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Gisli Olafsson

The Crisis Leader

Doing tech under prime conditions is easy, but under extreme conditions it’s a whole other story. With experience from disasters like the earthquake in Haiti, Ebola outbreak in west Africa and the refugee crisis in Europe: Gisli is one of the leading experts in the world on the use of technology in disaster response. And as the world keeps being hit by more and more natural and man-made disasters, learning how to adopt and collaborate might not be such a bad idea

Gisli Olafsson is a humanitarian advisor at NetHope (a consortium of 50 of the leading non-profits in the world), where he also served as the Emergency response director before becoming Chief Technology Officer of Beringer Finance, the largest technology focused investment bank in Europe. Gisli has been active in the IT industry for over 30 year, ever since he sold his first program at the age of 14. He worked for 10 years at Microsoft, where he was involved in product development, sales, technical evangelism, and most recently as a trusted advisor to national governments and international organizations on the effective use of technology in their operations.

Gisli’s deep understanding of technology, his long-time software product development expertise, and his extensive network inside and outside of the technology industry enables him to quickly provide value to technology companies. Gisli has also over the past 15 years worked closely with the startup community and is an advisory board member and member of board of directors of numerous startups and venture funds. Gisli is also a sought after mentor for innovation accelerators.

Prior to joining Beringer Finance in 2015, Gisli served as the Emergency Response Director of NetHope, a consortium of 50 of the leading non-profit organizations in the world. Gisli is one of the leading experts in the world on the use of technology in disaster response and is a sought after speaker, trainer, and advisor on the role technology can play in enhancing the response to large scale natural and man-made disasters. Gisli continues to serve as a Humanitarian Advisor to NetHope.

Prior to joining NetHope, Gisli has over 20 years of experience in the field of disaster management and was an active member of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, a team of experienced disaster managers which are on stand-by to deploy anywhere in the world on a 6 hour notice to coordinate the first response of the international community to disasters on behalf of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Gisli has participated in disaster field missions in connections with floods in Ghana (2007), Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (2008), Hurricane Ike in Texas (2008), Sichuan Earthquake (2008), Pandemic Outbreak (2009), West Sumatra Earthquake (2009), Haiti Earthquake (2010), Japan Earthquake/Tsunami (2011), Horn of Africa Famine (2011), Philippine’s Typhoons (2012 and 2013), West Africa Ebola Outbreak (2014-2015), and European Refugee Crisis (2015). Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti 2010, Gisli led the first international rescue team that arrived in the country.

The combination of Gisli’s extensive field experience in disaster management and technology background provides Gisli a deep understanding how technology can be applied to solve the most challenging collaboration issues faced in austere environments. This has led him to be appointed to various advisory boards and committees, such as the US State Department’s sub-committee on the use of technology in international disasters. Gisli was named a UNICEF Humanitarian Innovation Fellow and a Technology Partner Network Advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2013.

In 2014, Gisli published the book The Crisis Leader, about the role of leadership in times of crisis, leveraging examples from his missions around the world to provide readers with an insight into the key aspects of leadership critical during chaotic times like disasters. The book has been translated into two languages and been sold worldwide.

Gisli holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Computer Science and Chemistry from Copenhagen University (Denmark 1993) and a Diploma in International Development from University of Iceland (2017). Gisli currently lives in Iceland, along with his wife and 5 children.