I am sitting in a plane back to China after an intensive week in Holland. I left China Sunday night around midnight on the overnight KLM flight. I wasn’t feeling completely well (I am having a minor case of the flu for almost 2 weeks already), so I had 3 glasses of champagne and 2 Tylenol and that combination helped me to get over 7 hours of sleep. The plane landed at 5 AM and after waiting for the suitcases for 25 minutes (noticing once again that it takes much longer for your suitcases to arrive at Schiphol than in China or most other Asian airports) I was on my way to Rotterdam by 5:30 AM.
A brand new Jaguar XJ with a driver picked me up from the airport and took me to the Bilderberg Parkhotel, where I had 2.5 hours to freshen up and do a bit of work. I made some phone calls, wrote several emails, and had 4 cups of coffee before leaving for the Erasmus University / Rotterdam School of Management at 9 AM sharp (again by Jaguar of course).
In the morning I gave a talk at the yearly Entrepreneurial Seminar, together with several other Dutch entrepreneurs. My talk focused on characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, and I tried to make the speech more interesting by giving lots of real life examples that I have seen in companies that I am part of or invested in. I recognized a lot in the talks of the other entrepreneurs as well, the main characteristics for all of us was that you need to fail at least once, should be willing to take big risks, be extremely competitive and work at least twice as hard as others. Our stories did not necessarily convince the students that they should become entrepreneurs as well, in an article about the conference Dutch newspaper De Pers wrote that only one student was confident enough to choose the start-up life. Well, I also started in a corporate career before I realized that was not really my thing.
In the afternoon I gave a two hour lecture/workshop about doing business in China for Masters students. I really enjoyed this, it was a very lively session with tons of questions from the students. They all had to pay an entrance fee to get in, meaning that they were likely much more motivated to actively participate than during a regular lecture. Despite the fact that I was a bit tired after the flight and still didn’t feel well I think it went quite well and I realized that this kind of lecture is something I enjoy doing very much. Maybe I should seriously consider teaching university students in a future life, it gives me more energy than it costs.
At night I drove back to Amsterdam with a friend from my university days, Jasper Bugter. I realized we had not seen each others since my wedding 5 years ago, so we had lots to catch up on. We picked up his wife Tamalene at their house in Amstelveen and then headed into the city. At a special beer cafe we tried several different bock beers (typical beers for this time of year) and had a great night. Around 11 I headed back to my hotel and fell asleep right away.
On Tuesday I had a breakfast meeting in my hotel before taking a train to Hilversum to Spil Games. There the first thing I did was to walk around the whole office and talk to as many people as possible. I realize that despite being in the Dutch office several times per year I don’t really get to talk to most people, aside from saying hi when walking by their desks. I also went out for a cup of coffee with executive searcher Frank van der Linden (and had my second right in a Jaguar in as many days), not because I am looking for a new job but just to catch up. It turned out that we have some mutual acquaintances (not unusual considering his huge network) and I also heard some stories about how my dad was when he was still a manager: my dad recruited Frank for his 1st internship back in 1984.
On Tuesday night I had dinner with a friend who has been in the fashion business for the past 13 years or so (both online and offline). Always good to catch up, especially because of my involvement in UnitedStyles.com. At night I had beers with a group of friends from my fraternity, which was cool as well. But because I still was not feeling too well and I had to get up early I didn’t stay too late. Probably good, because I woke up at 5 AM and the whole of Wednesday was a strategy meetings with the Spil Games management team in our office in Eindhoven. We do this a few times per year now, and every meeting gives all of us new insights and helps us to make sure we do the right things. The online casual games market is changing very quickly, but I think Spil Games is able to change with the market and even anticipate the changes. After a nice dinner in Eindhoven we got back to Amsterdam after 11 pm, where I worked on my emails for an hour and then went to bed.
Thursday morning I had breakfast with trend watcher Vincent Everts to catch up on what we’re both doing, and he used the opportunity to do a video interview with me as well (or here if you don’t have a VPN in China – note: interview is in Dutch). After that Vincent drove me to Spil Games, where he talked to some of the other managers and eventually even stayed for lunch. The afternoon I mainly spent working on a presentation but I didn’t make much progress: the office is an open office, meaning that everybody walks by the whole time and many drop by for a short chat. I enjoy that of course, but it doesn’t increase work efficiency. I don’t think I could work in an open office environment anymore. At night I had dinner with a business friend at Restaurant Lute in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. It was my first time in this restaurant and the food and wines were excellent. And the location is quite convenient, the person I had dinner with had landed at 7:30 PM at Schiphol airport and was in the restaurant less than 20 minutes later!
Friday morning I worked in my hotel room for several hours, which was much better than in the office. No distractions except for the beeps of new emails coming in (so I turned off my email for a while). I was in the office by 11:00, so I would be in time to meet with Ho-Ping Tung for lunch at Spil Games. As regular readers of this blog probably know Ho-Pin Tung is a Dutch-Chinese race car driver, and he is currently the 3rd driver (reserve driver) for the Renault Formula One team. We normally see each other at least once a year, either in China or in Holland (Ho-Pin travels a lot more than I do). Always good to catch up with him and hear his stories about life as a race car driver. After lunch I took half a day off to meet with my sister as well. Ho-Pin drove me to her office and on the way there he showed me some of his driving skills in his fast Renault Megane RS. Very cool Ho-Pin, I was quite impressed (and I probably should have shot a video for this blog).
I spent Friday night and Saturday morning at my sisters new place. She just moved to a new house, a beautiful renovated farm. Much nicer than my house actually (but also a lot smaller of course). We went to see The Social Network, the movie about Facebook. I just missed it when it premiered in San Francisco last month (it came out on the day I flew back to China), but now I finally got a chance to see it. I loved it, it does not give a true view of Facebook’s start and Mark Zuckerberg’s personality, but it was a great start-up story anyway. Very inspirational and with some similarities to the things I have seen over the past years. If you are an Internet entrepreneur or want to be one, you have to see it!
Saturday afternoon Sonja and I did some shopping in Germany, mainly for me to buy Seelachs (I have not found this anywhere in the world but in Germany, I love it). We had a walk on the hills of Hoch-Elten as well, and after that she put me on the train to Schiphol Airport. That was about 12 hours ago and now I am already somewhere above Western China having breakfast. I had a good week in Holland but I am happy to be back in Shanghai with my family in a couple of hours.