices or open-concept desks around him. It’s the genuine interest in collaboration and working towards a better community that van der Velde loves.

“I think people are just themselves here,” says van der Velde, which means true friendships form.

Van der Velde started at a flex desk, sharing an open concept with others, and now he and his team have a closed-door office with floor to ceiling windows. The windows aren’t just to see through, but anyone can find writing all over them; he writes concept notes in erasable marker, doodles or receives “hellos” from passersby.

Seeing his vision for social change aligning with so many at Innovation Works, van der Velde’s route is using the financial sector.

“I feel like I’m surrounded in a community of peers. The person next door might not do work in the finance industry, but we’re still going to work for the same reason, which is to increase the quality of life of a demographic or a community or to have a more responsible or mindful role to play in the community,” says van der Velde.

He’s the Impact Loan Coordinator for Goodwill Industries, helping entrepreneurs get loans, and the Business Development Manager for Rate Drop Rebate – finding worthy candidates for organizations to hire and then minimize their interest rates at major banks and credit unions.

In just the first year working at Innovation Works, van der Velde has forged important partnerships. He says he was on the phone at his flex desk when an area manager for TD walked up to him and dropped a business card. That lead to a conversation, which lead to van der Velde pitching his work to the district VP and within weeks, his company landed a great contract.

“A bank that we were trying to get into for the longest time, [at first they] didn’t respond, and then because of this space and facilitation of connections, we were able to build and scale business that way. That’s huge.”

A 24/7 workspace lets him schedule weekend meetings instead of finding local cafes for impromptu business. He made it onto the radio when the opportunity arose at last year’s block party, which helped him drum up business, too.

Salad Club Wednesday, Wine Down Fridays, block parties, Edgar and Joe’s coffee shop downstairs, and word of a new rooftop patio are the icing on top for van der Velde.