Cryptocurrency: In Blockchain We Trust?

There is a fair chance that roughly two years ago you felt a sudden urge to buy cryptocurrency. You see, out of the blue everybody, from your neighbor to your fitness trainer, seemed to own money with interesting names such as Ripple and Dash, as Bitcoin obviously was for dummies. Once again, FOMO was real. As such, it was only human to invest some of your savings in these promising currencies too. Unfortunately, nobody had told you that only a few months later you would have to painfully watch your new money devalue at the speed of light. Slowly, you had to come to your senses and realize that becoming a crypto millionaire was not for you. The digital currencies seemed to have lost their value and with that the people seemed to have lost their trust. So what exactly happened? And what does the crypto future hold for us, if there is any at all? Time to zoom in.

A Brief History of Crypto
By now we all know what cryptocurrencies are, more or less, right? Put simply, cryptocurrencies represent encrypted, decentralized and virtual currencies that are being transferred on a peer-to-peer basis. All transactions are being stored in a public, blockchain ledger, which, theoretically, ensures that everything can be tracked back and that (hardly) no changes can be made to the finalized blocks. 

This new form of money caused an epidemic which started 10 years ago in 2009 as Bitcoin was born. However, it was not until 2013 that Bitcoin attracted serious media and investor attention as it reached a value of $266 per Bitcoin, in April that year. It did not stop there. At its peak, one Bitcoin was worth nearly $20,000. In the years that followed, various digital currencies were on the rise as well and towards the end of 2017, cryptocurrencies were hot and happening. That changed towards early 2018. Stories about hackers were the first to create trust issues among consumers and soon the digital currencies plunged. Experts started to speculate about what exactly made the bubble burst, resulting in rumours. 

“The public’s trust sunk to far below sea level.”

For instance, it is said that the US Justice Department is investigating whether the currency Tether was used to manipulate the Bitcoin market and so caused extreme increases in Bitcoin price.

In addition, several governments and institutions were not as enthusiastic about this whole crypto thing as, let’s say, your fitness trainer. Still, some forefront governments such as Japan, China and South Korea looked into means to better regulate the crypto business. The whole world patiently waited to see if their advanced technologies would hit the mainstream and strengthen the virtual currencies.  But, it did not and huge hacks followed; the hacks created massive cracks and the public’s trust sunk to far below sea level. Suddenly, people’s crypto wallets were really, really empty. Including yours. 

The Future
Despite this dramatic story which probably still makes you sob, not all hope is gone. Even the most harsh critics do admit to see some form of light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, the whole crypto crisis enforced a serious boost in the innovation and development of the whole blockchain technology. Yet, speculators remain careful with their predictions of where the crypto industry is headed. What they do tend to agree on, though, is that within industries ranging from finance to artificial intelligence and from healthcare to politics, firms are going to benefit from increasingly powerful and promising applications that have blockchain at their core. Look at Facebook introducing its own currency called Libra, multinationals now accepting Bitcoin as a payment method (Starbucks, Whole Foods, Nordstrom) and governments starting to use crypto in their trade deals (as Argentina and Paraguay recently did). There is no denying that developments are taking place and that important parties are buying in. So, did people lose trust in digital currencies? Yes. Is it going to be hard for this trust to be (partially) restored? Absolutely. Are blockchain and cryptocurrency dead? No, not all at. Change is upon us.

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]

Sterre Bisschop

Sterre Bisschop

Author

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Beyond Amsterdam: A Startup Tour Through the Netherlands

Ever been abroad and came across a clever, fellow traveller who thought that Amsterdam was a country? Right, topography is hard for some. As such, it is safe to say that the Netherlands oftentimes gets overshadowed by its buzzing capital Amsterdam, where tourists get a taste of the typical Dutch cliché’s. Among those clichés is that startup life in Amsterdam is booming and frankly, that is true. However, this does not only count for Amsterdam. When it comes to new initiatives, the whole country of the Netherlands is flourishing. All cities are located within a close radius, allowing for easy knowledge sharing and for experts to refer to the Netherlands as the European Silicon valley. Take a look at the graphic below, which indicates the number of startups per city or region. Time to put the Netherlands’ other cities in the spotlight and to reveal what they are thriving on.

Groningen: Data, Healthcare & Energy
In the far, far North where it is cold and dark you will find Groningen. Although Groningen is only 150 km from Amsterdam, it has long been regarded as an “off the grid” location. Nowadays, however, it is reforming itself into a city which actively attracts both national as well as international talent. What kind of people it attracts? Well, Groningen leads the way in data services, healthcare and energy initiatives, according to StartupDelta and excels at building an ecosystem connecting young, ambitious people with experts and the right facilities. As an example, take Founded in Groningen, an online platform allowing for entrepreneurs to connect with others, promote their company (events) and publish blog posts. 

Rotterdam: Shipping Center 
Rotterdam is renowned as the place to be for architecture lovers, but it is also famous for its international port. As a result, Rotterdam has established itself as a shipping centre point. With big harbor funds backing innovation and specialized start ups, they are a centre for new innovations. Rotterdam was featured by the Financial Times as a superb location for startups and new ventures. An example? The Erasmus Center for Entrepreneurship represents one of Rotterdam’s startup hubs, as a community with over 160 startups and scale-ups where innovation and research form the basis for developing innovative ideas. 

Delft: Tech-Savvy As Can Be
Delft is not only a cute little town, it is also The Netherlands’ cutting edge technological and engineering core. With the leading TU Delft University, they supply outstanding tech talent. In addition, it is home to one of Holland’s leading incubators YesDelft! who have supported over 200 new initiatives by building an ecosystem of young talent, experts, mentors, corporate partners and investors. 

The Hague: Security is Key
The Netherlands is one of the few countries in the world in which its parliament is not located in the capital. Instead, the country is being lead from a city with an ocean view: The Hague. In this political and international heart of The Netherlands, innovation plays an important role too, especially with regard to security. Security Delta Campus inspires professionals, entrepreneurs, institutions and students to join forces on business opportunities and idea sharing in order to foster innovation within the field of (digital) security.

Utrecht: Healthcare & Sustainability 
The beautiful city of Utrecht, boasts more than pretty houses and canals. From an innovation perspective, Utrecht’s focus lies in health and sustainability. In fact, Utrecht provides all the necessary resources for skillful and ambitious entrepreneurs, with an outstanding university, a Sciencepark and the leading UtrechtInc incubator. This startup hub aims to help young talent in validating and accelerating their business ideas and therewith fosters innovation in Utrecht.

Eindhoven: More Tech
Rivaling Delft, Eindhoven is yet another tech centre in Holland. Hometown of the Dutch Philips and Technical University Eindhoven, it is considered one of Europe’s leading brainports. It has also attracted the Silicon Valley Singularity University, enticing international parties and investors. Consequently, Eindhoven has been labeled as “Innovation City” by The Guardian, last year. One of Eindhoven’s ongoing masterpieces is Theo Salet’s mission to establish the first real 3D-printed house. 

Apart from the six cities mentioned above, there are more promising innovation regions to be found in the Netherlands. Think about Twente, Leiden, Nijmegen and other Dutch hubs. These smaller hubs are centered around the best universities and each have specific focuses, such as law, food science or societal developments. Want to see it for yourself? Come and explore! The Netherlands really offers it all. 

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]

Anneloes van der Steenstraten & Sterre Bisschop

Anneloes van der Steenstraten & Sterre Bisschop

Authors

Innovation Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

This summer the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (speaking of complicated names) revealed that the Netherlands has the fourth most innovative economy in the EU. Obviously, this is not a surprise. We 3D print bridges, invent cow toilets to minimize methane gas emissions and constantly tweak our business models like we have nothing else to do. Without any doubt, innovation is everywhere. However, many people do not clearly know what the concept of innovation entails, let alone the different forms in which it  can present itself. Fortunately, we are here to help.Experts are known t o agree to disagree about what innovation truly is. However, there is a general consensus that there are four overall types of innovation to be identified, which have been classified according to the market pull and technology push. Let’s zoom in.

Source: design.farm

Incremental Innovation
Also known as sustaining innovation or continuous improvement, this slow and steady type of innovation simply improves what is already there. So, it implies that a firm innovates by building on its existing technologies, to provide increased value to the existing market. In practise, this means that additional features or services are added to a business model or that the user experience is being improved. This is not the type of innovation that will make you win awards, however, it can add great value both to the processes within a company as well as to the customers. An example? The Dutch bicycle leasing company Swapfiets are now offering electric bikes too.

Disruptive Innovation
We have dedicated one whole blogpost (read it here)  to this form of innovation, describing how the term is being used and abused. 

According to disruption guru Christensen, disruptive innovation takes place when a smaller company with fewer resources manages to successfully challenge an established business, which can happen in two ways. Option one: the small company first targets the low, price conscious end of the market and slowly moves up market as its technology and therewith value increase. Option 2: entirely new markets are created by offering a product or service people did not even know they wanted. In short, disruptive innovations make products or services more affordable and accessible to a larger public. An example? The PC or digital photography. Having a PC or digital camera at home a few decades ago, resulted in technology empowering individuals, for the very first time.

Architectural Innovation
This form implies that a company uses its existing technologies but introduces them to a completely new market. As the name suggests, the components of the product or service are taken apart and put together differently to serve those new customers in an alternative way. So, rather than reinventing the product or service, it is about redesigning it by putting the initial building blocks to use in a new manner. An example? Many technologies that have originally been developed by the military, are later on used for medical research. 

Radical Innovation
This is what all the innovation buzz is about, as many people hold the belief that innovation is equivalent to radical innovation and therewith overlook the other forms. Some consider radical and disruptive innovation as interchangeable terms, but that is only correct when talking about Christensen’s second option of disruption. Surely, the two overlap. Radical innovation involves applying a new technology to an entirely new market, creating long-term impact. As such, it destroys the existing system and offers a replacement accordingly. When executed successfully, radical innovation can bring significant rewards. However, the risks are significant too. An example? The airplane. This revolutionary invention was not the first mode of transportation. However, it created a new industry where (air) travel could be developed and commercialized for a completely new market. 

Sometimes the lines between the different innovation categories get blurry. Where the boundaries lie exactly, could be industry specific and therefore companies should actively think about classifications that apply to them specifically. Why? It will help companies gain structure and alignment within innovation management, which is in turn will benefit a company’s overall success. 

Curious to find out how your company can best innovate? We would be happy to help! 

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]

Be a Boss: Why the Future Works Freelance

Where 30 years ago university grads were dreaming of finding a stable employer in order to be able to buy a big house, a station wagon and a labrador, today’s youngsters seem to have different ambitions. You see, they aspire to become digital nomads. Basically, the name “digital nomad” is one of those fancy terms used for people who work on a freelance basis and can do so in their bathing suits from a bounty beach in Mexico. All they need in order to get their jobs done, is a computer, an internet connection and a specific skill they excel in. In the United States, a solid 50% of the workforce is expected to be freelancing by 2020. But also in Europe the freelancers are taking over. In the last decade the number of freelancers in the EU has doubled. To illustrate, in the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands freelance growth has surpassed traditional employment growth, according to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed. Let’s take a look at what is going on here.

“A shift in mindset and lifestyle in combination with digitalization, has in turn enabled a shift in the way people work.”​

Why People Freelance
Surprise, surprise, the booming freelance market is mainly driven by Generation Y and Z. Their work/life values are characterized by autonomy, feelings of freedom and by working efficiently. Where working for an employer would require workers to negotiate their asses off to get an extra few holidays or to get that  precious 13th month, freelancing is actually a lot more, well, beneficial. Studies show that the most important benefits of working freelance include:

  • flexibility in one’s work schedule
  • work variety
  • being one’s own boss/working remotely

So what do we see? Simply put, a shift in mindset and lifestyle in combination with digitalization, has in turn enabled a shift in the way people work. Working freelance is no longer something people do because they are forced to do so. Instead, working freelance is something the new workforce desires.

Why Freelancers Get Hired 
As supply of freelance work increases, so does demand (oh how we love good old microeconomics). Although it used to be mostly small business that would allocate jobs to freelancers when they were short of hands, larger companies are becoming more and more dependent on the new workforce now too. In fact, what we are seeing today, is that companies of all shapes and sizes are realizing their full potential by hiring freelancers. So, what’s in it for them? Funnily enough, many of the benefits reported by the freelancers, are also experienced by the employers. Working with freelancers often makes costly trainings irrelevant, eliminates insurances that need to be covered and freelancers tend to be more motivated to deliver high quality work at a faster pace. As such, hiring freelancers allows firms to fulfill tasks for which highly-skilled people are needed, while controlling labor costs. So, both from a supply as well as a demand perspective, flexibility, independence and efficiency seem to be among the key drivers of the booming freelance business. 

The Drawbacks
Unfortunately, not everything is peaches and cream. There are downsides to the new way of working too. A recent study by the Freelance Union shows that freelance workers worry about their income stability, the lack of health-care benefits and paid leave. In fact, the research revealed that 63% of freelancers see themselves forced to touch their savings at least once a month compared to 20% of regular employees. Those concerns do not go unnoticed. Policymakers are starting to respond in their attempts to protect freelancer rights. For example, the EU’s 2020 Entrepreneurships Action Plan aims to remove several of those obstacles in order to foster Europe’s entrepreneurial landscape. As such, despite the drawbacks, the freelance economy seems to have a bright future ahead.  

At Amstel Lab we strongly believe in the power of freelancers too. We have access to highly specialized people in several business fields, which allows us to instantly match the right specialists to the right cases. Curious how we do that? Or in need of getting a job done? Feel free to reach out!

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]

Nine Opening Lines for Your Next Networking Event

Nine Opening Lines for Your Next Networking Event

In today’s digital network era, we often find ourselves hiding behind our seemingly perfect, online personalities. However, strong and lasting relationships are still built through face-to-face interactions, experts claim. Deep down we all know this, right? And who does not love a good old-fashioned, slightly awkward networking event? Some people are born with the natural ability of always knowing what to say in order to connect with their peers. For those of us who have more trouble networking, here are 10 opening lines to kick-start any networking conversation.

1. How did you like the programme?
This is a rather generic, but effective open question to get any conversation going. Because the question is so broad, it does not put much pressure on your partner as he or she can steer the direction of the conversation. Then, it is up to you to find aspects that you (dis)agree about, allowing for deeper discussion.

2. Where are you from, actually?
This one works especially well among international crowds. The truth is, many people love to talk about their roots, so chances are they will get excited. Another plus: if you happened to have visited their country of origin, you have reached common ground and can talk about all the great things you experienced during that trip. Want to take it a step further? Say something in their mother tongue! The result? Your partner is likely to start laughing and you two are bound to connect.

3.  How are you?
When people are being introduced to someone new, the majority of people’s autopilots take over by saying “nice to meet you.” Stop doing that, it is mainstream. Instead, say something that triggers and surprises people, such as: “how do you do?” or “I have heard interesting things about you”.

4. What do you do?
Simple and classic. This certainly is an easy one. It allows people to come straight to the point and give them their regular sales pitch about how fantastic their jobs are, providing you with ample opportunity to see how you can fit into their story. For some cultures this might be too formal, therefore, you can also wait to drop this line until you are slightly further into the conversation.

5. What did you learn today?
This is a fun one, simply because it is not used often and therefore your conversation partners will really have to dig into their brains to generate a suitable answer. Also, sharing what one has learned, requires this person to open up to you and to show his vulnerability which, in turn, allows for a deeper connection.

6. I am starving, is the food here any good?
We all know that food can put us in the mood. Since eating has become such a social activity, talking about the event’s cuisine is a great way to casually get that conversation going. As such, that tasty sashimi might lead to more than just a satisfied tummy.

7. How did you sleep?
Perfect during an event’s first coffee session. This question is rather personal as it is often used in family settings. For this very reason, it might take people by surprise and could lead to them opening up to you about what kept them up all night or about that crazy dream they might have had. Make sure to refer to their answers in any future interactions you might have with this person, just to show that you remember and care.

8. Who is the most interesting person you have talked to today?
This question can bring about several effects. Firstly, it reveals what your partner considers interesting, which gives you the opportunity to tailor your story so that it becomes interesting to them too. Secondly, your partner might introduce you to this interesting person at a later stage. Thirdly, it sets the stage for a personal challenge, in the form of you becoming that most interesting person.

9. How did you hear about the event?
This question will require people to tell you about their (professional) background, which gives you time to figure out what you two have in common.

What are your favorite opening lines to successfully build business relationships? Feel free to add on!

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with startups and scaleups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through. 

Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]