Category: Economy

Epicenter: professional workplace with a real buzz

Under the roof of Epicenter, a community of start-ups, scale-ups and established companies is working side by side, inspiring and learning from one another, pushing innovations and growth. Epicenter opened…

Under the roof of Epicenter, a community of start-ups, scale-ups and established companies is working side by side, inspiring and learning from one another, pushing innovations and growth. Epicenter opened its doors more than a year ago, so we were wondering what it is like to actually work there. And how do companies benefit from this digital innovation house? Four members tell us about the added value of Epicenter.

“The first time I walked in here, the paint was still wet but it felt like the lobby of a five-star hotel. We decided on the spot that we wanted an office here”, David Kat remembers his first encounter with Epicenter. He was looking for a workplace in Amsterdam as three months earlier he and his business partner had decided to introduce their Israel-based start-up Wasteless to the Dutch market. 

“Epicenter is perfectly located: close to Schiphol Airport and within the A10 ring road. From here, it’s only 10 minutes by bicycle to the city centre. And the building is very sustainable. Wasteless uses artificial intelligence to provide supermarkets with dynamic pricing for their products, with digital tags displaying a smart price incentive on the product with the shortest expiration date. This way, the 500 million euros worth of goods that Dutch supermarkets discard on a yearly basis, can instead be sold and turned into a revenue stream. As these products don’t end up in a landfill site, this leads to a considerable reduction in carbon dioxide emissions as well. We bring our customers profitable sustainability, so it makes sense that we hold office in a sustainable and smart building.”

Sunken sitting area

Like so many others, David started in the open office space at Epicenter. He and his business partner worked from the sunken sitting area and this really helped them to meet all kinds of interesting people. In the meantime, Wasteless has grown into a team of 4 people and often gets visitors from abroad, so they decided to move into a studio. 

The flexible staffing options are a big plus for many members, confirms Michel Spruijt of Brain Corp Europe. “We look 90 days ahead and adapt our staffing plans for Brain Corp Europe accordingly. At the moment, I’m the only one here but by the end of this year we could well have 12 people at this location”, he says. In July, Michel started setting up the European branch of American-bases Brain Corp, a company developing software for machines (e.g. cleaning robots) navigating autonomously in public spaces. 

Flexibility

“Developments are going very fast and we’re adjusting our plans all the time. We need to be able to act swiftly as we want to be the Microsoft of autonomous navigation and robotics. If I need more staff tomorrow, I simply get a subscription for them and they can start working right away; that’s the flexibility I require’.”

For Antler, a start-up generator and venture capital fund with a global mission to help driven people set up ground-breaking businesses, scalability is a requirement and crucial to the way they operate, explains Kim Oreskovic. “Our basic team consists of 11 employees; we rent a meeting room for them and use the open co-working space. When a new programme starts, we’ll get in another 100 people for two months. In that period, we help start-ups form teams in order to build up their business from scratch.”

Positive vibe

“These teams pitch their plan to the Antler investment committee and then around 40 founders will stay on at Epicenter for another 3 months during the follow-up phase. That works out very well here, because there is a good mix of open and confined spaces of various sizes. What’s extra special, is the positive and creative vibe in this place. There is so much room to meet people, but at the same time the acoustics is so good that you can have a good conversation without others hearing what you’re saying.”

Scaling up without any hassle is also one of the advantages Katinka de Korte of DEARhealth mentions. “We started out three months ago with four people, now we are a team of fifteen and before Christmas there’ll be 25 of us”, she explains her need for flexibility. The international Epicenter locations have proved a big bonus for her company as well. 

“DEARhealth is a digital platform that connects all carers of a patient with the actual patient. And using Artificial Intelligence it presents the most accurate care path for the patient by, amongst other things, steering the patient away from predictable risks. This way, medical teams are getting support in their decision-making regarding treatment. As a result, patients are healthier and care costs are significantly lower”, Katinka explains. This system has been developed with the help of a team of medical specialists in the US. With the support of its investors, DEARhealth will be scaling up in the US and will start implementing programmes in Europe in the next two years.  

Epicenter Stockholm

“This summer we started in Dutch and Belgian hospitals, and the next priority on our list is Sweden because of the country’s innovative healthcare system. When I told that to the staff here at Epicenter Amsterdam, they immediately put me in contact with their branch in Sweden. That helped me tremendously as the Swedish office opened a box with index cards and I was introduced to various companies. Moreover, together with people from Epicenter Amsterdam I went on a business trip to Epicenter Stockholm, where start-ups from both countries were pitching plans to each other. Offering people these opportunities is what makes Epicenter so unique. Their team knows all Epicenter members personally, they know what your ambition is and they often ask: ‘Is this connection useful to you?’ That really helps.”

David Kat is also very happy with the Epicenter team. “I appreciate the fact that they’re not only very nice and professional people, but they also think along with us. When our guests come in, they are welcomed in a pleasant and dedicated manner; that builds trust.” Michel Spruijt adds that the atmosphere in the building and between companies makes it even better. “It’s always busy here – in a good sense, the place buzzes.” 

Douwe Dirks, the manager of Epicenter Amsterdam, is happy to hear that Epicenter is such an attractive business partner for so many companies. “Innovating and growing is a lot easier when you’re part of the right community. We are that community and we do everything we can to connect people and help them share their knowledge. We like building a strong business environment for Amsterdam where local companies get the chance to learn and new digital opportunities arise.” 

 

Epicenter Amsterdam offers: 

Knowledge Memberships
Flex Memberships
Community Events
Office spaces
Top-of-the-line event spaces
Meeting room facilities 
Innovation Labs & Digital Safaris
Hackathons & Ideathons
Management Days

 

Epicenter Amsterdam
Fred. Roeskestraat 115
Amsterdam

W www.epicenteramsterdam.com

 

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VU Amsterdam delivers top finance professionals

When 41-year old Aimée Geerts was a student, the area around VU Amsterdam was a fairly quiet and remote part of Amsterdam. These days, that very same university is the…

When 41-year old Aimée Geerts was a student, the area around VU Amsterdam was a fairly quiet and remote part of Amsterdam. These days, that very same university is the academic epicentre of the thriving Zuidas business district and there is a lot of interaction between Zuidas companies and VU Amsterdam.

“One could say I have seen Zuidas grow from my office at Commerzbank” says Aimée, who has been working at Zuidas since 2006 and is Assistant to the Country CEO at the German Commerzbank. Initially, her office was located in the Atrium but three years ago her company moved to the Viñoly Tower, the building with the conspicuous staircase on the outside.

“After I completed my degree in International Business Administration at Maastricht University, I started working for Commerzbank. From the very first day I really felt at home there but I was missing a bit of focus as my degree was a fairly general one. That’s why I went looking for a course that was in line with my job but would delve a little deeper.”

Perfect place

“I was looking around for the right postdoctoral degree and then I found the Executive Master in Finance & Control (EMFC) at VU Amsterdam. This was the perfect place for me. During the introductory interview, the commitment and enthusiasm of one of the teachers really inspired me.”

“The Commerzbank fully supported my choice. Not surprisingly as the Executive Master in Finance & Control (Registercontroller in Dutch) at VU Amsterdam was the first programme of its kind in the Netherlands and VU delivers all the top professionals in the Dutch financial world. Moreover, VU Amsterdam is a leading  institute when it comes to the development of this area of financial expertise.”

The fact that Aimée was working next to VU Amsterdam and the university’s leading role in finance and control, were the decisive factors in choosing this degree. From 2011 to 2013, Aimée spent every Friday studying and attending classes at VU Amsterdam. 

Enriching experience

“Back then, we were right in the middle of the financial crisis but my course was full. It was such an enriching experience. Getting feedback from others on your everyday work was so useful. You’re studying together with other people; every one of us was working in a different field so we could really learn from each other.”

“We were working on business cases in groups of four students. My group contained people from the aviation, banking, healthcare and insurance industries. Right from the kick-off weekend we were studying together. Every one of us had his or her own expertise and that gave me a lot of insight. And obviously the teachers challenged us big time.” 

Variety of subjects

With the Executive Master in Finance & Control, Aimée has added another degree to her impressive resume. “That’s nice but what counts is what this degree has brought me. The variety of subjects, finance, reporting, strategy, corporate and tax law, has enabled me to cooperate more efficiently with the various departments within the bank. I’m really happy with my choice for this degree course.”

With her job and university close by, Aimée feels at home at Zuidas. She lives in Naarden with her husband and two children, but from her office she has seen the steady growth of ‘The Big Apple of Amsterdam’. In the old days, there was only De Blauwe Engel to go for drinks and a bite to eat, but these days people are spoilt for choice. “I consider Naarden Amsterdam’s backyard. I take my kids to school with my cargo bike and it only takes me 30 minutes by train to get to my Zuidas office. This way I still feel like an ‘Amsterdammer’.”

Alumni Association

In Aimée’s field of work, regular training is a necessity. That’s why VU Amsterdam organizes activities for members of the alumni association throughout the year. There are usually two teachers present during these alumni evenings. “It’s very informative. You meet up with your former fellow-students and it’s also nice to see the teachers again. For example, I’m still in touch with Bert Steens, who has been a professor at VU Amsterdam since the year 2000. If there’s anything I need help with, I can always ask Bert for advice.”

Bert Steens adds: “We have a wonderful and active alumni community and we’re very proud of that. We regularly meet former students such as Aimée. I think that is due to the good relationship we’ve built during the course, as well as to our location at Zuidas, where many alumni are working in finance positions. There are a lot of things going on, a lot of traffic and accessibility is excellent, both with public transport and by car or bicycle. VU Amsterdam could not have chosen a better location. Students working at Zuidas can pop in during their lunch break to discuss something.”

Executive Education

Senior finance specialists also find their way to VU Amsterdam for training courses and master classes. “Apart from doing a Master in Finance and Control, professionals can keep abreast of developments in their field by participating in our Executive Education programme, for example following a course in Business Analytics.”

Early 2020, VU Amsterdam will start a new degree programme in cooperation with other universities abroad: an International Executive MBA in Finance & Control.  

“This course is meant for experienced business professionals who are aiming for a financial role at senior management or board level, like a position as finance director or CFO. This is an executive MBA programme with a strong focus on general management and finance & control, tackling all the challenges that the combination of those two disciplines entails.”

 

 

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
School of Business and Economics
W www.sbe.vu.nl/nl/

 

 

 

 

photo Aimée Geerts by Katja Mali

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KLM head office leaves Amstelveen

After having had its head office in Amstelveen for fifty years, KLM will move to a new location in Schiphol-East in 2024. The Dutch national airline wants to have a…

After having had its head office in Amstelveen for fifty years, KLM will move to a new location in Schiphol-East in 2024. The Dutch national airline wants to have a “campus” of 35,000 square meters built, which also houses KLM subsidiaries Transavia and Martinair, as well as the current offices at Schiphol-Rijk and Schiphol-Oost.

KLM has come to this decision because the current office building in Amstelveen needs major maintenance. The airline moved in 1971 from Schiphol-East to the edge of the A9, near the Old Village of Amstelveen. Before that, the head office was located in The Hague for decades.

The municipality of Amstelveen regrets the departure of its largest company, but is also very proud that the KLM head office has been in Amstelveen for fifty years. The Amstelveen alderman Floor Gordon (spatial planning) has attempted to maintain the head office for Amstelveen by proposing a better access to the head office with Schiphol-East. Yet, she thinks it is a logical choice for KLM to concentrate all its components in one location.

 

Photo by MartinD – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7553621

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Zuidas versus The City

Obviously, one cannot compare the Zuidas with its bigger financial brother in London as the British capital has ten times as many inhabitants. But still, the Zuidas is slowly but…

Obviously, one cannot compare the Zuidas with its bigger financial brother in London as the British capital has ten times as many inhabitants. But still, the Zuidas is slowly but surely getting a more international image and – due to the impending Brexit – more and more companies are opening offices in Amsterdam. Reason enough to ask three experts about the opportunities in both cities and the differences and similarities between Amsterdam and London.

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A passion for real estate

Fifteen years ago, Ramón Mossel started his own real estate agency in the Rivierenbuurt in Amsterdam-Zuid. Every day, he and his team at Ramón Mossel Makelaardij show their passion for…

Fifteen years ago, Ramón Mossel started his own real estate agency in the Rivierenbuurt in Amsterdam-Zuid. Every day, he and his team at Ramón Mossel Makelaardij show their passion for real estate, bringing supply and demand together.

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Portera, fast and quick

Due to their complex business operations, companies often find it difficult to respond to changes in the market. Baris Kavakli, consultant and managing director at Portera, developed an action plan,…

Due to their complex business operations, companies often find it difficult to respond to
changes in the market. Baris Kavakli, consultant and managing director at Portera,
developed an action plan, allowing these companies to make important strides within
one to four weeks. “We orchestrate technology, strategy and data to be able to help our
clients to leapfrog their competition.”

Baris Kavakli often sees the same issue when talking to companies: they want to change
but lack the skills and simply don’t know where to start. “We often see companies
embracing the language of innovation. Phrases like ‘agile development’, ‘pivoting’ and
‘failing fast’ come thick and fast. Yet whilst these are key elements of innovation culture,
few companies truly live by them.”

‘We orchestrate technology, strategy and data to be able to help our clients to leapfrog
their competition’

 

Baris Kavakla

Baris Kavakla

“The stark reality is that many companies still have a hierarchical top-down structure,
are slow to make decisions and rather than truly failing fast, they claim success at almost
any cost. They like the idea of innovation, but it isn’t a core value.”
Corporate culture
So what is going wrong? “It certainly isn’t their ambition, their energy or their ability.
The people in these companies are typically highly successful, highly intelligent and
driven. It is not a capability issue. It is a corporate culture issue.”
“What happens is a brainstorm session is organized, ideas are thrown into the mix and
comes out a PowerPoint presentation. They start to ask for ideas, call another workshop
or get further feedback from their colleagues. Somebody adds feedback, somebody adds
another question, somebody puts other thoughts in there, somebody puts another slide
and then it starts to become big. As the slide deck grows bigger, the scope of the project
is growing bigger as well. This, before the decision maker has seen anything.”

 

 

Green light

“Before you know it, it’s a € 1 million project which has no proven business case behind
it, little true data driven insight and at the same time, the hidden cost that is spent on
preparing this slide deck is tens of thousands of euros. Weeks have gone past, thousands
sunk in internal costs and a huge scope with a € 1 million investment PowerPoint
presentation. On rare occasions these proposals get the green light, it’s therefore no
wonder that everyone on the project team is hell-bent on making it a success. Failure isnot an option. That is certainly what we see when we first get involved with many
companies.”
Massimo Mercuri, Digital CoE Director, AkzoNobel, agrees. “What would have taken me
weeks with my current technology partner, at a cost of over 100k euros, Portera did in 2
weeks for for a few thousand euros.”
Portera, a management and technology consultancy that delivers commercial advantage
to its clients, uses a unique approach, Baris says. “At Portera, we insist on doing things
differently. We want to get to the point of success, or failure, as fast as possible.
Sometimes that happens in a couple of days and sometimes a month or two. We call it:
Portera Hop, Portera Jump and Portera Leap. Portera Hop is a one-day workshop where
our consultants and technologists work with different people within the organisation to
validate an idea and identify a strategic direction.”

Proof of concept

“The Portera Jump takes two weeks. We start from the business issue, and then we
deliver a proof of concept. Instead of a presentation to your boss, you take the proof
concept to your boss, showing him the problem and the solution. The company can then
use this deliverable as a proof of concept to move further in their investments. And if it
doesn’t work, they can throw it away.”
The third approach is Portera Leap which is quite an extensive process and takes four to
six weeks. “From the business issue, we come to a Minimum Viable Product, MVP. The
MVP is a streamlined product which our clients can use. It can be an internal or external
product that they can use to test and understand if it’s working.”
Baris gives a concrete example of a business issue. “Let’s say that it’s a business issue
about consumer loyalty, they want to retain their consumers or cross sell products. We
analyse their data to understand what is currently happening within their market, we
look not only at their own data but also at data from the competition to understand the
market dynamics.”

Viñoly-gebouw, Claude Debussylaan 42 op de Zuidas.

Viñoly-building, Claude Debussylaan 42 op de Zuidas.

Fail fast

“Our MVP will deliver a new or improved strategy that people can test, trial and demo
directly with their colleagues or customers. In this way, the team members very quickly
get feedback and insight into whether the innovation is likely to be viable, or not. All this
happens before any significant investment is deployed or time incurred. And from here,
it’s possible to be agile, pivot or truly fail fast.”

‘At Portera, we insist on doing things differently. We want to get to the point of success,
or failure, as fast as possible’

Portera’s approach is not limited to certain industries but at the moment they’re mainly
active in FMCG, healthcare and telecommunications. “These are three industries we are
really involved in and we are known in as well. But we have some clients in banking and
automotive, too.”If there’s anything that characterizes Portera, it is agility, according to Baris. “You need
to be flexible. You need to have different expertise and you need to make fast progress.
Progress isn’t a linear journey. And it’s not about running as fast as you can. Actually, it’s
about being agile as you proceed. The key thing is to have the right team in place to

enable fast and purposeful progress, so that decision making can happen earlier in the
innovation cycle, like in lean start-ups. It’s not about changing the overall company
culture, it’s about enabling innovation within the organisation’s culture.

Same language

“We choose our strategists and consultants in Portera amongst M-shaped professionals.
I-shaped professionals are experts in one field, T-shaped professionals are experts in
one field but they have a general knowledge in a domain. M-shaped people have wider
knowledge in both business and technology areas. They speak the same language as the
business owners but have broad and deep knowledge in multiple technological areas.”
Ending the conversation, Baris says that all the team within Portera loves to be
challenged in various business areas – “without challenges, there is never progress”.

 

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Exclusive business wear tells the corporate story

Setting foot into a company becomes an increasingly hospitable experience. The solemn receptionist disappears and will be replaced by smiling hostesses welcoming visitors with fresh coffee. What completes this service?…

Setting foot into a company becomes an increasingly hospitable experience. The solemn receptionist disappears and will be replaced by smiling hostesses welcoming visitors with fresh coffee. What completes this service? A perfectly fitting business-like outfit. Exclusive Business Wear translates corporate stories and the look & feel of a company to high-end hospitality clothing.

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Power women of the Zuidas: Anna and Janine Uittenbosch

Pioneers of the Zuidas – if there are any people who could claim this title it’s the Uittenbosch sisters, owners of Grand Café Dickys. Fourteen years ago, Janine and Anna…

Pioneers of the Zuidas – if there are any people who could claim this title it’s the Uittenbosch sisters, owners of Grand Café Dickys. Fourteen years ago, Janine and Anna took the brave step to open their restaurant at an otherwise empty Zuidas.

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Portera drives business performance through technology and data

Due to their complex business operations, companies often find it difficult to respond to changes in the market. Baris Kavakli, consultant and managing director at Portera, developed an action plan,…

Due to their complex business operations, companies often find it difficult to respond to changes in the market. Baris Kavakli, consultant and managing director at Portera, developed an action plan, allowing these companies to make important strides within one to four weeks. “We orchestrate technology, strategy and data to be able to help our clients to leapfrog their competition.”

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Power women of the Zuidas: Marleen Evertsz

For the third ZUIDAS. magazine we did a cover story with six inspirational women about their passion and their career. What drives them to go for the best results? Self…

For the third ZUIDAS. magazine we did a cover story with six inspirational women about their passion and their career. What drives them to go for the best results? Self named ‘nerd’ Marleen Evertzs is always ten steps ahead and runs business herself.

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