Money & Me: ‘I sold one Bitcoin to pay for my wedding’

Kevin Alderweireldt, founder of a creative tech agency, prefers to invest in companies rather than expensive cars

Kevin Alderweireldt, co-founder of Bureau Beatrice, started investing in Bitcoin in 2011, when it was trading at $120. Antonie Robertson / The National
Powered by automated translation

Entrepreneur Kevin Alderweireldt, 39, endured highs and lows on his way to co-founding creative technology company Bureau Beatrice in Dubai in 2022.

The Belgian chief executive manages all aspects of the company's operations, including finance and business development, and a team of 32 recruited from the likes of Disney and Pixar.

At 18, Mr Alderweireldt launched his first venture while studying advertising and design. He continued running his digital printing company while working in graphic design and advertising.

Subsequent businesses included developing wearable technology for music festivals and trade shows and 3D digital design for the real estate sector.

Mr Alderweireldt, who is married and lives in Downtown Dubai, first visited the city in 2017 for a speaking engagement.

Did wealth feature in your childhood?

I come from quite a poor family of four children. My dad silk-printed traffic signs, which is how I got my interest in graphics. Mum had a car crash when I was eight, so couldn’t work any more.

Clothes came from second-hand stores, toys from flea markets, but I never went short.

I had an amazing youth and a lot of freedom for fantasy and imagination.

We lived in a small house (originally) for one of the gardeners, in a fancy street where industrialists from the 1800s had big villas.

What did you learn from that?

I saw what money could do for you. Even though we didn’t have any, I was never jealous. I’m still not; I’m happy when people are successful.

But when I was young, I said I wanted a Porsche before I turned 30. Not because of the car, but what it represents … if you can buy a Porsche, you’re successful. Now I know better.

I actually got my Porsche when I was 28 … and sold it at 34 to put money into a company. I saw it was a way better investment at that stage than fancy cars.

Was that a financial lesson?

That’s actually the first. I flew to Los Angeles to buy the car, an old timer (model) from 1958.

When it arrived in Belgium, it felt good, but when you’re longing for something for so long and eventually have it, it doesn’t really give the satisfaction you were craving. It’s more the journey, even though I loved the car and had amazing times.

It was better to spend on a house. That’s one lesson … to spend on something that eventually will generate money. The car did gain in value and I sold it for 2.5 times the price paid.

When did you first make money?

I was eight, already trading things at school, like little footballs I bought for five Belgian francs and sold for 20 (Dh1.5), to buy a snack or something because we didn’t get pocket money.

In the summer of 1999, I started working, cutting weeds in tulip fields … it was a horrible job. At 16, I started working weekends as a dishwasher in a restaurant, making my way up to sous chef at 21. I was never afraid of hard work.

Any early financial jolts?

I founded my first company at 16, a booking agency for artists and DJs. My partner was my best friend from when I was seven years old.

He came from a rich family, but one day money was gone from our accounts. He stole about €80,000 ($87,490) just to live in the South of France and I was paying the bills with savings.

His parents gave my part back, but it made me wiser in business.

What steered your career direction?

I was fascinated by innovation, technology and the advertising industry.

I worked in an agency for three years, a low salary to start with but that took me to another level in my career as an entrepreneur because a network is more important than money.

I already ran my printing company and the agency became my biggest client … while I was working there as a graphic designer.

I made 100 times more money from them through my own company on the side.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I’m a saver. I was a spender when I was younger and lived the high life. The first plane I took was at 19 … I flew to Milan every three months to buy shoes. Now I’m saving for later life. I invest and do smart things with my money. My wife switched my mindset on how to treat money.

What are your weak spots?

Since I moved to Dubai, I bought a nice collection of watches, although my Cartier Santos has emotional value because I got it from my wife.

I also like to travel. I find business class tickets a waste of money, but I don’t mind spending on a nice hotel and a fancy dinner.

Cars were a weak point in Belgium. I could definitely live the Dubai lifestyle, but it is a new life we’re building. We bought ourselves an apartment here.

Any financial triumphs?

I sold two companies … that’s where I got leaps in my wealth. To keep it safe, I invested in real estate in Belgium, plus a little on the stock exchange and physical gold.

I bought quite a lot of Bitcoins in 2011 at an extremely low price, $120, and my first Ethereum at €2.

In 2017, I sold one Bitcoin to pay for my part of our wedding, €22,000 for a Bitcoin back then. The rest sold for €45,000 or €55,000.

I don’t see it as an investment, I was just very lucky and it was a necessity to sell to invest in Bureau Beatrice, which was the best investment I could make.

What is your most cherished purchase?

The engagement ring I bought for my wife is the thing I hold dearest, a special antique piece. I wouldn’t stand here today without her.

How do you feel about money?

I have a love and hate relationship with money. I’m happy when it’s in my business account, but I’m not happy when it’s in my personal account because it’s not at work for me.

You need money to have an amazing life, to do great things, but I would rather lose money than stab somebody in the back because that happened to me.

I don’t crave money on a personal level, only in business … to have the business grow, because I see myself responsible for 32 families.

Any decisions you would alter?

Buy an apartment earlier – I started investing in real estate quite late. Even though prices are high here, interest rates are high and the feeling you have living in your own place is completely different. You can always fall back on that as well.

What’s on the horizon?

I have dreams mostly linked to an experience I want to do. I want to live comfortably, to see the world. My big dream is to drive a pre-war car from China to Paris.

My financial goals are mostly linked to certain experiences where you need money.

Money is not the goal for me, it’s mostly the journey towards it.

Updated: January 12, 2024, 6:02 PM