Ali Niknam, the founder of Amsterdam-based neo bank bunq, has received the prestigious Businessman of the Year award, recognising his contributions to the business world. 

The award was presented on the Master Expo fair’s first day by real estate entrepreneur Cor van Zadelhoff, who himself was named Businessman of the Year in 2022. 

The annual award, initiated by Yves Gijrath (founder of MASTERS EXPO) and Paul van Riessen (editor-in-chief of business magazine Quote), celebrates Dutch entrepreneurship. 

This year, the award focuses on Niknam’s exceptional career and entrepreneurial spirit.

Ali Niknam’s journey!

Ali Niknam’s journey in the business world has been nothing short of inspiring. 

In 2012, he published the book “Entrepreneurs Never Have Luck.” 

Ali Niknam started his first unicorn, TransIP, which has now grown to become the largest domain name and web hosting provider in the Benelux. 

In 2012, Niknam ventured into the online banking industry and founded Bunq, driven by his belief that a bank should be about people and not money. Currently, bunq consists of 10 million users. 

Last year, Niknam also launched the People for People foundation with Dutch entrepreneurs, including Joris Beckers, and Robert Vis, to assist people of all nationalities who seek safety and refuge in the Netherlands. 

In April, Niknam has also applied for a US banking licence. 

The neobank wants to expand its operations to the US market with a straightforward proposition – a banking service that allows US citizens and companies to avoid banking bureaucracy by opening a fully functional foreign bank account in just five minutes.

bunq reported its first net profit in the fourth quarter of 2022 and anticipates this year will be profitable too. 

Niknam is the proud successor of real estate icon Cor van Zadelhoff. 

Yves Gijrath from MASTERS EXPO says, ‘Niknam is one of a kind. He has a no-nonsense mentality and foresight. He can 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.” 

Paul van Riessen, Quote editor-in-chief, adds, “We often see entrepreneurs fighting for the unicorn goal. At Niknam, it has not stopped at just one unicorn; there are now three. In addition, Ali is not afraid to challenge the established order.”

The Jury’s report

The jury report highlights the need for entrepreneurs like Ali Niknam in the Netherlands, highlighting his ability to think differently, promote inclusivity, and demonstrate considerable courage. 

Guest jury member Cor van Zadelhoff says, “I greatly admire his enthusiasm and perseverance. Niknam has been and still is very important to the banks. We will see Ali often.” 

Niknam’s unconventional business approach is demonstrated by his willingness to challenge institutions like the Dutch National Bank.

“According to those involved, Ali has a great social heart. He was at the basis of People For People and Next Level, among others,” says the report.

Laurentien van Oranje, co-founder & director of the number 5 foundation, says, “Ali is incredibly resilient and agile. He deserves this lifetime achievement award.” 

Gijrath concludes, “Ali Niknam is not only Businessman of the Year 2023 because of the special business results, but also because of his big heart and being there for others.” 

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