Tagged : Amsterdam

Tulips, canal houses and… Kiozk

Kiozk Start in Amsterdam

Tulips, canal houses, Anne Frank, the Rijksmuseum, the red light district and coffee shops. These are things Amsterdam is famous for. Starting today, you can add Kiozk to this list.

No, I won’t mind. Really.

Of course I’m exaggerating and Kiozk won’t be as famous as tulips and canal houses anytime soon (if ever). But still, theoretically it’s possible… theoretically…

Why? Because Kiozk, the company I co-founded, launched in Amsterdam this very weekend. Now Kiozk can be used in our Dutch capital, something we’re thrilled about. As you probably know by now, Kiozk shows activities taking place at the users current time and location. This way it’s easy to discover new and fun activities nearby. While preparing the launch in Amsterdam, we literally discovered hundreds of great activities, many of them free of charge. Every day, there are concerts, expositions, boat trips, lectures, entertainment, events and much much more. It’s amazing how Amsterdam, a city I thought to know quite well, offers so many surprises.

A big surprise is the Civic Guards Gallery, located next to the Kalverstraat, one of the busiest shopping street of the Netherlands. It showcases 15 substantial paintings of the Amsterdam Civic Guards from the 17th Century. It’s not only free of charge, it’s also the only place in the world where paintings are displayed in the open air, with only a glass roof to protect them. 

Another great surprise is the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, located next to the central railway station. The conservatory offers several free concerts a day (!), which actually isn’t the only reason to visit the conservatory. As it turns out, the architecture is worth checking out too. The entire building is brand new and the auditoriums are simply beautiful.

There are many more surprises worth mentioning. What to think of free activities like a boat ride, a film museum or a city walking tour and paid activities like a tour of the Ajax stadium and a bike ride to typical Dutch windmills.

I know I’m biased, but you should definitely check out Kiozk.com when visiting Amsterdam. Oh, and follow me on Twitter (here or here) to stay up to date with Kiozk related news.

kiozk accenture innovation award and exchange

Accenture Innovation Exchange

Last week, the 2013 edition of Innovation Exchange took place in Amsterdam. Accenture, which organized the event, provided seven of their partner companies with a list of hundreds of Dutch innovative startups. This list included Kiozk. Three companies were interested in us and invited Kiozk to the event.

This gave us the opportunity to present Kiozk to three amazing companies. And, it’s the first time I attended such an event, which made it even more exciting. We met great people and got introduced to more than just three companies. I’m excited about the future!

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Koning Willem Alexander - Koningin Maxima - Amalia - Alexia - Ariane - kroning Amsterdam

Meet the new Dutch royal family

On April 30, 2013, I was one of the tens of thousands of people who stood outside the royal palace on Dam Square in Amsterdam. Via huge screens, we watched Queen Beatrix end her 33-year reign with the stroke of a pen, signing the act of abdication in the palace. Doing so, she transferred power to her son, the Prince of Orange who’ll be the first king in 123 years. It was a historic moment for sure!

After a short wait, the new king, queen and their three daughters emerged on a balcony above the square. It was great to see King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, Princess Catharina-Amalia, Princess Alexia and Princess Ariane from this close (see my photo above).

Any rational person would say a monarchy is nonsense and we should get rid of it. However, I just think we’re very lucky to have Willem-Alexander and Maxima as our new king and queen. I wish them all the best!

Meanwhile in Amsterdam…

Tomorrow, Queen Beatrix abdicates the throne, thus her son Willem-Alexander becomes King. This all happens in Amsterdam, which is now buzzing with activity.

Today, I was fortunate to see the Queen on the last full day of her reign. This unedited video (above) is shot at the rear entrance of the Royal Palace on Dam Square.

Why a superprovince isn’t the solution

I’m concerned about something for quite some time now. Currently, there’s a discussion in the Netherlands about the so called ‘superprovince’. The Dutch government is planning to merge three provinces into a single big one. This so called superprovince includes the city of Amsterdam and houses over 4 million people.

It’s not the actual merger I’m concerned about. No, it’s the reason why. Doing this based on a vision is great. But the Dutch government appears to have none… unless you count ‘money’ as being a vision. Politicians argue it’s more efficient to centralize the government, which means less managers and more efficiency, thus more decisiveness and a better competitiveness. This results in more jobs and even more money.

But… if a merger of three provinces makes governing more efficient… why not merge five provinces? Or seven? Or why not all twelve?

“We have to do this”

That’s where the “we have to do this” argument comes in. I love this argument, since it’s one of the most commonly used arguments. The beauty is, you can use it for anything. Think, let’s say, of the airline merger which was announced last week. American and US Airways want to merge because the competition merged a couple of years ago. If the argument can be used by commercial airlines, it most surely can be used by the Dutch government as well.

So, why does the Dutch government “have to do this”? Well, competition from other countries and cities is growing stronger. Think of Paris and London, who try to attract the same Fortune 500 companies as we do. If we make Amsterdam and our main metropolitan area stronger (the superprovince), we’ll stay ‘in the game’.

Well, that makes sense. Maybe the superprovince isn’t such a bad idea after all. One question: What happens when our competitors respond by growing bigger as well?

San Francisco Bay Area merger

Recently I found an example which illustrates what happens then. It turns out the San Francisco Bay Area, which is the 13th largest economy of the world, wants to merge for almost identical reasons (but on a larger scale). This merger of the Bay area, which includes the city of San Francisco and Silicon Valley (home to companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and eBay) would result in a superprovince which houses 6,9 million people and gives them a lead over cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City and London.

Wait, hold on a second. London? Are the British going to be affected by this on-other-side-of-the-world-merger? If so, London has to act in order to stay in the game. And if London acts… we have to do something too. Maybe we can merge our superprovince with another one or two provinces… That’ll give us a change. Right?!

Why follow the others?

This is exactly why I’m concerned by the current situation. Ultimately, we’re forced to follow the others’ lead, grow when they grow and increase efficiency when they do the same. And this cycle repeats itself over and over again. Instead, I believe the Netherlands should focus on its own strengths. Doing so, it’s good to realize we have a major advantage. We’re a (densely populated) country with about 17 million people, which should make us competitive with about any western city or region in the world. Hence, let’s only merge things that make sense.

Why not establish a true national police force, a nationwide fire-response system, a few highly specialized hospitals at strategic locations, a nationwide public transit system which encompasses the entire country and a single national park service.

This leaves us with municipalities. They’re ideal to take care of services which require to be close to the people. Like social services, education and basic health care services. This makes it absolutely clear what a municipality is… it’s the local government.

A local and central government

I believe we don’t need another superprovince. Instead, let’s emphasize and strengthen the areas in which the local an central government excel at. Local government is close to the people while the central government is all about big plans and the big picture. Isn’t that all we need for a small country like the Netherlands?