Nicolas De Santis featured in EDEN Magazine of Los Angeles
Nicolas De Santis, CEO of De Santis® is featured in the June issue of Eden Magazine.
Based in Los Angeles, California and distributed around the world Eden magazine focuses on sustainability issues. The feature article covers Nicolas De Santis and his career as an entrepreneur, advisor to global brands as well as his various philanthropic endeavours and his family history in show business and entertainment. Other figures featured in the EDEN magazine include Jean Michel Cousteau, Bruce Dern, Ringo Starr, Maria Conchita Alonso, Tracey Edmonds and Gina Lollobrigida. Read the full article below.
Nicolas De Santis is an internet entrepreneur, and CEO of De Santis, a strategy consulting firm and technology incubator. He was the strategy director and co-founder of the European online travel portal Opodo and of beenz.com, the web’s first internet digital currency.
He is the son of leading Spanish film, television, and theater actress Maria Cuadra and Italian film producer, writer and philanthropist best known as the founder and Chairman of Gold Mercury International Award, Eduardo De Santis.
In 2004 Nicolas De Santis became the President of Gold Mercury International Award, the think tank and global governance award organization founded by his father in 1961. The award is named after Mercury, the god of commerce. The Gold Mercury International Annual Award is awarded to individuals, including heads of state, for their contributions to world peace, and to companies or organizations for contributing to the development of international relations and product development. Leaders who have received the award include U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, Alvaro Uribe Velez, former President of Colombia and King Juan Carlos I of Spain. Kerry Kennedy, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, received the award for Humanitarian Action in 2006.
In the 1990s, De Santis worked for the European Union under President Enrique Baron Crespo, where he advised on issues relating to European identity and the launch of the Euro currency. As part of the launch of the Euro currency, he developed and launched Captain Euro, Europe’s superhero, designed to analyze the perceptions and emotions of Europeans regarding European identity.
In 2013, De Santis launched the Brand E.U. Centre, an independent, pro EU initiative to improve the management of the European Union brand. As a strategy advisor, Nicolas has created strategies and visions for governments, academic institutions, global brands, and technology startups, such as British Airways, Coca Cola, Prisa, Canal+ and the European Union, to name a few.
The same year, he joined the board of the Global Virus Network (GVN), where he was a senior advisor. GVN is the global network of virology labs fighting global viruses such as Dengue, HIV, Ebola, Zica and now COVID19. De Santis believes that: “As our planet’s population grows exponentially, GVN’s role in tackling old and new viruses will become central in preventing, protecting and curing present and future generations.”
Hi Nicolas, how was it growing up in a showbiz family?
I grew up on movie sets and the backstage of theaters. I was lucky. For a kid, growing up in a showbiz environment can be like living in a constant wonderland. So at home we had all sort of visitors (surrounded by famous actors, writers, intellectuals from Europe and Hollywood) and on set (surrounded by amazing sets, crews, and directors shouting Lights! Camera! Action!). My mother, actress Maria Cuadra, did a lot of great live theater plays, so I learned theater from amazing authors, including Pirandello (The Mountain Giants), Ibsen (Dolls House), and many more. Same thing with my father, who started as an actor (doing over twenty films in Italy, Europe, and the USA) and then moved to produce films. So, for a kid to grow up in that environment is fantastic. Instead of playing with Lego, I was learning first hand how movies and theater are made and got to play with a lot of funny props lying around. My fun days were when my mother or father took me to movie sets or theater rehearsals. For example on those days, I had to wake up at 5 am, get in the studio limousine (how cool for a kid), get to my mom’s private trailer to have breakfast (loved the fried eggs and bacon) and then sit (very silently) next to the director and crew as a member of the crew!
It was intense, and you felt the pressures of the entire production. I have talked a lot about growing up in such an environment with my dear friend Jeffrey Moore (son of 007 Bond star Roger Moore), who had a similar situation growing up. It showed us both how hard you need to work to stay at the top of your game in show business or any business.
Nicolas De Santis with his mother, actress Maria Cuadra in the 1970s.
You might have naturally wanted to become an actor, your mother being a renowned actress, and your father a successful producer. What made you decide to go a different route?
Yes, I did want to follow my parent’s path. I started acting in my hometown of Madrid, Spain, when I was a teenager. In the 1980’s, I was cast to do a short movie drama called ‘Elisita,’ a love story during the post civil war in Spain between an old celibate woman (Elisita) and Antonio (played by me). Elisita is asked to help Antonio with his Latin and math lessons, and as we spend several afternoons together, we develop a close bond. As a kid having to act in romantic scenes with an older woman was difficult, but I got through it, and we delivered a great product and winning a few awards. It was a fantastic first movie experience, and I was the lead! My co-star in the movie, the actress playing Elisita (Encarna Paso), was the main actress in Spain’s first Oscar foreign film (Begin the Beguine), which won two years later.
I then moved to London in the mid-eighties to work for my father’s company, a leading brand consultancy advising many global brands like Disney, Bank of America, and Levi’s. While there, I looked for acting schools to do part-time and saw that the Lee Strasberg actor’s studio had opened there. I attended it for a few months to learn ‘the method’ with some great teachers. I found the ‘method’ very hard to learn at first, but it gave me amazing insights into my feelings and emotions. That was another great experience, and although in the end, I took a different career route, I kept studying film making over the years doing various production courses at the London Film Institute. These show biz training courses were great life experiences that I used throughout my career.
Tell us about De Santis’s mission about improving organizational vision and global sustainability.
Many large organizations think foresight is just an uninspiring ‘vision statement’ phrase on their websites. It is not. A ‘vision’ is a clear strategy that imagines a better future and creates the cultural and organizational drive to build that future. De Santis® was founded to provide long term strategic vision and foresight to corporations so they could become active in creating a better world. To help companies, we need to be good at navigating global complexity to separate the important from the unimportant and tell them what products and services people will want and need. Products and services that make lives and the world better. We know that companies without clarity of vision do not last, and they rarely change the world for the best. Corporations also need to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) of the United Nations to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. We help our clients to contribute directly to these goals and they are building sustainable products and services.
How did you come to create GLOGO, and how can it help create a sustainable global future?
The making of long range vision and strategy starts with a clear understanding of reality. But our world is a complex system exponentially changing, making it very difficult for organizations to have a clear perspective. Most companies develop a strategy with a fuzzy view of how the future will change. Their existing paradigm rules the day and provides them with a false sense of security. Until reality hits. I realized that to advise on a strategic vision for corporations, I needed to be able to help my clients manage global and strategic complexity. To do this, I created GLOGO®, the Global Governance Monitoring System, for Planet Earth. GLOGO organizes our planet’s complexity into eight macro areas that monitor governance, change, and disruption to provide clarity of the present and future state of the world. We monitor areas including GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT, GLOBAL RESOURCES, and GLOBAL HEALTH, where we identified viral pandemics as humanity’s greatest threat long ago. The world has failed to make viral threats a key priority, and now we are paying the ultimate price. To add some good news, with GLOGO, we recently identified a salamander (the Axolotl) whose DNA could regenerate human body parts. This salamander’s genetic code is ten times longer than a human’s, and it can reproduce its limbs, its tail, spinal cord, and even its eyes. It is currently being studied in detail at the University of Kentucky.
Tell us about your book that you’re working on during this quarantine period. What is the book about, and when will it come out?
The book will be titled ‘Futurising Companies: The Magic of Visioning the Futire’. In the book, we explain the Corporate Vision System, a practical tool for creating and managing corporate vision and culture. Corporate culture is constantly blamed for many business failures, but culture is still an unclear and undefined concept in the world of business. In this book, I define it clearly so the business world can holistically manage culture and make the most of it. The book will be out after the summer.
How do you envision our world to change after the quarantine is over?
I believe the world will be very different after this. How we interact with people will change, and how we perceive threats will change, how we decide where to invest will change. I was on the board of the Global Virus Network or GVN (the largest network of virology centers in the world) for two years. There I learned a lot about viruses and pandemics. Viruses are the most significant threat to human life. How COVID 19 ends (or develops) will depend on how long this pandemic lasts and whether it is recurring (every year). For example, the Spanish Flu of 1918 lasted three years before things got better and killed 50 million. By the end of 2020, we will know how hard the planet earth got hit by the COVID 19 virus and whether we managed to stop it or control it. We will learn who did what and what role they played to help humanity restore itself. We are in the middle of writing history. If nations cooperate in good faith, we will win, if not we will lose big. So far we have had 432,000 deaths worldwide, vaccines are being developed, but we could see virus mutations. It is too soon to tell.
How do you think it’s going to change for you and world businesses?
It is time for reinvention and reflection for all of us. Was the life we had before this situation so great? Or could it be much better once we pass this situation? What do we prioritize from now on? What changes are we making? All great questions to answer with a new perspective. In my company, we are pivoting to virtual consulting with new products and online experiences. Many businesses will start by cutting costs first but eventually will have to decide to reinvent and pivot to new areas or die. Many industries, like travel, will suffer greatly and will need reinvention. We will all prepare for future pandemics as a priority as we have realized that a pandemic can do much more damage than a competitor ever could. The world needs to put real priorities first. People need to focus on what matters most like family and health. Health has now become the top priority before anything else. Our priorities were obviously wrong as health took a secondary place until we got very sick.
Could you give any advice to our readers who have businesses on how to strategize with the changes that will come?
No one is certain what changes will happen, but I believe they will be vast. Use this time to make the changes you wanted to do but hesitated to do in the past. It is a time for reinvention. Reinvent yourself, innovate your business model, and rethink your purpose. Create products and services that people need. Find a purpose that motivates you and the people around you to be at your best. A true purpose will keep you inspired, and nothing is better than making your hobby or your passion become your business.
At a conference, you mentioned we have to think as global citizens, especially in a pandemic like we are living at present. Could you please expand further?
We do not choose where we are born or to whom, but one thing is sure, we are all global citizens. We are all born on the same planet, regardless of nationality or country. We must think at a global level, not just at the national level. This pandemic proves that big problems are global, not domestic. So as citizens of this earth, we must think with a global mindset and perspective. Global governance is a cooperative movement among global actors, including global citizens, aimed at negotiating and preparing responses to problems that affect more than one state or region. We, as global citizens, must get more involved in global affairs to be part of the solution.
What should we learn and take from this period?
We should learn that in a globalized planet like earth, problems no longer stop at borders. The U.N. is not enough to manage global affairs anymore. We need new and innovative institutions that make countries and other global actors more accountable faster. We need more grassroots, bottom up movements to speak truth to power and prevent the destruction of our planet. It is time. We will need to learn significant lessons from this pandemic. From where it originated and how to why we could not stop it in time. We must be more involved as a citizen in global affairs. It is our civic duty.
When does a man as busy as you find the time for spirituality. What keeps you grounded and fuels your energy and inspiration on new ideas?
Mindfulness and meditation help me to stay grounded and calm. Both help me prioritize what is truly important in my life, like family and friends. I like the slogan that Ellen DeGeneres uses: “Be Kind to One another.” In days like these, it is vital. I would add to that slogan that ‘when someone is kind to you,’ pass it on. Imagine the possibilities. We have to be mindful of the things that we take for granted, and we can’t get back when they are gone. My father taught me to be a passionate person. He was an erupting volcano full of passion all the time. I lost my father Eduardo last year, and although I worked with him, I know we could have spent more time together doing things beyond work. We always talked about doing a ’round the world trip,’ but we never did. It is a big regret of mine. We kept postponing it. My father got leukemia, and at age 90, he was gone in three months. I spent those three months by his side. That was a big life lesson, so now I do not postpone anything.
You have been presenting Global Awards for Governance since the 1960s. Can you elaborate?
My father, Eduardo De Santis, founded Gold Mercury International in the 1960s as a think tank to debate and improve global peace and cooperation. I grew up discussing global affairs and meeting heads of state, which gave me an incredible perspective on the future of the world. The organization also presents the Gold Mercury Awards for visionary governance in various areas. Historic recipients of our peace award include U.S. President Ronald Reagan for negotiations to reduce nuclear weapons with the Soviets and President Sadat of Egypt for the Camp David peace accords.
What is your message to our readers?
At De Santis, we use the motto ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it!’.
We believe that if you can envision the future like Walt Disney envisioned Disneyland, Steve Jobs, the iPhone, or Elon Musk conquering space and going to Mars then you can do it! So go dream and don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done!
Interview from Los Angeles, California for Eden Magazine. Copyright Eden Magazine 2020.