Tagged : technology

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.

The end of organised sports

The end of organised sports

What sport did you do when you were a kid? Played football? Basketball? Tennis perhaps? I bet you quit doing this by the age of 18 (probably even earlier). Whatever the reason, you’re not alone. In the Netherlands 80 percent of all kids quit organised sports by the time they turn 18. In the United States the situation is even worse. A staggering 70 percent of all kids quit by the time they turn 13 (!). Dutch Olympic Committee NOC*NSF wanted to know why and what they can do about it. We helped them and turned our idea into a company along the way.

logos netflix cnn facebook twitterAs it turns out the answer to the first question (why do we quit organised sports) is fairly simple. And no, it’s not because we don’t like to sport anymore. Instead, the world changed, we changed. Because of the Internet our world slowly changes in an individualistic and on demand centric society. Want to buy music? Visit iTunes. Watch a movie? Launch Netflix. Interact with people? Use Facebook. Check out the news? Visit Twitter or CNN.com. These modern technologies change the way we live, the way we communicate and even change the way our brains work. We’re so accustomed to buying and doing things whenever and wherever we want that we can’t imagine ourselves to schedule anything weeks in advance anymore. Hence, we even start to treat our jobs like this. Many of us are allowed to do our job whenever and wherever we want, as long as our results are good. As it turns out this is exactly how we think about sports as well. We don’t care how we sport, as long as we get the result we want.

So, what results do we want? To meet other people? Sure, this used to be a primary reason, but it’s not our goal anymore. We see other people 24/7 on Facebook, hang out with friends and love to meet new people. For this, we don’t need sports anymore. Instead, most people use sports to stay in shape, lose weight, gain muscles, feel healthy or simply to show off (yep, those people exist too). The fact of the matter is we can achieve these goals without organised sports. Of course, playing football in a team is lots of fun, but it needs to fit my schedule. I want to practice it whenever and wherever I want, I only care about the results.

You must think I’m exaggerating. Do we really think like this? Well, yes. What are the most popular sports for students and (young) professionals? Jogging, running, cycling, swimming or the gym. Yep, these are all individualistic sports which can be practiced wherever and whenever you want. This is exactly why starchitect Rem Koolhaas loves to swim. He travels the world and has a schedule which doesn’t allow  fixed moments to sport. But he can swim whenever and wherever he wants (every city has a swimming pool). Another example is Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, founder of The Next Web. Every once in a while a tweet comes by where @Boris proudly presents us with his running time (“2,15 km at a 5’11″/km pace”). As is the case with Koolhaas, Boris sports wherever and whenever he wants and reaches his goal while doing it.

Most of us travel a lot less, but the idea stays the same. I for example love to bike. On quiet days I sometimes bike for hours, on busy days I don’t bike at all. So, why always sport on the exact same time and location every week? The world doesn’t work like that anymore. Heck, my brain doesn’t work like that anymore, which obviously is bad news for all traditional sports clubs like tennis, football and basketball.

After we discovered the problem we came up with a solution. Together with Dutch Olympic Committee NOC*NSF we created a website which offers organised sports on demand. As you know, we branded it kiozk.com and tested the idea in Groningen. Amsterdam is next. Kiozk essentially is a long list with sport activities based on the users current time and location. Think of activities like ‘play tennis for an hour’, ‘join our basketball team for training’ or ‘try Taekwondo’. Users browse the list of activities and there’s always a sport which can be practiced.

Sounds great? Well, not so fast. To our surprise most organised sports clubs couldn’t be persuaded to join Kiozk, not even with the help of Dutch Olympic Committee NOC*NSF. The most important reason not to join? Most clubs were unhappy about the idea to offer sports on demand. As someone put it, “we’re in the business of memberships, we’re not interested in someone who joins our club just one time.” This forced us to let go our sport-centric model and approach other organizers of activities, not related to sports, as well. With huge success. We now have museums, lot’s of nightlife, lectures, tours and big events in Kiozk. Suddenly some commercial sport clubs saw the potential and also joined. Even FC Groningen, one of the most well known professional football clubs, is now part of Kiozk. Ironically we now have everything but the traditional sport clubs. It seems they continue to deny what’s happening.

Desktop en mobiele Kiozk

Let’s hope the organised sports soon realise their way of doing business needs to be adjusted to again excite students and (young) professionals to join. We still love organised sports… Their system just doesn’t fit in our world anymore.

iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iCampus

Apple is busy building a new campus in California. Their soon-to-be headquarters costs several billions of dollars, is set to be net-zero energy and is designed by one of my favourite architects, Sir Norman Foster. It’s gonna be a remarkable building for sure. But there’s more to it than just these facts… because there’s a video!

This video made me think of something I always knew, but never fully realized; A building is basically ‘just a product’, thus the same compared to other products like cars, electronics and furniture. Similar to these products, a building also needs to be designed, sold and ultimately be used.

We’re not gonna focus on the design of this ‘product’. I think it looks great, both the design and functionality are awesome and the campus looks transparant but essentially is a fortress… in other words, it’s exactly what we think of Apple and its products. Instead I want to talk about the ‘selling-part’ and explain what this has to do with this building ‘being a product’.

New-Apple-Campus-Rendering-cupertino-steve-jobs

Apple didn’t have to sell the project to their Board of Directors. Steve said yes, which is all you need. The project also didn’t have to be sold to the architect (“Norman, will you please design this building with us?”). When Norman Foster got the call he probably said “yes” before Steve could even ask the question. However, the building needs to be ‘sold’ to the Cupertino City Council. If they don’t like the design, think it’s too big, too whatever, the project is off.

Although few can imagine the city council to disapprove the project, it’s still a possibility (remember Steve Job’s battle to tear down his own house?) This is why Apple left nothing to chance. In 2011 Steve Jobs personally presented the proposal to the council. In October 2013 Apple again presented their plans in front of the council. This time they also showed a short video (see video above).

In this video, Apple presents their campus as if it’s a new iPhone. They talk more about the process of the design than the actual features. Typical for Apple, they don’t talk about the giant size of the building, or the costs, or the jobs it will bring to the area (the ‘specs’ so to speak of). Instead, they focus on trees and the landscape; “80 percent of the site will be green space”.

jony ive and norman foster

The video itself is a typical Apple production. We see the product (the building) and its designers. Norman Foster functions as as Jony Ive and designers use phrases which can also be used to describe the newest iPhones. What to think of:

“This project is pushing the boundaries of what’s technically possible in almost every aspect.”

“Everything is hand crafted for this project.”

Remember they’re talking about their new campus, not a new iGadget. To me this proves Apple really has design and marketing in their DNA (as if I ever needed any proof, which I didn’t). They did an incredible job to market this building as if it’s a consumer product.

Steve Jobs was proud to be involved in four revolutionary Apple products: the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Let’s add a fifth revolutionary ‘consumer product’ to the list… the iCampus.

Note: The Cupertino City Council unanimously approved the project in October 2013.

Stupid strategy

It’s stupid strategy and doesn’t make any sense. Or… does it? Fast rewind to the beginning: I watched the movie Glory the other day. It’s about the first all-black volunteer company fighting in the US Civil War. The movie includes some great battle scenes which are fought using Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous military strategy.

American Civil War musket close formations

Napoleon’s strategy involves so called ‘muskets close order formations’. Put simply: Formations from both sides walk onto the battlefield until they see each other. Then something strange happens. First hundreds of soldiers from one side shoot at other side, effectively killing and injuring many enemy soldiers (who don’t even try to evade the bullets). Subsequently the enemy soldiers are allowed to shoot on the friendlies, with basically the same lethal result.

It’s not the first time I watched such a battle scene, but every time I do I think it’s strange, no stupid, to fight like this. If I’d been a general I’d never allow anyone to get a clear shot at my soldiers. Why didn’t the Civil War generals use a different strategy. Were they stupid, or…?

Napoleon’s strategy

When the French Emperor used ‘muskets close order formations’, muskets were very inaccurate weapons. Napoleon figured if hundreds of soldiers shoot their rifles at exactly the same moment, at least some bullets must hit the enemy. The French essentially created the world’s first machine-gun, an inaccurate but highly effective weapon on the battle field.

Slag bij Wagram 7 juli 1809

So, what went wrong in the Civil War

Well… muskets improved a lot. They were far more accurate. The fact that the Civil War soldiers could now hit what they aimed at made all the soldiers at the other side ‘sitting ducks’. For the first time soldiers didn’t randomly shoot their rifles in the hopes of hitting something. This time they actually managed to hit the enemy.

I wonder… Why didn’t the generals change strategy after a few of these battles?

The answer is simple, but shocking: They didn’t know better.

Many of the officers on both sides of the war received their military training at West Point. At West Point all cadets studied tactics under the same professor, who turned out to be fascinated by Napoleonic Warfare. In other words, both sides knew and thought alike. They were so focussed on Napoleontic Warfare that no imaginable alternative to this strategy existed. The only thing they could do… continue the war, minimise the loss wherever possible and hope for the best.

1861 – 2013

Back in 1861 Americans studied and copied Napoleon, who’s army became the world’s model of a fighting machine. Americans wanted to copy this success thus recreate the “Grande Armee” in America, which turned out to be a disaster. Technology improved but strategy didn’t. Today, the same is happening, but this time it’s the Europeans who make the mistake. The United States have the worlds most advanced army and won a string of victories in the past decades. So, it’s no surprise that European countries modeled their armies after their American counterpart, much like the Americans copied Europe 150 years ago. The problem is… the European armies and strategies never evolved after that. They’re still very much the same compared to 30-40 years ago, although we now have new technologies like drones, highly advanced missiles and the threat of cyberwar.

predator drone USA Civil War

What I’m saying is… we shouldn’t repeat the mistakes America made in 1861. Technology, weaponry and wars evolved during the past decades… it’s time to adjust our strategy (and expectations of war) likewise.

Note: I didn’t intent to write about strategy or the military. I simply couldn’t help myself after finding out the reason behind the ‘stupid strategy’ of the US Civil War. Suddenly I realised we still make (some of) the same mistakes today. Sometimes history does repeat itself

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!

kiozk accenture ABN Amro Sanoma Wegener Vodafone KPN