It is lunchtime. Because of corona, co-founder René is not at the head office with his team today, but in the living room with his parents Gerrie (81) and Joop van Geer (91). We talk to each other through Teams, about the relationship between father and son, how senior inspired junior, and the design of the spring in the wallet.
Joop: He was interested in everything. He had a fascination for everything 'small'. But he was not specifically interested in technology like I was. He first studied chemistry back then.
René: I really enjoyed everything. Biology, chemistry. I started doing the latter because I liked the laboratories so much. The glass stuff, making things and the tinkering. It was more the romance of chemistry than what it really was. The real creativity I was looking for, I later found in industrial design.
Joop: Yes, I worked in Aircraft Engineering at the Strength Calculation department. I was a lecturer/instructor. There was an aircraft undercarriage there, you could see how a wheel was retracted, that fascinated him.
René: I was very young when I went to TU Delft. Moving things, how something is put together, like that undercarriage and the steam trains in Germany in the past, that fascinated me very much. I was also given technical toys at a young age, fischertechnik, a plastic variant of Meccano.
Joop: He got the toys in parts, first a starter set and after a while he needed more to continue. So, he got that and then he could expand again. I had a colleague who had managed to get hold of a whole second-hand set for his son. He never played with it. He could build a whole tractor with it! But if you get everything at once, you can't build anything. You have too much. You miss the desire to expand. With René, it was like 'I miss this or that, I need this', and that made it a challenge for him.
René: And of course, it also made you creative, by making something with few resources. If everything is available in abundance, it quickly becomes boring.
Joop: It wasn't premeditated, it just grew that way. Looking back, I think it was good. It was the same with my upbringing. I had very little, and I had to make do with it. The scarcity of the war years and afterwards did shape and influence you, of course.
René: In that respect, scarcity is not a bad thing at all. We grew up in a time when, in the beginning, there was little. How often did you go on holiday, how often did you go out to eat? Maybe once a year. Everything was so much more moderate than today. Our children cannot imagine that.
Joop: One click, and it's delivered tonight! We don't buy anything online ourselves. We prefer to go to a shop. To have a look, to hold something in our hands and to feel it. We like going to thrift shops, I see things there from the past and then we say 'oh yes, we had that then too! And sometimes I buy it.
Joop: I have two and Gerrie, my wife, has three. I also put cash in one. They work perfectly! I have not been able to make any improvements (laughs). That little spring in the card protector works very well. It is a very refined design. That is typical of René.
René: I have always had a fascination with 'small'. I dreamt of it as a child, I had a fear/love for it. My attention has always gone to those small things. The mechanical solution and the movement, I have a lot of affinity with that. A product that you carry is an extension of your body, with which you compensate for your body's shortcomings. That is also what I like about our wallets: they are personal items that you carry with you all day long. Making things that are meant for everyone and not for the happy few is what makes me enthusiastic.
René: Of course, we have been on the market with this product for twelve years. We store and examine everything that is returned to us. Then you can tell where the Achilles' Heel is. We repair what we get back or send you a new Cardprotector. The spring is dynamically loaded and is basically the most vulnerable part of the wallet. Every little corner, every rounded corner determines its lifespan. We test it a million times. At one point, we wore out more testing machines than springs!
René: It has to be...
Joop: For the sake of sustainability, yes.
René: You create a lifespan that is as long as possible, but it is adjusted according to the duration of use. With plastic, for example, the lifespan is far too long; it can still be found in nature after decades. But the useful life of plastic is very short. So those two aspects must be brought in line with each other. And when the lifespan is over, we at Secrid make sure that the material is taken back into the chain. We started making the wallets twelve years ago and they're still performing beautifully. The lifespan of the wallet is a minimum of ten years, that's what we were always striving for.
Joop: But there is also the matter of fashion. Do you wear the same thing for ten or twenty years? Or do you keep up with fashion?
René: I am hoping for a longer life span, also in clothing, for example. Garments made of beautiful natural materials that last a long time, that also feels very good. A jumper, for example, that's 40 years old and still going strong. But it will always be different for each product group.
René: I have examples of shoes and a jumper that I have used for a long time, and a bicycle that I have had for a long time, yes.
Joop: I have old hiking boots that I used to walk a lot on, and they are now wearing out a bit. I already have a new pair, but I am still using the old ones.
Gerrie enters the picture with the beloved hiking boots, there is a big hole in one of the soles.
René: You can still repair those!
Joop: They are boots that I have been through a lot with, they have become part of me.
René, I see another mission for you, taking your father to the cobbler!