This week I was in Amsterdam for 2 days for business meetings and to give 2 speeches. It was a bit unexpected, I had not planned to be in Holland this month, but it turned out to be a good trip so I was glad I took the time to do this.
On Wednesday morning I started with some meetings at Spil Games HQ in Hilversum. I am not there very often anymore, so I always try to make a trip to Spil when I am in Holland. Spil Games is still going strong with a good strategy and excellent management, happy to see that!
After lunch at the Spil Games restaurant I went over to the Media Park for a radio interview on Dutch Radio 1. At first I did not want to do it because of time constraints, but it turned out that I could just fit it into my program. The live program lasted one hour, and there were 2 other guests, the mayor of Rotterdam Mr. Aboutaleb and Dutch pop singer Bennie Jolink. Mr. Aboutaleb could not join the full program because he had to catch a plane to Shanghai (which was a coincidence!), but he asked me in the program to meet up next time I’m in The Netherlands.
Bennie Jolink is well-known in Holland as lead singer and composer of the Dutch band Normaal. I knew his music but never met him, despite the fact that as a kid I lived several years in the village of Wehl, which is very close to where he lives (he told me afterward that he lives just 4 kilometers from there).
The interview was mainly about my career so far and about doing business in China, similar to most media interviews I did in Holland over the past years. I actually did not know that there was a live video stream as well (broadcast through the Internet), you can see about 10 minutes of it here – of course the audio is in Dutch.
After the interview I took a train to Amsterdam for the LOEY Awards 2012. These awards are given to the Leading Online Entrepreneur of the Year and I had been asked to give the keynote at the ceremony. The event took place at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, one of the top museums in Holland. The museum has been closed for several years for a complete renovation/reconstruction and will be opened officially later this month. So we were able to see the new museum before anyone else (even Queen Beatrix), which was a nice perk.
After a short meeting with the jury and organizers the managing director of the museum gave us some background information of the place and showed us several of its the architectural features. Then we did a sound check and rehearsal on stage, during which I found out that most of the slides of my presentation had been automatically modified (I used Powerpoint on a Mac and the organization used Windows, and that combined with the font I used caused the trouble…). Just in time we managed to change it!
Several hundred people attended the evening, mainly online entrepreneurs but also investors and leading business people in bigger companies. The title of my story was “The Art of Doing Business in China”, which fit well with the art museum location. The 3 topics I touched upon were the state of the Internet in China (trends etc.), challenges of doing business in China, and opportunities for Dutch entrepreneurs on the Chinese market. I really enjoyed giving the keynote speech, especially for an audience like this.
After the awards ceremony, won by Pieter Zwart of CoolBlue, there was a dinner in the halls of the museum, and after a couple of beers and wines I went back to my hotel room to get some sleep. When I’m working I don’t really feel my jet lag, but after a busy day and some alcohol it suddenly hit me, so I was in bed by midnight.
The next morning I had some more meetings, among others with the entrepreneurs at PeerReach (in which I am an investor). After that I had a lunch and then I had to go to the Opening of the Academic Year of Nyenrode New Business School. I had been asked to give a keynote and because I was in Holland anyway I agreed to do so.
It was the second time for me to open the Academic Year in The Netherlands, the first time was in 2009 when I gave the keynote at my alma mater Maastricht University (see this video of my speech). This year’s opening was a lot less formal, especially because this is a relatively new business school and because it’s focused on entrepreneurship. I was wearing a tie for the first time in several months, but many of the people in the audience (incl. some of the board members) did not wear one. Very different from the official ceremony at Maastricht University, where all professors wear their traditional robes and the opening is a very formal affair.
Nyenrode New Business School is very different from traditional universities in Holland, it is much more practical and focused on entrepreneurship. During the afternoon I learned that the school is actually called the Amsterdam School of Entrepreneurship, and indeed most of the students that I talked to had a very entrepreneurial mind. Before I gave my talk I had to randomly draw the names of 15 students who had to pitch themselves on stage for one minute. Most of them were quite nervous (several of them even started their pitch by saying this!), but all of them did a pretty decent talk in front of several hundred people and a couple really managed to sell themselves and their entrepreneurial ideas.
I had decided to use the same title for my kenote as for the LOEY Awards presentation, but I changed the content a bit for the students. I focused more on what they can do to become successful entrepreneurs and of course I encouraged them to do part of their studies in China (I was told that Nyenrode is setting up a campus in Chengdu).
After the Opening of the Academic Year I had a chat with some of Nyenrode’s board members and students, and I left with a very positive feeling about this business school. Even though it’s a relatively young business education I feel they achieved a lot already and they managed to recruit some very entrepreneurial students.
At night I had dinner and drinks with some friends and then the short trip was over already. It was pretty busy, but I am glad I took the time to fly over. I met a lot of people, learned a lot and of course had a lot of fun as well!