About Derek Handley
Derek Handley is a futurist, entrepreneur, and student fascinated by the question of what it means to live well in an increasingly chaotic world.
Wiser and Wiser Conversations
Derek Handley is the founder of Wiser, a platform helping people ask better questions to develop self-knowledge and purpose in their lives. Wiser developed workshops for audiences around the world from a home base in Auckland, New Zealand, where Derek is an adjunct professor. Much of Derek’s work at AUT University has consists of devising new student programming on character and wisdom, aligning with Wiser’s programming for general audiences.
Among Wiser’s signature initiatives is the aptly named Wiser Conversations, a live online conversation and podcast series hosted by Derek. Wiser Conversations arose in response to the Covid pandemic and the lockdowns and travel restrictions that followed. The series has featured dozens of remotely held conversations and interviews with leading philosophers, spiritual gurus, thinkers, and leaders, from Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar to Naomi Klein.
Aera Foundation and Aera VC
In 2015, Derek and his wife Maya created the Aera Foundation, a charitable studio built to catalyze innovative enterprises working toward a more just, humane, and sustainable future. Entrepreneurs, firms, and aspiring leaders supported by the Aera Foundation work in a variety of fields, including drug policy, hunger and food security, environmental sustainability, social finance, and civic engagement.
Derek devotes considerable resources to his role as founding general partner at Aera VC, a global venture capital fund investing in transformative companies tackling climate change and the United Nations’ 17 goals for sustainable development.
Derek and Aera VC have invested in or helped create dozens of companies pushing the envelope in a variety of fields: mental health, addiction, psychedelic-medicines, education, carbon, climate and food.
Although he now calls Auckland home, Derek spent much of his working life in the United States. The last role he held stateside before returning home to New Zealand was Chief Innovation Officer for Human Ventures, a New York City-based company-builder.
Outside of Aera VC’s portfolio, among the many progressive impact ventures supported by the Aera Foundation include Eat My Lunch, one of New Zealand’s most recognisable social enterprises, and WeAreTENZING..
The B Team
In 2013, Derek co-founded The B Team (as founding CEO) with Sir Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz. Branson, Zeitz, Handley, and their fellow co-founders (among them Arianna Huffington, Muhammad Yunus, and Ratan Tata) envisioned The B Team as a not-for-profit global network of business and culture icons acting as a catalyst for bold dialogue, courageous leadership, and brave action towards a fairer, greener and more human economy. Describing their model as a ‘Plan B for business’, the network’s visionary founders set out to address three key forward-looking challenges on a path towards a sustainable future: ‘The Future of Leadership’, ‘The Future Bottom Line’, and ‘The Future of Incentives’. Derek and his partners worked for more than a year to set The B Team in motion before the initiative’s official launch playing a key role heralding accelerated adoption of the role of sustainability in business.
Past Project Portfolio
Prior to the launch of the Aera Foundation and his partnership with Branson and the other B Team co-founders, Derek Handley spent the better part of a decade — the 2000s — immersed in the trenches of New York’s booming media and tech industries. Along with his brothers Derek co-founded and ran The Hyperfactory, a digital technology agency that was among the first to help global brands navigate the ‘Web 1.0’ to mobile revolution. Founded in 2001, the Hyperfactory preceded the public debut of the iPhone by six years establishing Derek’s reputation for mould-breaking innovation and was sold to Time Inc/Meredith in 2010. The transaction was enough to provide financial independence for Derek’s young family, sow the seeds of future charitable efforts like the Aera Foundation, and — as he said in a 2016 profile in Metro magazine — shift Derek’s frame of reference from ‘What’s in it for me?’ to ‘What’s in it for all of us?’
Soon after leaving the Hyperfactory, Derek began work on his first book, ‘Heart to Start’. Published by Random House in 2013, ‘Heart to Start’ was a memoir on self-understanding gained through the rollercoaster ride of building a global startup.
For his work with the Hyperfactory and his contributions to New York’s technology industry, Derek earned a coveted spot on the ‘Silicon Alley 100’ list of most influential technology professionals in greater New York.
Derek is committed to a lifetime of knowledge-seeking. He is currently studying towards a master’s degree in religion with Harvard University and has previously studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston; Victoria University, in Wellington; and Singularity University, near San Francisco. And he was appointed Social Innovator in Residence at the Wharton School of Business, in Philadelphia, from 2016-2017. Derek hopes to visit space one day soon as a civilian astronaut with Virgin Galactic.
Derek has received an array of recognition and awards throughout his career. He is a former Ernst Young ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’, a member of New Zealand Asian Leaders, a AACSB International Influential Leader, a Sir Peter Blake Trust Leader, and was a long-standing member of the board of New Zealand’s largest media company (SKY Network Television).