Category Archives: Open Data

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.



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