Duncan Stutterheim on the Business of Dance Music

Duncan Stutterheim, founder of Dutch entertainment enterprise ID&T, gave an intimate talk at the Amsterdam Dance Event in October.

ID&T has been around since the early 90’s, and is one of the largest electronic dance event organizers in the Netherlands, with events such as Sensation, Mysteryland, and Tomorrowland in its portfolio. Stutterheim recently announced that the US entertainment giant SFX acquired the final 25% of his company.

Here is a video we made of the talk, where Stutterheim discusses house music, success and failure in merchandising, changing trends in music, and going global.

On the impact of house music on the scene:

“And then the house music came, and I never experienced a fight ever in my whole life again. Never. And that feeling of being together and laughing and always having fun…and then, everybody was dancing. Then, a guy could just dance by himself and that wasn’t strange. Where a year before if you danced by yourself, it was like ‘what is he doing?’. So I think that was the whole change. To be exploring that new world, and the first new steps, and exploring yourself.”

On changing trends and nearing bankruptcy:

“And then we made a decision–we have to change. Hardcore is going down. Let’s take Mysteryland from a night festival to a day festival. We moved to Amsterdam. But from 40,000 tickets, we dropped to 15,000 tickets. We lost nearly 1 million Euros and nearly went bankrupt. We were lucky to have some funds left from the music business. But we did it, and the second year we found the new beautiful site where we are now, and then we went from 13,000 tickets back up to 40,000 and sold out again. So those were big changes and steps for ID&T.”

When asked about limits:

“I think the limit of electronic music…there is no limit. Because it’s getting easier and easier to make the music. There are some producers in the office already who are 13 or 14, with tracks, and you’re going ‘wow!’. With the electronic distribution of the music, there’s no limit. With the creativity, I also think there is no limit, because if you want to organize an event, if you really want to do it now, next week you can organize an event.”

The DAFT Treaty: An Easy-Going Portal to Europe for Americans

A new batch of films from Streetfilms about cycling in the Netherlands has been making the rounds among biking enthusiasts lately. They show the world-class cycling infrastructure and stories of the real people living their lives on bikes here.

As a new Dutch resident myself, I’m always thrilled to see videos like this. I send them to folks back home to illustrate how delightful it is to live in a place designed for people instead of cars. But really, my verbal descriptions don’t do it justice. Take a look at these two below:

I’ve been noticing a lot of Americans commenting around the Web about how they’ve had enough of the dangerous, ugly streets in their cities. And I’m sure many of them would love to come to the Netherlands to experience Dutch cycling first-hand. Because the Dutch streets are so different from those in the US–it proves to be transformative for most people who experience it for the first time. It’s hard to really visualize how all the pieces fit together to make things work so well, with so little effort, unless you are physically here.

These days, coming to the Netherlands has never been easier. Websites like AirBnB, Couchsurfing, etc. make stays of up to 90 days as easy as taking an extended vacation–for US passport holders, there’s no additional costs, visa or paperwork required.    

Dutch American Friendship Treaty

For those who want to stay longer than 90 days, US citizens can live and work in the Netherlands under the little-known Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT). The DAFT was created in 1956, and it allows US citizens to set up a business in the Netherlands and obtain a residence permit.

There’s a wide range of people taking advantage of the DAFT: the mobility-impaired, retirees, writers, designers, programmers, consultants, etc. Most are running one-person freelance businesses, working on short-term contracts with internationally oriented organizations and companies. The DAFT can be used to engage in any service or trade, except for those requiring specific certification like doctors, teachers, and lawyers. The capital investment is relatively small–€4,500 for a sole entrepreneur (which remains yours–you maintain this amount in a bank account to prove your compliance while you’re a resident).  

Under the DAFT, your business doesn’t have to be profitable as long as you can show that there are minimal business-related activities. (This is key for people like retirees.) Another unique advantage is that you don’t have to prove that your business will benefit the Dutch economy, as other foreign business owners are required to do. You only have to deposit and maintain your capital investment in a Dutch bank account, and submit minimal paperwork periodically.

The DAFT is a great option for people in all stages of life: young people just getting started in life looking for international experience, people in mid-career looking to expand, or retired people who just want to live the good life. (This lovely video below is from Bicycle Dutch, showing the benefits of good cycling infrastructure to the elderly and mobility impaired.)

Make it Easy on Yourself

If you think you can bootstrap the DAFT process yourself, the government and accounting fees are less than €2,000 ( along with the €4,500 capital investment).

But you can avoid a lot of frustration, disappointment, and potential extra costs by getting some assistance. I used the services of Jeremy Bierbach of Avocado Legal. For a very reasonable flat fee, he fills out all of the forms and sets up your appointments, helps you with your simple one-page business plan, and makes sure you present all of the required birth certificates, etc. Most importantly, before these meetings, he gives you the coaching necessary to know what to expect, and what you should or should not say to the various government entities. He is also available to answer any questions that come up during the process.

Now that I have my business registered and my DAFT permit, renewing my residency every few years is basically effortless.

First Steps

As you can imagine, relocation costs vary widely depending on the scale of your life–from simple modesty to extreme luxury, the Dutch have you covered. Here in the Netherlands, you can find furnished rentals, or you can find plenty of second-hand and discount shops for inexpensive housewares. Also, you don’t have to have a car. Used bikes are easy to find for less than €100, so your transportation costs can be extremely low. Health insurance is available to all for around €130 per person per month. And utility and food costs are comparable to those in the US.

The Netherlands has a great diversity of types of places to live–from small hamlets to bustling international tourist hotspots, like Amsterdam. As it is the cultural and tourism center of the country, it is the most competitive and most expensive place in the country. But even there, rents are still generally cheaper than the first-tier and second-tier US cities like New York or Austin.

Rotterdam, on the other hand, is physically the largest city in the country, and the industrial, shipping, and banking center. With a lively, diverse culture, modern architecture, and much larger places to lease, it’s on the rise–and in most other countries it would be considered the most livable city. Along with its own small commercial airport, it’s only 30 minutes by high-speed train from the big airport Schiphol, with Amsterdam only 15 minutes further. The city is growing, and in the future it will rank as one of the most vibrant, multicultural places in the world.

There are also many other other cities, towns, villages, and hamlets that have complete sets of amenities. From Den Haag to Arnhem, Maastricht to Deventer, the Netherlands has plenty of almost perfect places of every scale to live in.

It’s a Relaxed Cosmopolitan Life

Commerce is vibrant here, with a good mix of both small mom-and-pop shops and bigger retail. People are generally active, and with easy access to nature, are relaxed and relatively healthy. There is a distinct lack sprawl here, and they keep the countryside intact between cities and villages. Even with one of the highest population densities in the world, the countryside is usually an easy 5-10 minutes away by bicycle. There is a rural-like ambiance here because the cities and towns are quiet and aren’t dominated by speeding cars.

And because getting around is so easy and quick without a car, people are far more social. These daily, incidental interactions are a vital part of the cosmopolitan quality found in the streets and town centers, and has a huge impact on the cultural and business environment. It attracts a goldmine of energy and talented people, which is why so many of the top international companies in the world have found homes here. 

When You Go Back Home

At the 2013 SXSW Eco conference panel Bike Curious? Dutch-style Cycling in the US, they talked about making radical changes to the streets of Austin, TX and other cities, inspired by visits to the Netherlands. These in-person experiences are starting to have a big impact in the US, even in places like the capital of Texas.

With international travel as easy as it’s ever been, Americans are in a great position to be able to visit distant and different places to help inspire them in making their home communities the best they can be. And for a lot of people, the Netherlands proves to be a great jumping off point.

Update: An earlier version of this article was also posted on Urban Times and Momentum Mag.

A Singapore-Style Food Hawker Center in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is a great city, and there’s not a lot to complain about living or visiting here–except perhaps the lack of diversity of the street food. However, with a few changes, the city is poised to become one of the world’s leading street-food destinations.

One of the unsung components of a healthy business and social ecosystem is a thriving street food scene–providing readily available, high-quality, affordable food. In the Netherlands, you can’t go far without bumping into a herring stand. In major cities in the western world, the hot dog/currywurst/sandwich stand has been a great urban asset for the past century. Whether you call it “street food” or “hawker food”, it’s hard to imagine a thriving metropolis without it. 

In Southeast Asia, street food is everywhere and has been for centuries. It often takes the form of independently-owned stalls clustered together. Sometimes called “hawker centers”, these are permanent halls or covered plazas, with food stalls around the edge and a single seating area in the middle. 

food court, hawker center

A Singaporean food hawker center

The Singaporean hawker center pictured above is centrally located in an urban setting, with independent chefs in each stall preparing their own signature dishes. In Singapore and Malaysia, these food courts are central to their communities. This is in stark contrast to the “food courts” that North America knows so well–usually in suburban shopping malls, populated with chains like Cinnabon and Sbarro.

US Food Court

Typical North American mall food court

CNN TV host, chef, and author Anthony Bourdain says hawker centers are one of the most important ingredients for a robust culture. They have energy, vibrancy, and a lack of pretentiousness, with people from all walks of life gathering to eat together, creating an environment conducive for business, networking, and casual socializing.

Recently, food trucks have taken off in the US, diversifying the food options and allowing for impromptu food court formations by “circling the wagons”. In the Netherlands, the annual Weekend of the Rolling Kitchens festival started 6 years ago, which brings 75 food truck vendors to Amsterdam in the spring for a weekend festival. And this past summer, every week you could find multiple food courts featuring new trucks and types of food.

On Wednesdays this summer, just across the River Ij from Amsterdam Central Station, a collective of food trucks gathered in front of the former Shell Oil office tower. The trucks drew a big crowd each week, using the outdoor tables and chairs already set up for the cafe in the bottom of the tower. Hungry people came out to lounge in the sun together while they enjoyed their food.

Weekly Wednesday food truck court in North Amsterdam

Food trucks, North Amsterdam, Amsterdam Noord

Lots of options in the food truck court

The food truck trend has even spread to more traditional places like Haarlem, just outside of Amsterdam. In August, the city hosted the first edition of ProefPark Haarlem, sort of a trial food festival featuring only food trucks. The weekend pilot was a success, with easily more than 10,000 people coming through to try out the different foods.  

Food Truck Festival in Haarlem

One of the 30 food trucks at the Haarlem festival

More food trucks in Haarlem

This is great in the summer, but given the cold and wet Dutch winter weather, getting under a common roof in a food hawker center setting would make it possible to have this style of street food year-round. It would also provide a permanent location and anchor for community and other related development around it. 

At the large indoor street-market in the nearby industrial city of Beverwijk, there is a Singaporean-style food court. Its popularity, along with the recent success of the food trucks in Amsterdam, suggests that developing a Dutch-adapted, city-center indoor food court would find enthusiastic support. 

The city of Rotterdam is already building a large indoor market hall in its central square, with offices and apartments on top. Using this building as a model, we could imagine what a modern light-filled Dutch food court could be like.

Rotterdam market hall

Rendering for the Rotterdam Market Hall, scheduled for completion in 2014

Along Amsterdam’s riverfront on the north side of the Ij, the former industrial docklands are slowly being transformed into a high-density city-center hub, and would be a perfect place for a permanent food court. And like the Singaporean food courts, it could be open late into the night, providing much-needed food options for the large-scale nightlife scene planned for the area.  

Amsterdam Noord

Amsterdam North, perfect location for the first food court development

The Netherlands is a hotbed of expat activity, and is famous around the world for its international orientation. These potential food courts would add to the appeal of Amsterdam as a top location for technology, design, and innovative companies, as well as entice the younger skilled expat workers that the city is trying so hard to attract. While we can’t change the Dutch weather to make al-fresco street food dining a year-round possibility, we can give it an indoor home.

Next up in this series: A more in-depth look at the details of a successful southeast asian food court.

Many thanks to John Giusto and Alex Pineda for contributing photos. 

Bike Parking Sign in Amsterdam

Open Data Startup Profile: Bike Like a Local

Our third Open for Business profile is Bike Like a Local, an app that helps cycling tourists in Amsterdam discover the city safely and easily.

Even with Amsterdam’s world-class cycling infrastructure, it can be confusing for tourists who aren’t familiar with it. Any newbie who has accidentally stepped into a cycle lane, or heard the ding-ding-ding of a bicycle bell during rush hour, can attest to that. And how do you know where it’s safe to park your bike?

“The best way for tourists to explore Amsterdam is by bike, but there are many things they don’t know, and there’s currently no way for them to know,” said Erik Romijn, founder of SolidLinks and creator of the app. “With 800,000 bicycles and many cars, trams, buses, etc., it can be daunting and even dangerous. I thought this app would help.”

Bike Parking

Especially in central areas like the Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein (where tourists tend to go), there are many places where parking a bike is forbidden. Bike Like a Local shows tourists where they can safely and legally park their bike, using a database of more than 60,000 parking spaces in 17,000 locations in Amsterdam based on open data from the government. The options are shown in a map view format.

The “Find My Bike” feature then helps them remember later where they parked. If their bike happens to get stolen or removed by the city for improper parking, Bike Like a Local will provide information for how to get it back.


Find My Bike Screen

Find My Bike screen in the app

Safety Tips

The app also gives cycling tips for the Amsterdam newbie. Cycling in Amsterdam, and the Netherlands in general, is exceptionally safe, but tourists are more at-risk of injury because they are often inexperienced. If you’re not familiar, you wouldn’t know to watch out for getting your wheel stuck in the tram tracks, or to look out for drivers’ blind spots.

Bike Like a Local Tip Screen

Bike Like a Local Tip Screen

Open Data Challenges

Providing the information in the app requires accurate, up-to-date data from the various government entities on bike parking and strict enforcement zones. Luckily, when Romijn started developing Bike Like a Local, he already had a lot of experience with government open data. He’s developed several apps using open data, such as Openbaar Vervoer, which gives realtime status for Dutch public transport.

In Amsterdam, much of the open data is in the jurisdiction of the local government districts, called stadsdelen. In the end, Romijn had to go to 7 local districts to request the data. As an experiment, he decided to go to each stadsdeel directly without the help of his city contacts.

“I wanted to see what it would be like for someone brand-new to open data to make these requests,” he said.

Romijn detailed his experience on his blog, but in summary, it took 9 months and many inquiries to obtain all of the data he needed from the different districts. There’s a law in the Netherlands that requires the government to respond to open data requests within six weeks. After that, they have to pay the requestor €20 per day. Many of the districts got close to exceeding the deadline and having to pay the fines.

“I was starting to think that collecting these late fees from the districts could be a new business model for Bike Like A Local,” Romijn said.

He eventually got all the data he needed, but the process revealed that there’s still a lot to be improved in the flow of open data from the government to the public.

Bike Parking Locator in the App

Bike Parking Locator in the App

Lifestyle Business

Romijn has bootstrapped the app development so far, and he’s not looking for outside investment at this point. To research his business model, Romijn referenced a city survey that says 22% of all visitors to Amsterdam will cycle sometime during their visit. With 12 million visitors annually, that’s 2.5 million cycling tourists each year. If even 1% of those tourists buy Bike Like a Local, there’s a good potential for revenue there. It may not be the kind of numbers investors are interested in, but it’s not bad as a lifestyle business for an indie developer with a portfolio of other apps.

Future of Bike Like a Local

Romijn will continue marketing the app and adding features, including making use of the iPhone sensors and GPS to provide contextual tips to cyclists. He’s also looking at adding tour capabilities. Bike Like a Local is getting some attention in the press, and is continuing to add new users every month.

Cyclists in Vondel Park

Tourists love to bike in Amsterdam along with the locals

Bike Like a Local a great example of a useful, fun, and potentially profitable app that uses government open data.

Related Links

Erik Romijn’s blog series on his experience with the Open for Business program

Tomorrow’s Cities: Do you want to live in a smart city?

Kickstarting Business with Open Data

Open Data Resources for Europe and the Netherlands

Earlier this year, Appsterdam launched “Apps for Amsterdam: Open For Business“, an initiative with the Waag Society and the Amsterdam Economic Board to help three local startups build their businesses using open data. Many thanks to SoftlayerBig Nerd RanchSolid Ventures,Li Chiao DesignLikefriends, and Glimworm for lending their support and expertise to the Apps For Amsterdam: Open For Business program.

Check out the other Open for Business Startups:

Open for Business Profile: iKringloop

Open for Business Profile: Voradius



Open Data Startup Profile: iKringloop

Our second Open for Business startup is iKringloop, an app that helps urban dwellers give away their unwanted things to people who can use them. The team at iKringloop launched the beta version of the app in late June for Android and iPhone platforms. Since the launch, the app has been downloaded more than 1,800 times, with people already posting and exchanging items on a daily basis.

So how does it work?

Using Ikringloop with a couch

Say you buy a new couch. What do you do with the old one already sitting in your living room? Instead of waiting for your city’s bulky trash pickup day, or just putting it on the street and hoping someone will pick it up, you can list it in the iKringloop app.

It’s a simple system. Users take a photo of their lamp, chair, refrigerator, or whatever they want to give away, note the condition and location, and post it on iKringloop. People looking for the item find it through a search in the app, and then contact the owner to make an appointment to pick it up.

Posting an item in iKringloop

Contacting the owner in the app

Users can share their items right from their smartphones. When an item is posted, the app also sends an e-mail to nearby thrift and charity shops (“kringloopwinkels”). If it turns out no one is interested in the item, the app will enable users to contact their local municipal or commercial recycler to arrange for a pickup.


The app creates a win-win situation for everyone–city residents can easily get rid of their unwanted things, while someone else gets a free item they can use. It’s especially handy for urban environments, where bulky items left on the street are an eyesore at best, and a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists at worst. People living in more rural areas can also use iKringloop to give away or find things.

Municipalities also love the idea of iKringloop, because it saves money in garbage transport and disposal (even incinerating the trash is expensive). The app also provides a line of communication between the municipalities and residents. For example, iKringloop is partnering with the City of Amsterdam to provide additional services to users, such as reminders for bulky trash collection days.

The app is free for users to download–the revenue will come from licensing the app to municipalities, commercial clients, and garbage collection companies, as well as premium notification services for users.

Giving Back With Open Data

When talking about open data, the discussion is usually about obtaining datasets from the various government entities, or the challenges of getting the data in a usable format. However, the other important part of open data loop is providing the data to the ecosystem in the first place, and iKringloop is doing just that.

“iKringloop plays a role in open data by encouraging people to provide useful specifics regarding where, when and how much bulky trash they dispose of,” said iKringloop co-founder Thomas Adelaar . “It’s exciting, because the new open data created from the app translates to savings, effectiveness, and efficiency for smart cities.”

iKringloop Map View

Find available items near you using the map view


Marketing Through Community

As part of the Open for Business program, Matteo Manferdini from PureCreek gave a marketing workshop with targeted advice for each group. Manferdini emphasized that for any new startup, it’s important to make clear what problem you are solving. Or even better, what is the pain your customers are experiencing, and how will your product take away that pain? For iKringloop, the pain is pretty clear–people need a convenient way to get rid of their stuff, and municipalities need to save money on handling and processing their city’s bulky trash. So the main challenges for iKringloop are 1) making people aware of the solution, and 2) getting a critical mass of items in the system.

A logical first step is social media. iKringloop is using both Facebook and Twitter to build a community of active users and interact with them.

“Because we’re a socially-minded and lifestyle app, we figured it was natural to focus on social media and viral word-of-mouth to get the message out about iKringloop,” said co-founder Thomas van Armaan. “We’re building a great following, and it’s growing every day.”

They’ve also launched a moving billboard campaign on Amsterdam sanitation trucks, and the bourgeoning iKringloop community is noticing.  A fan spotted this one on Damrak in Amsterdam and snapped this photo:.

iKringloop on Truck

Photo taken close to Dam Square in Amsterdam by an iKringloop fan

Building Momentum

Because their app provides a clear societal benefit, and involves open data, co-founders Adelaar and van Armaand have access to various related public forums and contests, which gives them even more exposure. They were shortlisted to present at the season finale of Circulaire Stad: Joint Venture, and they were the winners of the first Apps for Europe Business Lounge contest at the recent Hack de Overheid open data hackathon in Amsterdam.

As they get more users in the app, iKringloop plans to continue to build their exchange and communication platform based on feedback from their users. The team is also already talking to other cities about providing the app across the Netherlands and throughout Europe.

Giving your old stuff a second life has never looked so good!

Related Links

App biedt oude spullen een tweede leven

Gun spullen een tweede leven met iKringloop

Accenture Innovation Awards 2013

Stadbericht: Bekendmaking Zes Pitches Ciruclaire Stad

Ikringloop wins first Business Lounge Event

Kickstarting Business with Open Data

Open Data Resources for Europe and the Netherlands


Earlier this year, Appsterdam launched “Apps for Amsterdam: Open For Business“, an initiative with the Waag Society and the Amsterdam Economic Board to help three local startups build their businesses using open data. Many thanks to SoftlayerBig Nerd RanchSolid Ventures,Li Chiao DesignLikefriends, and Glimworm for lending their support and expertise to the Apps For Amsterdam: Open For Business program.

Check out the other Open for Business startups.

Open for Business Profile: Voradius

Open for Business Profile: Bike Like a Local






Open Data Startup Profile: Voradius

Earlier this year, Appsterdam launched “Apps for Amsterdam: Open For Business“, an initiative with the Waag Society and the Amsterdam Economic Board to help three local startups build their businesses using open data. The next three posts will feature their journeys to establish great companies around open data. 

In April, the team at Voradius launched their app–an online search engine that allows users to find products in physical stores in the Netherlands. Available on the web, iPhone and iPad (Android version coming soon), the app is already linked to the inventory systems of 3,500 shops with 50,000 products in Amsterdam, including all of the branches of Kijkshop.


Voradius on the Street

Voradius on the Street


Say you want to buy a particular pair of running shoes. Before you go from shop to shop to see if it is in-stock, the app will tell you which shops in your vicinity have it, how many are left, and the price. Then, instead of ordering it online, you just go to the shop and pick it up. The app also provides general shop information like phone number, opening hours, and location.

Watch the Voradius promo video to see the app in action:

Enter Open Data

Voradius is working hard to create partnerships with retailers to link to their private data and inventory systems. From there, how does public open data fit into the picture?

“We wanted to also provide contextual data for shopping, such as geo-locations of nearby parking garages, real-time traffic data, public transport information, cash machine locations, street activities, and events,” said co-founder Martijn Jansen. “We wanted anything the city could provide from their datasets to enhance the shoppers’ experience going out into the ‘real world’ to do their shopping locally.”

Luckily, all of this data is available, and Voradius has worked with the city to get the right datasets, in the right formats, from the various entities. Navigating this labyrinth can be a challenge, and the Amsterdam Economic Board is connecting Voradius with the local government contacts as they continue to incorporate the data. The act of obtaining the data for Voradius will also help to make it available for other entrepreneurs for future ventures.

For parking information, Voradius is also looking to integrate the Parkshark API from Amsterdam web and app developer Glimworm IT. The API uses open data provided by the City of Amsterdam to find the closest and cheapest parking in the city.


As part of the Open for Business program, Bolot Kerimbaev from Big Nerd Ranch gave a workshop with targeted advice to each group. Kerimbaev worked with Voradius on the database and search capabilities, which form the backbone of the app’s functionality. There’s also the GPS and location-finding aspect to contend with. They ironed out the issues in time for the launch, and they’re continually improving and updating the system as they add more shops to the database.

Business Model

All three start-ups had a business model workshop with Floris van Alkemade, partner with venture capital firm Solid Ventures. Van Alkemade broke down the details of engaging investors for a start-up.

The Voradius team bootstrapped their venture for 10 months before launching the app, and they are currently looking for funding partners. Van Alkemade explained that without a minimum 100M Euro 7-year valuation, it’s difficult to get investment from venture capital firms in Europe (in the US the expected valuation is even higher). His advice for Voradius was to go for smaller rounds of informal funding from angel investors while they build up their revenue streams, and then look for a larger investment to expand the business to the next level.

The Voradius app is a free download for users, and will bring revenue via a retailer subscription model. The attraction for the retailer is that it increases visibility to customers and creates an additional sales channel.


Launch and Beyond

Since their launch, Voradius has received media coverage in publications such as De Telegraaf and Emerce. The app is quickly gaining momentum, and new shops are being added every week. After establishing themselves in Amsterdam, they plan to roll out the service to other major cities in the Netherlands. It’s an exciting new app, and a great example of using public open data for a commercial business.  We wish them the best of luck!


Related Links

Zoekmachine voor ‘fysieke’ winkels in Amsterdam

Amsterdam heeft zoekmachine voor producten in fysieke winkels

App weet wat stenen winkels in huis hebben

Weet waar je favo merk of product verkocht wordt met Voradius

Kickstarting Business with Open Data

Open Data Resources for Europe and the Netherlands


Many thanks to Softlayer, Big Nerd Ranch, Solid Ventures, Li Chiao Design, Likefriends, and Glimworm for lending their support and expertise to the Apps For Amsterdam: Open For Business program.



Duncan Stutterheim, founder of ID&T

Old Tower Resurrected as Nexus of Amsterdam Nightlife Culture

To entrepreneur Duncan Stutterheim, a dynamic urban ecosystem is essential for creative businesses to thrive, and he’s going to help make it happen in a vacant tower in central Amsterdam.

Stutterheim, founder of electronic music festival promoter ID&T, was one of the speakers featured at the recent Spotlight on Creative Industries event in Amsterdam. Three world-renowned entrepreneurs shared their stories about the power of Amsterdam’s creative industries, and their thoughts on the international competitive strength of the region.

The topic was creative entrepreneurship, and not surprisingly, a common thread for all three speakers was urban design and its impact on the creative/innovation ecosystem. As the evening unfolded, it became clear that, as a city, you either have good urban design that fosters that ecosystem, or you don’t. And cities that don’t pay a large price in terms of attracting talent and and business.

The Architect

Ben van Berkel

Architect Ben van Berkel

Dutch Architect Ben van Berkel of UNStudio talked about the importance of co-creativity and collaboration in his work, and he showed images of his buildings from around the world. He included his famous Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, along with other minimalist-style buildings he has designed.

‘Living Tomorrow’ by Dutch architect Ben van Berkel

Van Berkel’s work is more relatable, and humanistic than a lot of other “starchitect” buildings out there. However, the connective tissue between the buildings is still mostly missing. But that’s not unusual, because that’s what well-known architects are paid to do–to focus on their own building, sometimes at the expense at what’s surrounding it.

Van Berkel acknowledged that the key to making creative cities is more about the space between buildings than the buildings themselves.

“It’s clear that vitality of creative ecosystems thrives in the public spaces–the cafes, the streetscapes–the spaces between everything,” he said.

The Designer

Renny Ramakers, founder of Droog

Next was Renny Ramakers, the famed international ambassador of Dutch design. In the early 90’s, she founded Droog, a design foundation in Amsterdam that has grown into a retail/webshop, event space, cafe, and hotel. Droog focuses on “creating innovation and discussion” in Amsterdam and around the world.

Fairy Tale Garden at Droog

Her talk centered around the challenges she faced with the strict urban development rules and restrictions when first establishing Droog in central Amsterdam. She wanted to open a hotel, but the neighborhood and city wouldn’t let her do it. However, these constraints forced some creative problem-solving, resulting in what Droog is today. And she got her hotel after all–in the form of  the “one and only bedroom.

So while Amsterdam is understandably a museum city that needs to be protected, she said there’s also the need for experimental free zones–areas that support new and non-conforming ideas and urban development strategies.

“Really free zones where you can do what you want. No regulations, no neighbors who are complaining. That would be fantastic,” she said.


Droog in Amsterdam City Center

And thankfully, Amsterdam has space available where this sort of free zone would fit in nicely into the overall urban fabric.

The Event Promoter and His Tower

Duncan Stutterheim, founder of ID&T and Twenty4 Amsterdam

Which brings us to North Amsterdam (the “Noord”) and Stutterheim. He was smiling about the recent announcement that he sold 75% of his company to US event promoter giant SFX Entertainment in a $120 million deal. Already the largest electronic dance event company in the Netherlands, this partnership makes ID&T part of a new globally dominant force in the industry. The other 25% of the company is the design division, which Stutterheim is keeping so that ID&T can maintain creative control for its events.

ID&T Sensation Dance Event in Amsterdam

“So here we are at the table as Amsterdamers from the Noord, talking with billionaire people about how we’re going to create a global growth company,” he said. “And their vision is really centered around our product and what our company is doing, and that gives us a good feeling–to still be in creative control, with big guys behind it.”

Now Stutterheim is now turning his attention to developing Twenty4 Amsterdam in the Overhoeks Building in Amsterdam Noord, his utopian tower of creativity, entertainment, music, and start-ups.

Overhoeks Tower (right), future home of Twenty4 Amsterdam. View from ferry going south to Central Station.

Anyone who has spent time in Amsterdam will recognize the Overhoeks building, It’s the tower next to the EYE Film Institute, which is visible looking North across the river from Central Station. The building formerly housed Shell Oil, and has been vacant since 2009. Now it is used as a giant tower-shaped billboard.

Stutterheim’s plan for the building, which won out over more than 30 proposals, ia a layer cake of music and technology, with night clubs, a hotel, studios, apartments, and a free working space for creative companies in the plans.

Twenty4 Amsterdam Plan

Strutterheim and his partner were inspired by the creative co-working spaces they saw in New York.

“You have this working space for the young generation with a laptop–they don’t have money to start up. I’m getting older, and if we have all these young people around us, that gives a lot of energy and inspiration  So we created this space downstairs, 1000 sq meters, to be a free working space for the creative industry,” he said.

Even though the project is projected to finish 2015, Stutterheim says the space in building is already fully-booked.

“In Amsterdam, everyone’s complaining about ‘a million square meters’ [of commercial space being vacant]. and within a month we’re all leased,” Stutterheim said.

A New Vision for Amsterdam’s Creative Growth

Most of all, Stutterheim hopes Twenty4 Amsterdam will be a new chapter in Amsterdam for creative industries and development.

“We came from Amsterdam Noord, so it’s very important for us to give something back to the city. For the business community, the entertainment community, the music community–the whole creative community,” he said.

Indeed, this tower development could be a major catalyst for a New Amsterdam in the Noord.

The Amsterdam Noord has historically been home to heavy industry and warehouses, along with some  newer residential development. The area is in a unique position–it’s right next to the historic city center (separated by only 500 meters of water and a free ferry), yet it’s wide open for forward-looking ideas and development.

Imagine if the entire Noord was a free zone like Ramakers envisioned in her talk, where crazier-than average ideas have fertile ground to grow. What could this New Noord look like? Twenty4 Amsterdam is just the beginning. The opportunity is there if we embrace it and make the most of it.

Twenty4 Amsterdam Future Rendering, looking south toward Amsterdam Central Station

PromaxBDA Europe Conference 2013

18 Buzzworthy Apps for the TV Marketing Community

I recently gave a presentation at the PromaxBDA Europe Conference, which is the largest gathering of marketing, promotion and design professionals in European television and entertainment media. I was there for Appsterdam to talk about the “best, most innovative and breakthrough applications of the last 12 months.”

PromaxBDA Europe Conference 2013

A Snowy Paris for the PromaxBDA Europe Conference 2013

Among many other things, people in the PromaxBDA community make a lot of cool promos as part of their work. So to try to speak their language, we put together some videos of our own for the app reviews. The guys from One More Thing provided the on-air commentary. They usually do their live streaming broadcasts in Dutch, but they did these special videos in English just for us. Thanks Jesse, Jan David, and Koen!

Many thanks also to MediaMonks who provided the final editing of the videos.

I hand-picked this group of 18 apps over 10 categories for the conference presentation–apps that have either launched or exploded in buzz and exposure over the past 12 months.

Of course there are many other great apps out there. We want to do more Appsterdam/One More Thing reviews in the future, so please add your suggestions in the comments.

Below are the reviews. Enjoy!


Photo and Video

  • Vyclone automatically makes an edited 4-camera movie that you can then share with the community.
  • Scoopshot is a professional version of the citizen journalist apps out there.


Design and Creativity

  • Paper is so successful because of its simplicity, elegance, and how much of a pleasure it is to use.
  • POP is a tool for making an interactive wireframe for your app using paper drawings.



  • Syncpad allows brainstorming on a whiteboard, even if everyone is in a different location.
  • Clear “has no interface” and uses only simple, intuitive gestures for your to-dos.


Social Media

Vine is the Twitter for video that lets you capture and share short looping videos of 6 seconds or less.



  • Stevie pulls videos from your friends’ social media feeds and presents them to you in a “lean-back” experience.
  • Snagfilms lets you watch films and shorts for free on your iPad. They have more than 3,000 items in their library–you only have to watch an ad first.


Augmented Reality

Blippar has a special system for brands to use for building their augmented reality experiences.



  • Figure makes a musician out of everyone, with a unique but intuitive interface.
  • Nodebeat helps you make dreamy songs by pulling “nodes” into the field.
  • 22tracks is a streaming music app with curated playlists from well-known DJs from Amsterdam, Paris, London, and Brussels.


News and Inspiration

  • Flipboard pulls your news feeds into a unique but intuitive interface that invites browsing and exploring.
  • Prismatic figures out what news you’re interested in by looking at your existing social media, music libraries, and whatever else it can find.


Second Screen

  • Walkers Kill Count for The Walking Dead TV series syncs with episodes and makes a game out of predicting the zombie kills.
  • American Idol is about the community around the TV show and keeping the experience going between episodes.


One More Thing

TshirtOS is a concept in beta. It’s a programmable t-shirt controlled by an app.


Kickstarting Business with Open Data


There’s been a lot of buzz about open data over the past couple of years in Amsterdam. The city has put significant investment and energy into making data available and raising awareness–through sponsored app contests, hackathons, forums, and software development kits.

These efforts are great for stimulating discussion about open data, and some interesting apps have been created. But actually making money with open data is still experimental, and we have yet to see truly viable businesses and products come from it.

So to help bring the open data potential to the next level, Appsterdam is launching Open for Business, an initiative to work with three local start-ups to support them in making successful businesses using open data.

Appsterdam is collaborating with the Waag Society and the Amsterdam Economic Board on the initiative, which kicked off last month with a lecture on Who’s Who in Open Data, a great primer on the open data resource landscape by the guys at Glimworm.

Over the next couple of months, NoobTools will profile and follow the progress of these start-ups on their journey to build companies using open data. Check back here for updates.

To get things started, check out this list of resources for finding and working with open data in Amsterdam and the rest of Europe. (Thanks to Matteo Manferdini and Glimworm for compiling the list.)


Update: check out the Open for Business startups:

Open for Business Profile: iKringloop

Open for Business Profile: Voradius

Open for Business Profile: Bike Like a Local


Texas Innovator Finds Alternative Universe in Amsterdam

It’s 8:45 am, cold, and rainy, and William Hurley is riding to a press interview on a bicycle, wearing a suit. Not something you normally do as a guest of honor brought to tour a major city–unless that city is Amsterdam. And he thinks it’s brilliant.

Appsterdam International Genius–Whurley

In December 2012, Appsterdam and the City of Amsterdam Economic Affairs invited William Hurley (a.k.a. “Whurley”) to receive the International Genius Grant. He is the second recipient of the honor, which brings one of the “world’s smartest and most interesting people” to share knowledge and learn about the creative, business, and technology opportunities in Amsterdam. Last year’s recipient was Dom Sagolla of Twitter fame.

Whurley is co-founder of Chaotic Moon in Austin, TX, which develops mobile apps and launches hardware and software innovations. He is a leading authority on open source, open innovation, and augmented reality. He is also a popular public speaker with a lot to say about the business of innovation and how to make cool stuff as quickly as possible. For example, the Board of Imagination, a mind-controlled skateboard that he made with his team in a few weeks, and The Smarter Cart™, the “shopping cart of the future,” which follows you around the store and makes suggestions for what to buy. Both have been featured on TV shows like The Gadget Show and Gadget Man.


Austin and Amsterdam

Whurley is also an established member of the Austin “Silicon Hills” tech scene. He came to Amsterdam with hopes and ambitions for increasing commercial ties and cultural relationships, having recognized the many obvious similarities between Austin and Amsterdam. “In both cities, there’s an openness to international trade, a liberal atmosphere with a high level of social contentment, and the arts and sciences are highly valued,” he said.

He also noted how similar the people are in the two cities–creative, open-minded, and progressive. “By the second or third day, I stopped feeling like I was traveling, because everyone I met reminded me of someone back home. I felt like I was in an alternative universe version of Austin.”

As an avid cyclist and skateboarder in Austin, Whurley especially noticed the ubiquity of bicycles in Amsterdam. “I thought there were a lot of bikes in Austin, but, wow! The extent of the cycling infrastructure here and the way it’s integrated makes such a huge difference. If we had this number of bikes in Austin with our existing infrastructure, it would be chaos.”


A Week in  Amsterdam

Along with plenty of time on the bicycle seat, Appsterdam and the city scheduled Whurley for back-to-back meetings with some of the most innovative companies and people in Amsterdam. They also put him to work–giving talks and lectures, and interviews with the media. (See the full schedule here.) His days were filled with a variety of activities around the city, from hobnobbing with app makers and people in the Amsterdam startup scene, to visiting the Waag Society’s FabLab to check out the 3D printers and milling machines.


Whurley with his key to the city–made in the Waag Society’s FabLab maker space.


Talking with students at Hogeschool van Amsterdam.


Whurley at One More Thing Live broadcast in Rotterdam


Vaporware to Makerware

The biggest event of the week was “Vaporware to Makerware”. The event was moderated by Kerrie Finch of FinchFactor, who joined Whurley along with two Dutch innovators:

  • Daan Roosegaarde (Studio Roosegaarde) creates “interactive landscapes,” from women’s wear that responds to intimacy by becoming more transparent, to smart highways that are interactive and sustainable.
  • Antoinette Hoes (Tribal DDB Amsterdamis an expert in digital strategy for established global brands, who provided a corporate perspective for the discussion.

The evening centered around the rise of the “maker movement” and what it means for innovation and the way we create things. The topic was inspired by the maker culture in Amsterdam and the recent announcement that Wired editor Chris Andersen is leaving the magazine for his own DIY firm, 3D Robotics. The panel took questions from the audience, which covered everything from 3D printers, community access to tools, creating your own weapons, and what it all means for brands.

“I think the way we’re experiencing information and consuming things is going to evolve enormously,” Roosegaarde said on-stage. “We often talk of technology as if it’s mysterious, which of course it’s not. We are fortunate to finally be emerging from an era where technologies were both alien and rapidly obsolete, to a time when new materials and fabrication methods enable technology to be reliable and accessible once again.”

Hoes spoke of the impact that personal products being made at home will have on big brands. “The coming argument from your average customer is going to be ‘I’m an adult, and I don’t want to be beholden to anyone to buy what I want to make or have’,” she said. “But until the day that the material capabilities of the individual at home exceeds that of the big brands, brands will continue to have a dominant impact on retail commerce.”

The Panel: Daan Roosegaarde, Whurley, Antoinette Hoes.

They also discussed the more inspirational aspects of the emerging maker technologies. “It’s very important for people to understand that we live in the greatest time ever as makers–as people who have ideas,” Whurley said. “Never before has there been such easy access to technology, hardware, and being able to be creative. People who may not think they are creative, but who have ideas, are now able to take their ideas and make them into creations. It’s incredibly powerful.”


Experience the Ecosystem

Even with his packed schedule, Whurley always found time to talk to people. It was amazing how he brought out the tech and creative communities and stimulated discussion and ideas. After every presentation, people stayed afterwards because they wanted to keep the conversation going. Each night you could find people hanging out around the fireplace at his hotel, chatting with him until the wee hours of the morning.

“Everything is so close here, and people can just hop on their bikes or on a tram to get together on a whim to share ideas,” he said. “And that’s what makes Amsterdam such a perfect ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation. It facilitates ideas and collaboration, which I love to see, and it attracts a goldmine of energy and talent.”


Just the Beginning

On his last day in Amsterdam, Whurley and his partner Pamela were greeted with snow and an orange weather alert. By then they had fallen in love with Amsterdam and their OV-Fietsen, and they had a blast riding their bikes to Central Station–even through the snow and slush.

“Amsterdam is a perfect combination of the best parts of cities around the world: freedom, safety, tolerance, art, and business- and tech-savvy,” he said. “It’s also proof that committing to solid urban design principals has commercial, cultural, and health rationale.

“I now understand first-hand why for centuries it has been a place where people from around the world come to live, learn, and do business–and it feels like home.” (Appsterdam Mayor Mike Lee agrees.)

And on his way out of town, he was heard saying, “I’ll be back sooner than you know.”


Whurley and Pamela loving their OV-Fietsen, their main transportation for the week.


Whurley’s International Genius Grant Week

Sunday: Appsterdam Game Day, Trans-Dimensional Portal demo, tour of the Waag Society FabLab, dinner and networking with Appsterdamers

Monday: City of Amsterdam Economic Affairs meetings with local businesses

Tuesday: City of Amsterdam Economic Affairs meetings with local businesses, lunch with leaders in the business and startup world, presentation to Amsterdam Makers event, tour of THNK Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership, dinner with leaders in design and innovation

Wednesday: Interview with sprout.nl, interview with Virtueel Platform, Appsterdam Weekly Wednesday Lunchtime Lecture, Appsterdam Meeten en Drinken

Thursday: Lecture for Strategic Management Students at InHolland University, presentation to students at Hogeschool van Amsterdampresentation to students and staff at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam INTERTAIN Experimental Research Lab, Vapoware to Makerware event at Pakhuis de Zwijger.

Friday: Interview with CiaoBasta, meeting with Alexander Klöpping from De Wereld Draait Door, tour of  Studio Roosegaarde in Gouda, One More Thing live broadcast in Rotterdam.


Media Links

One More Thing Live broadcast interview    (video)

Vaporware to Makerware event    (video)

Sprout.nl interview    (video)

Sprout.nl interview, pt. 2    (video)

Austin American-Statesman Article

Austin Chamber of Commerce Article

Profile on CiaoBasta

Urban Times Vaporware to Makerware Review

Urban Times Board of Imagination Article

Check out the Appsterdam Meetup page for more information on their events.