Besides being an entrepreneur and a consultant, Danny Mekic’ (25) is also one of the founders of the young adults’ movement G500. „I think working on something is more fun than lying around on the couch.”
At the age of 25, Danny Mekić has already accomplished more than many do in a lifetime. He started a successful internet company at the age of fifteen, and has been declared the most promising young entrepreneur in the Netherlands several times. He hosts workshops and gives lectures about technology for executives in the business world, he’s the founder of an internet company and the CEO of the consultancy firm NewTeam, he studies jurisprudence at the University of Amsterdam, and still manages to have time to be part of an advisory board for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and to write opinion pieces, be a guest lecturer at universities, and appear in talk shows on the radio and on TV. Oh, and he’s also a co-founder of g500, the political movement for young adults.
Are you in a hurry or something?
„A hurry isn’t the right word for it. I just think working something is more fun than lying around on the couch. I say sometimes that I configure my life for maximal experience. For example, my iPhone has been set to French for a long time, because I didn’t have the hang of that language yet. I like to make things difficult for myself, if I think I can learn from it. And now I really do speak better French than I used to, and I’ve never had to open a single book for it.”
How busy is your life?
„It’s not so bad, really. I often take the morning off lately. I read the newspapers until noon, and have a proper breakfast. It’s all about spending your time efficiently. Live hard, work hard, play hard.”
What drives you?
„Whew, that’s a tough one. It all starts with wondering about things, I think. Why are things the way they are? A key insight to me is realising the world we live in is a social construct. Society, politics, the media: they are the way they are because we’ve decided they should be. But things that are constructed can also be changed. When I was fifteen I noticed registering a domain name could be done a lot easier. So I founded a company that provides that service. When I was invited as a young entrepreneur to give talks, I noticed a lot of things going wrong in companies. So I founded a consultancy firm. When there’s something that bothers me about society or politics, I write a letter to a minister, or an opinion piece. I see something that isn’t right, and I want to change it. That’s also how the founding of g500 happened. We noticed young adults were barely represented in politics. So we came up with a way to change that.”
During his childhood, there was one thing he would have liked to change, but wasn’t able to. His mother struggled with alcoholism for years, and had to be hospitalised regularly. As the oldest child, he took it upon himself to take care of the family. „The hole my mother left behind had to be filled.” His father often returned from work late, so by the age of ten he was taking care of dinner and being supportive to his younger sister. Money was always in short supply at the Mekic family. It all went into his mother’s healthcare and the rent of their Amsterdam-West apartment. His parents borrowed a loan every year to go on holidays, and then it took them a year to pay it off again.
„My father is from Bosnia. And while my mother was struggling with her alcoholism, my father became very occupied with the war in his native country. He’s a radio engineer and was one of the few people in Amsterdam who had permission to build a radio tower. You could see it from Sloterdijk train station, that twenty metre radio tower on top of our building. When the Balkan war broke out, our home turned into a kind of communications centre for Dutch Yugoslavians trying to contact their relatives in the war zone. The Yugoslavian telephone network was down all the time, so the only way to contact the country was by radio. Using that radio, and with the help of Amnesty International, my father was also able to get my grandpa out of a Yugoslavian prison.”
A sick mother, a distant war that still gets very close, and having to take care of the family – all in all, it was „one shitty situation”. And then, the family got a computer. To Mekic, that IBM 286 was a way to escape his turbulent circumstances. He soon learned programming and worked as a volunteer at internet service provider Het Net from the age of twelve. In the meantime he started his own web design company, and that soon started making money. By the time he was fifteen, he made more money than his father.
Although he had employees to answer the phone for him during class hours, it turned out that school and his company didn’t combine well. That’s why at the age of sixteen, he made „the hardest decision of my life”. He dropped out of high school to work on expanding his company without a diploma. Years later, with a state-issued exam and a colloquium doctum entrance exam, he manages to go to university after all.
What did that difficult childhood situation teach you?
„I promised myself I’d never end up in a situation like that of my parents. But as often happens to people with difficult childhoods, it also made me a stronger person. If you grow up in a safe family, where both of your parents are there for you and there’s enough money to develop, then there’s no need to change anything. For me, that need was already there at an early age. The experiences of my childhood have made me want to improve things all my life, for myself as well as for other people.”
And now you want to change politics.
„I work at ministries, I participate in debates, I get Members of Parliament calling me to ask about technological developments. But I was surprised to notice that in that entire world of politics, I didn’t run into a single twenty-something year old in any of the key positions. No one in their twenties gets higher up than being an intern. Why is that? Sywert van Lienden, who’s the chairman of students’ interest group LAKS, realised the problem that young adults are barely represented in politics at all. Young adults’ organisations are listened to, but they don’t get a say in the actual decision making. That’s why we’ve come up with a way to join in with making decisions about this country, a way that suits the way young people see the world.”
Why don’t you start a political party for young adults?
„That wouldn’t solve the generation gap, only make it bigger. We want to rejuvenate political parties from the inside. It’s necessary because the current political system is completely obsolete. We now live in a world where technology has made it easy to get anything you need done, but the political system has been the same way for at least the past eighty years now. A company that’s gone without innovation for that long would never have survived. Young people, but older people too, increasingly go through life browsing around, assembling their identities with bits from all sorts of diversely different sources. Why do you think there are so many undecided voters? Most people aren’t left-wing or right-wing any more, but instead see things that appeal to them in more than one party. That change does not fit the Dutch party system, where you have to pick either the labour party or the conservative-liberal party. That’s why the G500 affiliates itself with several different parties. It’s not undemocratic, it’s a new, more modern kind of democracy.”
What will the future have in store for Danny Mekic?
„Not a clue. I have no goals besides living happily and making other people happy. At any rate, I’ll keep wondering about things. And I’ll see what comes my way, like a ship on the ocean, going wherever the wind takes me.”