Daniel Dippold and I met a few years ago when he took over to lead Kairos Society in Europe. He has an unwavering passion for building products that help others and contagious leadership skills.
His raw vulnerability in this episode is unparalleled and I couldn’t be more excited to share this episode.
Transcript: The One Away Show Featuring Daniel Dippold
BRYAN WISH: Daniel Dippold is a passionate entrepreneur who has founded multiple tech and ecosystem ventures. In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, he’s been named a top talent under 25. Daniel is a TEDx speaker, Global Shaper, and a frequent advisor to governments and large corporations.
Currently, Daniel oversees the Kairos Society in Europe, where he serves as president. Kairos Society is a community summit and “impact amplifier” of the world’s most outstanding entrepreneurs, who have achieved an aggregate valuation of over 10 billion Euros. Kairos Europe counts over 80 full-time and part-time workers among its ranks and is supported by notable personalities such as Bill Clinton and Richard Branson.
Currently, Daniel Dippold is working on launching a 9-figure blockchain driven fund, a project investment group, and an investment firm with 3.2 billion euros under assets where he serves as a supervisory board member. Daniel’s vision is to make double-digit investments available to the broader public.
Today, we’re going to talk today about your One Away moment. I know you have two, but why don’t you start off by telling us about the first experience that means so much to you?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: At the time, I was in Maastricht in the Netherlands where I had been invited to give a talk about personal development for founders. After events like these, you’re usually invited to dinner. That’s how the organization does it, too.
I was having such a great time with everyone in attendance, and especially with one person in particular; a woman named Julia Zhou. We ended up talking until 5AM, even though I had a flight at 7AM the next day. I went straight to the airport. That was an incredible moment of connection.
Afterwards, I taught about a summit I wanted to launch, which already had the structures in place. Julia joined it, and eventually became the person who made it what it is today. She’s been with us 1 ½ years now. It’s incredible to see what this idea has developed into. It all originated at that one dinner we had together in Maastricht.
BRYAN WISH: Why did Julia Zhou stand out to you?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: Sometimes, you just feel a connection to certain people. You just know that it feels right. I can’t explain it. For most of the people I’ve found this type of connection with, I can’t explain why I feel so happy being around them. I just know they are the people I want to work with.
Julia Zhou was one of them. Firstly, I felt incredibly confident that this idea was going to evolve into something bigger. I can’t perfectly explain why. Secondly, I was really impressed that Julia was incredibly young. I think she was only 22 when I met her, and she already was showing incredible vision by thinking big and bold. That mindset was exactly what I needed.
It seemed pretty much impossible, if you think about it, for such young people to launch a summit like this, but Julia believed in our vision. I spent the first four months working alone, while everyone told me, “You’re stupid, Daniel Dippold. This is never going to work.”
Then, finally, came the moment I was sitting with Julia in Maastricht, and finally had someone saying, “Oh, this is incredible. I think we can do more. I don’t think you’re thinking bold enough.” This got me. I was so convinced that she was the right fit. It was incredible.
BRYAN WISH: What did her energy give off to you without even having to talk to her?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: It’s really difficult to describe. It was all about feelings. We have a lot of names for it, like charisma, chemistry, and so on. At least to me, chemistry describes it the best because it’s a mutual term. It’s something you emit and something that the other person emits. Those two resonate with each other personally.
Suddenly, you feel at home. You feel like you’re at exactly the right place at the right point in time, and things are as they should be. Having this feeling a great sign when I meet a new person.
When I feel this kind of chemistry, I know we can do great things together. I don’t think it’s about anything people do, like having incredible communication abilities or other skills you can observe in a rational way. I think it goes on to a deeper level. That’s why I find it so hard to describe.
BRYAN WISH: What is Julia Zhou’s role in your life today?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: Julia is the current Communications Director of the Kairos Europe Summit. Initially, she just joined the organizing committee. She’s also my girlfriend now.
BRYAN WISH: Talk about Julia and how she made the Kairos Summit better. What did she do that enhanced the experience?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: Julia sees a lot of things that I don’t necessarily notice when it comes to people and the connections between them. Emotions, for instance. She definitely knows when something is wrong in the room, and people don’t feel comfortable. She knows when I’m being too harsh. I have very high standards, and I push the team hard. Julia is always the one telling me, “You’re pushing too hard. People feel hurt.”
In terms of leading the team and developing my interpersonal skills, she played quite a significant role. Secondly, in creating that magic at the Summit and creating that vibe which is about people connecting on a personal level. Usually, people run around conferences in business attire, only talking about business. Nothing meaningful happens. You’re just exchanging business cards.
At Kairos, we said, we wanted to do the opposite. We want people to genuinely become friends and stay in touch after this conference. This is why we’ve been thinking completely differently. We had that parkour session. We’ve got founders of billion-dollar companies together with students to run through the grass and roll around and whatever. People connected on a personal level doing activities like these. They came out of their shell. Creating these experiences, there’s definitely been a lot of intellectual ping-pong between Julia and I to make this possible.
BRYAN WISH: You mentioned that you admired that Julia has true leadership skills. You define this by saying it’s about defeating the ego. Can you elaborate on how her leadership style is so effective, and how you’ve implemented it into your own life?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: When I met Julia, the first conversation we had was about letting go of the ego. It was purely about personal development. Going further in life means drifting away from just thinking about you egotistically. That was the intellectual ping-pong we had again. Very often, we found that this was the key, for us at least, to leading a team.
Once you stop thinking you’re the most important person in the room and start putting aside your individual problems and desire to seem important in other people’s eyesm you start truly caring about the team.
You start thinking:
“How can we actually push this forward?”
“How can I help the people in the team grow?”
You don’t care about yourself as much when you start caring about something bigger.
This can only happen if you put your ego aside. That’s the moment when you start truly caring about the business purpose, about the team, about every individual person and how you can help them grow. Ego is the first layer you need to put away and solve before you can move forward.
Great leaders sacrifice themselves for their teams. They think about the bigger vision rather than purely thinking about themselves. I think most current leaders fail because in their minds, they come first, and then the team comes next. That mentality puts a strain on the entire organization.
BRYAN WISH: You’re right. If you compromise in the short-term for your own gain, you’re sacrificing long-term for your team. In today’s world, it’s such a turnoff when people put themselves first and do it in a way that’s flashy. To have that humble, rooted spirit is the best path forward.
I’m fascinated with this concept of belonging and the sense of the research behind it and how to find it. The more I’ve learned, it’s about introspection and personal development and understanding and discovering yourself first and how that leads you to finding your community, to find your people where you fit in the world. When you met Julia, what led you on that path to meeting her? Why do you think she was led to you to make this One Away moment possible?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: This happens all the time in life. We call it serendipity, but in the end, it’s just people understanding where they are in life. It’s all about having that introspection and understanding of themselves. Then they take a certain route in life. That route is usually very narrow.
If you truly know where you want to go, you know exactly what you need to do. On that journey, you’re going to find people who know exactly what they want to do, as well. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be on that journey.
When you connect with them, you see from their perspective that they know what they’re doing. You understand what they’re doing, too. That connection creates this magic moment.
Julia wouldn’t have been part of Founders Club in Maastricht if she didn’t know she wanted to become an entrepreneur. At the same time, she always wants to grow as a person. That’s why she’s been part of that personal development talk. She knew she wants to connect with people who work around that topic to learn more and to grow. That passion got her to that dinner.
I was part of that talk because I’m passionate about the topic, too. Back then, I was working on a project in China about personal development. I was so invested in it. I wanted to talk about it as much as I possibly could. That’s what brought me to Maastricht. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have agreed to come such a long way to the Netherlands to talk about it.
In the end, it felt like complete serendipity. As you said, though, it was personal introspection first. It started with us connecting deeply as we talked about a certaion topic. That topic got us both to Maastricht at that point in time. That’s why we connected so well.
BRYAN WISH: The right person who comes into your life, when you’re ready for it, accelerates specific areas in an unbelievable way outside of work, in your personal life, in your work. To have those people who can really change the course and trajectory of your life, because you’re ready for that connection to happen, is fascinating.
It sounds like Julia has helped you in so many ways personally and professionally. What do you find the most challenging about being with someone who is so likeminded?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: We’re both very progressive. Progression can be very detrimental to yourself. You don’t want to push it too much because in the end, progression necessarily has an element of comparison. You’re always kind of comparing you to your former self. If you’re not growing or getting better, superior to your former self, there’s no progression. By doing that too much, you can start to lose yourself.
In the end, life is about beauty and enjoying it from the bottom of your heart. Purely putting a structure on that, saying, “This is progression and this is what I need to do.” Every day is about growing and getting further on that ladder. It can be painful sometimes, in my opinion.
We are both very adamant. We want to be great founders. We want to make an impact in the world. We want to solve big challenges that the world is currently facing. If that drive takes over, it becomes detrimental. If it’s solely about ambition, it stops being purely about your intrinsic motivation or about you feeling enjoyment when you’re doing the work.
Sometimes, you need to be grounded. If you’re with another person that is very progressive as well, you’re usually not grounded. You’re thinking bigger and bigger and bigger. This is good to a certain extent, but sometimes it’s beneficial to zoom out and have other people in your life to say, “Daniel Dippold, chill out a little bit.”
Today, I’m going to the biggest trampoline park in Europe. I’m super excited about letting myself go, jumping with a couple of entrepreneurs from the Kairos Society, and just having fun. You tend to forget these things if you’re very progressive people. This is something that can happen.
As much as it’s a challenge, it’s also a great opportunity. It’s hard to come up with a pure challenge or something that’s purely bad. There are so many good things about this relationship that I can’t really come up with a pure, negative challenge.
BRYAN WISH: You mentioned someone else who has also had a huge impact on your life and her name is Laurin. Would you mind talking about how she created another One Away moment for you?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: It’s actually a guy.
BRYAN WISH: Tell him I’m sorry.
DANIEL DIPPOLD: He’s not going to mind at all because he’s an incredible human being. I met him at an event I was organizing in Switzerland. I very much look up to him as a person. The energy this guy emits is incredible. He was standing there talking to a guy who became my boss later on. I wasn’t getting why this guy was a boss afterwards.
To me, Laurin is a person who is doing everything right. He was incredible in his leadership and I just thrived off of the energy he was emitting. Afterwards, I took a course at university together with Laurin. We reconnected, and decided we wanted to do a project together. It was so much fun. We laughed our asses off half of the time. We were genuinely enjoying each other’s humor.
At the same time, we were getting a oad of stuff done. Laurin is an incredible worker. and it’s been super amazing to work with him. Eventually, he became my co-founder for Unlimitix. That originated when we had that cause together in university because we knew something was there. Something, at one point in time, we’re going to do it together. It took us a year, but it happened eventually.
BRYAN WISH: You had that same feeling, didn’t you? You met him and said, “That’s the kind of guy I want to go build a business with one day.” What have been some of the things you think you’ve been able to do a lot better because of him, and vice-versa?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: Laurin is of integrity. In German, you can use integrity as a verb. That’s Laurin to me. Every single time he says he’s going to do something, he gets it done. He never over-promises and under-delivers.
He’s super genuine. He’s so clear and confident in everything he does. That’s incredibly inspiring to me. I know with every single thing Laurin says to me, I can trust him 100%. No matter what he does, he’s going to deliver.
Having this kind of relationship with each other is incredible. I wasn’t like that before. I sometimes had a bit of a tendency to overpromise. Laurin taught me how awesome it is to have that feeling knowing whenever he says something, it’s going to happen for sure. It’s so much easier living life knowing that everyone delivers what they’re talking about. This inspired me to be much more like this as well.
On the other hand, Laurin is also a very practical guy. Sometimes, he’s not thinking bold enough, whereas I’m very visionary in my plans. I don’t want to talk too highly of myself but sometimes I’m just thinking about stuff that is very unrealistic and I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
For people like Laurin, who are very grounded and practical, it can be helpful to see a new point of view. Striking this balance in our relationship, with him being a little more practical and me being a little unrealistic, really helps us run the business. You know both of those types. You need the two poles. It synergizes perfectly.
BRYAN WISH: It’s a hard balance to get the right brain and the left brain in sync. It takes a lot of process. You talk about Laurin that he has a sense of soft skills. How would you describe his soft skills and what makes it so effective?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: His soft skills are, by definition, difficult to describe. They are things like leadership and integrity. One example is that when people are around Laurin, they just love him and want to work with him all the time.
Anecdotally, Daniel Marasch, a former chairman at Lidl – where he managed a $3 billion budget – is an incredible leader. He joined the 40-some leadership team, where most of the people are 50 plus. Afterwards, he joined Kairos and wanted to join Unlimitix. The moment he met Laurin, he told me, “I’m going to do business with you two guys.”
Laurin has that indescribable quality that just pulls people in. It’s difficult to describe how he does it, but everyone who works with him immediately feels comfortable. I think it’s because of his integrity. The moment he starts talking, you know you can trust him. You can trust that he’s going to do what he says.
Very few people have that quality of trustworthiness, in my opinion. Most people talk and talk and talk, and very few actually make it happen. Laurin is the opposite. He talks a little bit less, but when he says something, it has so much substance. He thinks about everything very carefully before he talks. You notice that thoughtfulness when you’re talking with him. Some people notice it consciously, others subconsciously. It doesn’t matter. After that meeting, you’re always like, “This is an incredible person, and I want to work for that guy.”
BRYAN WISH: Where do you think that comes from? Do you think it’s innate, or do you think he’s had life experiences that have molded him to have those capabilities?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: I think it’s a mixture of both. He was born with a specific aura. It comes across in the way he talks. This is the way he gives himself. At the same time, Laurin went through a couple of very difficult experiences. I don’t know if I can actually talk about those. I do know he took them as an opportunity, rather than a detriment. He used adversity as an opportunity to grow. That played a crucial role. He’s faced significant challenges, and he’s mastered them all. After you’ve mastered those challenges, you become a different person.
BRYAN WISH: I feel like people who have overcome a great deal of challenges at an earlier part of their life at 7-8 years old to 26, I think it’s really good to happen. I think so many people hit a wall at like 35 or 40 and they have this midlife course and they don’t know what to do.
I think if you can learn how to navigate the road early, you become a much better leader, communicator, friend, or whatever it is early on. I think that ability to overcome them, help others, and impact people through those experiences is so powerful. He’s using some of those gifts through the adversity he came through and people feel that without him having to say it which is very powerful. When we look up to people, it’s not so much about what they say. It’s those actions and how we think of them by a conversation. It’s really neat to have someone like that by your side.
DANIEL DIPPOLD: I’d love to connect you two. I think you would get along very well. I think it’s also be perfect for the podcast you’re doing.
BRYAN WISH: We’ll have to have him on. I’d love to have some more European perspectives. Too many podcasts are U.S. focused. It doesn’t have to be like that. We can make this show a little more global. Do you have any parting words about Julia or Laurin?
DANIEL DIPPOLD: In general, it’s not particularly about Julia and Laurin. I think “You’re the average of the five people you converse with most,” like Jim Rohn says. A lot of people have heard that quote these days, but I think very few people understand its significance. You are inspired by the people around you subconsciously and consciously. Having people around you that constantly make you aware of where you can improve, but at the same time, make you aware of your strength and give you power by saying, “You’re such an incredible human being and you should continue what you’re doing,” is incredibly rewarding.
I am where I’m at in life because of the people I’ve been with, not because of something that happened in my life where I said, “Okay, I’m going to change everything and now I’m going to be super successful.” This integral moment didn’t happen for me. It all came down to incremental changes. I was able to make those changes because of the people I work with. Julia and Laurin are two examples of that. There are so many more. Fifty percent of the learning, for me, is about people. I learn from people. It’s incredibly rewarding being with people like Julia and Laurin who help you grow continuously.