Businessman of the Year: Tech entrepreneur Ali Niknam

Tech entrepreneur Ali Niknam, founder of online bank bunq, received the prestigious Businessman of the Year lifetime achievement award this afternoon. Niknam was awarded this honorable distinction on the first day of the fair by real estate entrepreneur Cor van Zadelhoff. Van Zadelhoff was named Businessman of the Year in 2022 and presented the award, with a big smile, to Niknam under the watchful eye of the enterprising Netherlands.

The prize was established last year by initiator Yves Gijrath, founder of MASTERS EXPO and Paul van Riessen, editor-in-chief of business magazine Quote. 

The annual 'Businessman of the Year' award focuses on Dutch entrepreneurship. The oeuvre prize is an ode to entrepreneurship. Niknam's track record is impressive. In 2012 he published the book 'Entrepreneurs are never lucky'. TransIP, its first Unicorn, managed to grow into the largest domain name and web hosting provider in the Benelux. Niknam started online bank bunq in 2012. His motive: 'a bank should be about people and not about money'.

Social awareness 

Ali Niknam's social involvement is great. Nikman is co-founder of the People for People foundation, which focuses on aid for refugees from all regions, and initiator of Next Level, which wants more diversity in the tech sector.

''Niknam is one of a kind''

Niknam is the proud successor of real estate icon Cor van Zadelhoff. Yves Gijrath from MASTERS EXPO: 'Niknam is one of a kind. He has a no-nonsense mentality and foresight. He knows how to translate his brain into new decisive companies that meet consumer needs. What I find particularly stunning about him is the simplicity with which he achieves this. Quote editor-in-chief Paul van Riessen adds: “We often see entrepreneurs fighting for the unicorn goal. At Niknam it has not stopped at just one unicorn, but there are now three. In addition, Ali is not afraid to challenge the established order.”

Guest jury member Cor van Zadelhoff: “I have great admiration for his enthusiasm and perseverance. Niknam has been and still is very important to the banks. We will see Ali often.” Good relationship between Niknam and co-founder & director of the number 5 foundation, Laurentien van Oranje: “Ali is incredibly resilient and agile. He deserves this lifetime achievement award.” Gijrath: “Ali Niknam is not only Businessman of the Year 2023 because of the special business results, but also because of his big heart and actually being there for others.” 

The jury report

The Netherlands desperately needs entrepreneurs like Ali Niknam: people who think differently, think inclusively and have a good dose of courage. Ali is prepared to tackle an institution like DNB. That characterizes his unorthodox way of doing business. His logical insight is of an excellent level. Based on simple and logical thoughts, Ali is able to create great and successful companies. Niknam has already done that three times, despite his young age. According to those involved, Ali has a great social heart. He was at the basis of People For People and Next Level, among others.