Amsterdam’s Upcoming Online Startup Events You Want to RSVP For

Amsterdam’s Upcoming Online Startup Events You Want to RSVP For

In times of social distancing, we rely on our computers more than ever. Also when it comes to (networking) events. On the bright side: the commute to online events is very short. And despite the fact that it is harder to connect with people virtually, it is not impossible. In fact, it is refreshing to see how many online events are being hosted, to help each other out during this interesting time. We put together a list of online events you do not want to miss out on. 

Event: TNW answers with Sarafina Nance
Date: 21 AprilTime: 20:00 – 21:00
Link:  click here 
Since TNW conference has been postponed to October, they are hosting a series of online events called TNW answers. Thought leaders are given the virtual mic to enlighten us from their living rooms to ours. 

Event: Finance Academy Amsterdam (Online Workshop)
Date: 27 April
Time: 15:00 – 17:00
Link:  click here 
Now that Kingsday is off the table anyway, you might just as well find something useful to do like attending this online workshop. In this two-hour session, hosted by Leadpfunder’s CEO Tienko Rasker, you will learn about finance related topics such as structuring different equity classes, shareholder agreements and using convertibles. 

Event: The art of customer segmentation 
Date: 28 April
Time: 19:00 – 20:30
Link: click here 
During this Meet-up, Krasi Bozhinkova from Owtcom, will take you on a journey around customer segmentation. Agenda point include data, trends, capabilities and priorities. Her approach is based on years of experience working with large companies and startups in a wide range of markets. It’s all about making your product truly customer-centric. 

Event: Social Media for Entrepreneurs, Startups and Small Businesses
Date: 26 May
Time: 19:00 – 22:00
Link:  click here
In online times, your online channels are of crucial importance. The Utrecht entrepreneurship Meet-up will invite several key players in the field who will show you the ins and outs of social media. The result? A corona-proof social media strategy. 

Event: Becoming a Digital Nomad — Travel the World and Work Remotely
Date: 16 June
Time: 19:00 – 22:00
Link:  click here
Has corona made you realize that you can work from anywhere (once we can actually fly anywhere again)? Then this Meet-up is for you. The speakers are (or have been) digital nomads themselves and will provide you with tons of useful tips and tricks.

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.

Sterre Bisschop

Sterre Bisschop

Author

How to Define your USP

How to Define your USP

Although Amsterdam has not been so busy lately, this does not count for the startup scene. However, in times of crisis, it is more important than ever to distinguish yourself from the fierce competition. Naturally, you know that what you are offering is the very best in the market, but have you convinced your (potential) customers of this as well? Time to go over your USP (unique selling point/proposition). Your USP should play a fundamental role in your branding strategy, as it articulates what benefits your products/services offer over your competition. But how do you define your USP? How do you communicate it? And how do you make sure it withstands? Luckily, we are here to help you get on the right track.

Market Research
Where would we be without some good old-fashioned market research? Exactly, nowhere. So, first and foremost, it is essential to conduct extensive market research, in order to identify what truly motivates your target market. What influences their buying decisions? What do they care about? So, talk to your customers! If you just started off and do not have customers yet that can provide you with those insights, try to obtain this data from your competition. 

The FAB Statement
If you have not done so yet, create a FAB statement. FAB stands for features, advantages, benefits and helps you understand why the customer would buy your offerings. Here’s how to go about it. 

Create a list of features of your products/services, identify one or two advantages that this feature brings, and most importantly, describe how those advantages translate into benefits for the customer. Let’s say you are selling organic wine. Features could be that no sulfites or synthetic additives are added during the production process, resulting in the body being better able to break down the alcohol, an advantage. The benefits? No hangovers and customers will experience better overall health compared to “inorganic” wine-drinkers. Those benefits are what you want to communicate, because the consumer is more interested in paying for “better overall health” than for just “organic wine”.  So, the benefits represent the reasons your customer chooses your products over the competition’s. 

 As such, the only thing that is left to do, is to flip the FAB statement. State the benefit, then explain how the benefit is achieved using the advantage and the feature. Thus, you are not selling organic Merlot. No. You are selling a hangover-free life, as the lack of synthetic additives in your Merlot enable the body to naturally break down the alcohol. This might sound straightforward, but you would be surprised how many entrepreneurs still get this wrong.

Marketing & Sales
Once you have identified what your USP is, make sure you actively apply it in all your marketing and sales efforts. As such, create a catchy tagline around it, use it in your social media posts or make it a theme in your monthly newsletter. As such, a certain consistency will be communicated to your (potential) clients, which will provide clarity, professionalism and the reassurance that you, indeed, are the very best in your field. 


Some Inspiration
In many cases, a company’s USP can be expressed in one or two lines. Here’s a few examples of established businesses that got it right

M&Ms: “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
Colgate: “Improve mouth health in two weeks”
Dropbox: “Dropbox keeps your files safe, synced, and easy to share. Bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and never lose a file again.”

Do you need assistance identifying your USP? Maybe we can 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]

Four Essential Business Lessons To Learn From the Coronacrisis

Four Essential Business Lessons To Learn From the Coronacrisis

Remember that time when corona was just a beer you would drink with lime? Funny how things change. The coronacrisis has turned the whole world upside down and now challenges almost every aspect of life as we know it. This also counts for business. In an attempt to stop the virus from going viral, many companies have had to put their operations on hold or radically change their business models. However, we should not forget that crises not only lead to sleepless nights, they also lead to important business lessons we should take into account in the years to come. . Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Lesson 1: Working Remotely Actually Works
The coronacisis creates an interesting experiment as it comes to working from home. According to a study by Gartner, many managers used to be hesitant about this way of working. In fact, 54% percent of managers indicated that a poor technological infrastructure was the biggest barrier for working remotely. It turns out that indeed, in our ever increasingly digital world, getting the tech straight still is not easy. However, chances are you had not even heard of Zoom before this all started. With parties such as Google and Microsoft  offering their services for free and with other awesome online tools entering our daily lives, the digital environment becomes easier to navigate for anyone, tackling the technology barrier. 

Lesson 2: You Can Trust Your Employees
Another direct result of working from home, is that managers need to trust their employees. Especially for the micro-managing type this might be challenging. According to the Gartner study discussed above, 76% of managers would have concerns about employee productivity when they are unable to keep an actual eye on them. In reality, however, those concerns are often unnecessary. Although sharing a desk with three screaming kids rather than three lovely colleagues causes problems of its own, the study showed that employees working from home mostly manage their time rather effectively. In fact, they leverage the time of day when they are most productive. The bottomline? Most employees are probably as productive working from home as they would be working at the office. Managers who worry about employee productivity should set clear goals and accurately manage expectations. 

Lesson 3: Creativity Is Everywhere
Sometimes we forget how creative we are, especially in times of crises. Tons of incredible initiatives have been launched this month. From helpdehoreca.nl here in The Netherlands (where you can purchase a coupon to spend at your favourite bar or restaurant when they open again), to virtual museum tours and from virtual concerts to online workout programs.

The lesson learned here, is that crises present us with obstacles. Embracing those obstacles and combining them with what your business excels at, provides promising opportunities for innovation.

Lesson 4: Use Scenario Planning To Your Advantage
Perhaps the most important lesson learned, is characterized by the simple fact that the future is uncertain. Although this is common knowledge, nobody was prepared for this crisis. COVID-19 functioned as a friendly reminder of how volatile the future really is. Now that it is here, strategy is more important than ever. Scenario planning can be a very effective tool to guide you through this mess, to limit the surprise factor the coming months or years. How to go about it? Here’s an idea:

    • Clarify the corona phases: e.g. 1) withstanding the impact, 2) going back to normal, 3) sorting out the new industry dynamics.
    • Define the challenges: for each phase, clearly describe the long-term challenges that could arise. Although firefighting might be tempting, we need to think about the long run here.
    • Clarify the options: If the challenges have been identified clearly, it is mostly possible to come with options that appropriately tackle the challenges. For each option, specify the pros and cons so that you can weigh them against each other.

    • Build scenarios: Based on your options, the phases and potential input from your key stakeholders, create your scenarios. What resources would you need in each scenario? How will your relationships with stakeholders change? E.g. if you are a fitness company, your worst case scenario might indicate you are going to be offline for a good while. That means technology will play a far bigger role than it did in the past. You might want to invest in this, or broaden your knowledge on the topic.

In sum, being confronted with a global pandemic is new to any company. Without any doubt, its effects are going to be felt by almost any business. However, in order to capitalize on the coronacrisis, it is important to stay alert, stay creative and help each other out where possible. Are you a startup of scaleup in need of some support? We’d be happy to help 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.

A Startup Guide to Dealing With the Coronacrisis

A Startup Guide to Dealing With the Corona crisis

Many Western motivational speakers, including J.F. Kennedy, have noted that the Chinese word for “crisis” consists of two characters: representing “danger” as well as “opportunity”. Although some linguistics argue that it is not all that simple, there surely are many opportunities to be found in any crisis. The art is to uncover them and to respond to them in a timely manner. At Amstel Lab, we are dedicated to helping startups and scaleups thrive. We believe that the Amsterdam startup ecosystem has the power to sustain itself, if we all contribute one’s mite. Therefore, we created a guide that will help you find structure in these unstructured times, so that hopefully you will be able to turn the threat into an opportunity.

1. First Things First: Market Research
Knowledge is power, right? In other words, make sure you follow the news specific to your industry very closely. By using that information, analyze how all happenings in the external environment, including the corona crisis, match your business’ internal strengths and weaknesses. This will give you an insight in where exactly your company specific opportunities lie.

2. Where Is The Value?
Critically analyze how you create value for your customers. What is the feeling you normally would want to evoke when customers interact with your brand? And are there other ways you can still bring about the same effect? It might be helpful to use some tools here, such as the business model canvas. Tools like these are great in creating a clear and concise overview of how your business model translates into customer value. 

3. Keep Talking To Your Customers
Crisis or no crisis, customers still come first. As such, it is important to keep the conversation going. That means that online presence is more important than ever, just as customer service and any form of interaction that you will have with your customer base. After all, if you talk to your customers, you are likely to uncover their needs. Chances are those needs are slightly different than before. So, if you know how your customer needs differ, this will be the foundation for your altered product or service.

4. Think Long Term
If you decide to come up with a completely new business model, think of how this will impact your startup on the long term. For instance, chances are you are doing a whole lot more online business, is this something you would want to build up further, throughout the coming months or years?

5. Beware Of Free Online Services
Working remotely might not always be as comfy as working from the office, where you have access to three monitors and a proper chair that does not make your back ache.

 

However, it is great to see how many players offer free versions of their services in these strange corona times. A few examples:

    • Microsoft offers Microsoft Teams for free for six months
    • Google freely offers its more advanced functions of its Hangouts Meet videoconferencing software to all its G Suite and G Suite for Education clients.
    • Alleeninkt.nl is offering free printing service for those stuck at home without printers.
    • Ubereats will deliver for free.
    • In need of a break? Take a virtual museum tour at the Guggenheim (New York), The British Museum (London), Musée d’Orsay (Paris), National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Soul), our very own Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum, Pergamon Museum (Berlin), Uffizi Gallery (Florence) and many more! 
    • Soofos is offering one free course per person. Their topics are very broad, ranging from Excel skills to drawing, from Photoshop to marketing.

6. Manage Your Team
Working remotely can affect team productivity, or your own productivity. Small things that help are getting dressed in the morning, prepping your snacks (‘cause hey, we all know the fridge calls), leaving the toilet paper for what it is, keeping spirits and communication up. 

7. Monitor and Reflect
We should not forget that challenges, such as the cornonacrisis, represent an excellent learning opportunity. Surely, it has huge (financial) consequences for your business, but instead of returning back to normal while heaving sighs of relief once it is over, make sure to reflect. Crises tend to uncover a business’s weaknesses, so documenting your actions and its impacts now will represent a valuable lesson for the future. 

Clearly, the steps above are all rather generic. At Amstel Lab, we would be happy to develop a company specific plan for your startup or scaleup, which we could deliver within a week’s time and will make you immune for the negative business consequences of the coronavirus. Want to learn more? Contact us through [email protected]

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.

How To Find the Right Investor

How To Find the Right Investor

Raising capital for your startup could be compared to the Dutch winter: it is dreadful and takes ages. Chances are that you cannot wait to convince potential investors of your genius concept, in order to get them to reach for their wallets. However, finding the right investor should not be underestimated. It would probably be wise not to just target the investor with the deepest pockets. Instead, you want to find somebody who can relate to your vision. Somebody who fully understands the challenges ahead and is familiar with your field of business. As corny as it may sound, the right investor will provide you with more than just dollar bills. Here is how to go about it.

Understand Your Options
First things first. That is, you need to understand your options and what type of funding is suitable for you at this point in time. Are you looking for private equity, venture capital or an angel investor? Of course everybody is eager to get that VC money. However, whether this is realistic, very much depends on the stage you are at. That is, different investors can bring about different perks. For instance, angel investors can brings loads of individual expertise but often lack the resources that VCs have. On the other hand, angel investors tend to play less hard to get with their initial requirements, whereas VCs mostly demand hard, empirical evidence that your idea is bulletproof. The lesson? If you find yourself at the early stages of running a business, chances are you will have more success with an angel investor than with a VC. Are you scaling? Then, it might be time to aim for the VCs.

Perfect Your Pitch
Don’t underestimate the power of your pitchdeck. This document could be one of the most important documents you will ever create. It is holy. Truly. A good pitchdeck should set a hook, it should make those investors hungry for more. To do that effectively, ask yourself a couple of questions. What is the problem you are solving? Who are you solving it for? Who is in your team and why are you capable of delivering what you promise? And not to be disregarded: what is the revenue model? Is that realistic and how will the revenue flow into the investors’ pockets in turn? 

If you manage to bring across clearly what you envision for your company and how you will live up to it, the investors that are on the same page as you will recognize your potential.

Know Who You Are Talking To
Upon meeting with a potential investor, it is important that you understand who this person is. As such, ask questions about previous investments they have undertaken. What kind of background does this investor have? How knowledgeable and experienced is he/she? Running a little background check is probably not a bad idea before you get all excited.

Compare Preferences
Once you found an investor, it might be wise to manage some expectations. Therefore, you will probably want to assess if this person is going to fit your precious company culture. For instance, is the investor’s vision different than your company’s? Does the investor prefer a hands on or hands off approach? What role does the investor see for him or herself in the company? Those are all important questions that should be managed before you decide to join forces. 

Are you currently looking for an investor that matches your business? Maybe we can 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]

Amsterdam’s Upcoming Startup Events You Want to RSVP For

Amsterdam’s Upcoming Startup Events You Want to RSVP For

As the days are slowly getting longer, so is the Amsterdam startup agenda. So why not prepare for spring with a valuable lesson, a useful connection or a little party? We put together a list of startup events that you’ll want to RSVP for today.

Event: Amsterdam Career Days 
Date: 2 – 6 March 
Location: WTC Amsterdam 
Link:  click here
This event is actually aimed at students, as VU university and UvA university collaborate to help their students navigate their future careers. It is mostly meant for students with a background in accounting, business administration, econometrics, economics and finance. So if you are looking for talent, you might want to get involved. 

Event: Moonshot Fest 2020 (hosted by B Building Amsterdam)
Date: 5 March 2020
Location: Johan Huizingalaan 763a ground floor & café restaurant Bureau
Link: click here 
This event celebrates entrepreneurship and so all entrepreneurial spirits are invited. The theme is the human side of tech, which sounds interesting, doesn’t it? There is a full programme, featuring interesting speakers, live podcasts, panels and (after)parties. Tickets are very affordable (€ 74.50), so you better claim yours fast! 

Event: Chinese incubator talk, about what China, the incubator & government can offer!
Date: 2 April 2020 (might be rescheduled due to, well you know, Corona)
Location: A’Dam & CO (18th Floor)
Link:  click here
A Chinese incubator from Beijing will come to Amsterdam, on the search for startups and scaleups, especially those involving blockchain. There are only 50 spots, so you might want to RSVP. 

Event: Appril Festival
Date: 22 & 23 April
Location: Pathé de Munt
Link: click here
This event is centered around mobile business, new technologies and app development. The speakers are all part of a nationwide platform and includes visionaries, app publishers and tech professional that have interesting insights to share. 

Event: Emerce NEXT 
Date: 26 May
Location: Beurs van Berlage 
Link:  click here
Emerce NEXT is all about the newest technologies and its applications in business, media and society. There will be tons of game-changers talking about coding & development, big data & analytics, artificial intelligence, Growth Hacking, smart cities, augmented & virtual reality, gamification, 5G technology, blockchain & cryptocurrency. 

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]

How To Win in the War for Talent

How To Win in the War For Talent

It might seem contradictory, but in our world which is getting more techy every day and where artificial intelligence is taking over jobs at the speed of light, the human element is still a major force behind any successful company. As such, it should not come as a surprise that many businesses will go out of their way to design a well-thought through employee experience, and translate this into fancy employee journeys. Similarly, recruiters  are no longer looking for “new employees” but rather for “talent”, so much so that an actual war for talent has emerged. But, if you think about it, it is actually quite logical. At the end of the day, any business boils down to people. Properly understanding the human element in business, will lead to better hires, less employee turnover, higher quality work, more efficiency and eventually profitability. So, next to attracting talent, this war for talent also involves retaining it. Let’s zoom in.

“Generation Z is likely to change jobs as many as 10 times between the age of 18-34 and 44% of millenials are expected to leave their jobs within the coming two years.”

Changing Demographics
The workforce’s face is changing and it is changing rapidly. 20 years ago, it was still dominated by baby boomers and generation X, who were driven by materialism, status and would spend decades climbing up the company ladder. Today, millennials (or generation Y) make up roughly 50% of the workforce. To add to that, generation Z, born after 1995, is making its way onto the labor market too. These generations have completely different ideas about work than previous generations. They value, freedom, flexibility and it is important to them that they do meaningful work. If this is not the case, they will simply change jobs. To illustrate, generation Z is likely to change jobs as many as 10 times between the age of 18-34 and 44% of millenials are expected to leave their jobs within the coming two years, according to research by Staffbase. To boomers, those numbers must sound crazy. Thus, the developments show that employees are less loyal to a company than they used to be and that companies will need to go the extra mile to prove they are worth of gen Y’s and gen Z’s precious time. After all, talent is scarce. So, what can companies do get a piece of the pie?

1. Make Employee Engagement a Top Priority
Engaging workplaces usually don’t go unnoticed. 87% of organizations consider maintaining a strong company culture and employee engagement a top challenge, however, less than half of those companies believe they do not have a good enough employee retention program in place. So, something is going wrong here. In order to turn those numbers around, it could be an idea to introduce a company wide engagement board. This board would then be responsible for guarding and promoting a rich engagement culture, by understanding engagement from the employees’ point of view. Based on the generated insights, the team can develop strategies to further enhance employee engagement.

2. Get Flexible
As mentioned earlier, the new workforce highly values flexibility. Thus, if you are looking to retain those smart kids, it would only be logical to really offer the flexibility desired. Seriously, gen Y and gen Z want to be able to work any time from anywhere, so you might want to get creative when it comes to allowing holidays, working remotely or scheduling meetings. Naturally, this demands a shift in the way we think about management, work style and the way we trust. A common pitfall is that managers tend to be afraid their staff doesn’t actually work when they are not in their field of vision. Ironically, the office is an extremely ineffective place to get work done, as we highlighted in this blogpost. As such, getting flexible could also involve redesigning the organizational structures or rethinking the concept of authority. All those factors, should then also be reflected in the company culture. 

3.The Psychological Angle
Key is, to create an environment and atmosphere in which people actually enjoy spending time. That is, companies will need to get inside the heads of their employees to find out what makes their clocks tick. Therefore, it could be an idea to get some social scientists on board. Unsurprisingly, organizational psychology is one of today’s fastest growing professions. Such professionals could provide valuable insights on longer-term organizational design. That includes how companies hire, recruit, design work spaces, manage or even run entire departments.

To conclude, the talent for war is serious and companies are struggling with attracting and retaining talent. The new generations highly value autonomy and flexibility and easily switch jobs when something is not to their liking. As such, companies should design strong company cultures: environments where people feel free, involved and purposeful. Therefore, employee engagement, redesigning the concept of flexibility and understanding the workplace from a psychological standpoint should be high on your corporate agenda.

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]

The Blockchain Trust Paradox

The Blockchain Trust Paradox

When Bitcoin was introduced in late 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, the person/persons/company/nation or whatever the pseudonym may symbolize, it was claimed that Bitcoin transactions would be based on cryptographic algorithms instead of trust. Zooming in, it can be observed that this is due to the underlying blockchain technology, which is fundamentally changing the way people trust. For the first time in human history, a permanent, public record of who owns what could be created, without mediation of a centralized third party. A single source of truth, doesn’t that sound idyllic? Well, not really. In the meantime, our friend Nakamoto mysteriously vanished from this planet. As did the cryptocurrency hype. Still, blockchain technology holds huge potential for business. But blockchain seems to be about more than clever code. In fact, there is a very human element that plays a vital role for  blockchain’s mass adoption: good old human trust.

“Why is it so difficult to establish and maintain trust in blockchain’s applications?”

The relationship between trust and blockchain matters because blockchain is not as “trustless” or “trust-free” as was initially promised. The thing is, that trust is a very complex, multi-layered concept, difficult to describe and measure, yet incredibly important for the adoption of blockchain and its applications, such as cryptocurrency. In fact, the word “trust” is said to be the most frequently used word in any discussion about the sharing economy, the over-aching movement of  blockchain. Although blockchain theoretically holds a promise of trust, this does not automatically make blockchain and cryptocurrency trustworthy. After all, blockchain was said to be unhackable, but recent hacking scandals, in which billions worth of cryptocurrencies have been stolen or vanished, have caused insecurities and trust issues among society, complemented by various claims relating cryptocurrency to money laundering. Clearly, such insecurities seem to stand in the way of cryptocurrencies’ mass adoption, acceptance and success. As such, the central question that arises is, why is it so difficult to establish and maintain trust in blockchain’s applications, in this digital era in which trust is so hard to build and so easy to destroy? 

However complex trust may be, trust depends on a critical balance between vulnerability and expectation. Overall, trust increases when the social distance between the trustor and trustee becomes smaller, as people tend to put more trust in people they perceive as socially familiar. This psychological approach explains how trust impacts a wide array of environments, ranging from intimate relationships, to the workplace and (inter)national societies. Actually, trust seems to be so important now, that some people make a living of it.

Trust expert Rachel Botsman describes trust as “the remarkable forces that pulls one over the gap from the known to the unknown.” Her research about the evolution of trust reveals that trust is shifting from being institutional towards being distributed. This means that people are starting to trust central intermediaries less (e.g. banks, insurance companies, governments, the media), and their peers more, enabled by online tools. As such, she explains the success of many sharing economy platforms such as Blablacar, Airbnb or Uber. People are used to paying their trusted intermediaries in order to guarantee trust. As those intermediaries are being made redundant by blockchain, they will increasingly need to prove their value in their attempts not to be replaced by a general ledger.

So, on the one hand, blockchain transparency, traceability and unhackability provide a promise of trust, because people can reliably agree on what the general ledger states is correct. On the other hand, people are reluctant to trust blockchain because of its association with the black market, hacking scandals and because blockchain’s anonymity makes it impossible to judge the degree to which peers have similar social values, which is what people used to base their willingness to trust on. 

At the end of the day, trust is an extremely complex matter, referred to by Botsman as “the glue that holds society together” but trust also seems to be the glue that holds blockchain together. It is so difficult to build and maintain because blockchain is a double-edged sword. Blockchain holds a promise of trust, but promises need to be lived up to in order to withstand. 

What do you do to build and maintain trust? We are curious to find 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]

The Counterproductive Office Life

The Counterproductive Office Life

In our modern-day office life where we “work to live” instead of “live to work”, one could say it is remarkable how little has been done to design a work culture that actually benefits productivity and the quality of work. After all, working eight hours a day behind the same desk, surrounded by the same people who call pointless meetings for the same reasons they did last week, is still a harsh reality for many. Similarly, people will still raise their eyebrows when one of their colleagues leaves early, although they can’t possibly have the slightest idea about the quality or amount of work the early-leaver performed that day. This implies that the average office still holds the general consensus that the hours spent on work correlate with how hard one works. But isn’t that a little superficial? Isn’t it time to realize that the people who stay in the office the longest might not spend all that time on work because the human brain is simply not capable of being concentrated for eight hours straight? Isn’t it time to realize that some people work a whole lot faster and get done twice as much in an hour than their eyebrow-raising colleague? Isn’t it time to realize that it is quality and not quantity of work that brings money to the table and makes the world go round?

"If you are interested in boosting productivity at work, it might be useful to design a work culture that stimulates people to get into the flow or the zone.”

The 8-hour working day dates back to 19th century socialism, when the industrial revolution resulted in organizations letting children and adults alike perform hard work without any upper limit of daily hours worked. Unions fought extremely hard to eventually establish the 40-hour-work week as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. As you might have noticed, it is 2020 today and we have seen our fair share of change along the way. A war here and there, some questionable world rulers, the internet, smart phones, artificial intelligence, blockchain, Trump’s hair (oh wait, that remained the same). The point I am trying to make, is that the world has changed and so have its people. Our mindsets, values and working preferences are fundamentally different than they were once we were working our asses off in cole mines in the 19th century. Back then, the 40-hour-work week made sense and came as a relief; as a form protection. 200 years later, the 40-hour-work week doesn’t make sense and feels like a trap; as a form of attack to our precious lives, with which we could do so much more. 

Naturally, there is more people questioning modern-day office life. Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that heuristic work requires people to get into the physiological state of flow a.k.a. “the zone”. This refers to being fully concentrated and committed to an activity. In fact, people are up to 500% (!!!)  more productive when they are in “the zone”, according to a 10-year McKinsey study. So, if you are interested in boosting productivity at work, it might be useful to design a work culture that stimulates people to get into the flow or “the zone”. Funnily enough, the theory is in sharp contrast with what is considered normal on the floor. Hour long meetings by default, colleagues that come by unannounced to “pick your brain”,  Hour long meetings by default, colleagues that come by unannounced to “pick your brain”, overflowing inboxes and continually switching between tasks  are all flow killers. 

 

To illustrate, Adobe research revealed that, on average, people spend six hours a day on email, checking it 74 times and touching their smartphones 2,617 times daily. (I bet workers did not get Gmail notifications in those cozy cole mines.) Consequently, you might find yourself sitting at your desk at 5pm being extremely surprised with how little you actually got done, while raising your eyebrows when you see Matthew from Finance leaving the office. The result? Frustration, misunderstandings and perhaps a few all-nighters. 

So, what do we do about it? I mean, we can’t possibly have legs to sit on an adjustable office chair all day and acquiring a couple of standing desks is not going to solve the problem. Changing our counterproductive habits requires a more rigorous approach. It demands a shift in the way we think about work, about management, perhaps even about trust. And thank God, there are countermovements. For instance, experiments with the six-hour-workday have shown promising results. It has led to people becoming better at prioritizing, being more rested, more emotionally stable (due to more time with friends or family), but above all it has boosted productivity. Other movements involve companies letting their employees work remotely, as they understand that an office environment might not be the best place to get into the desired flow. But also the rise of freelancers show that (young) people are taking matters into their own hands. In fact, the number of freelancers in the EU has doubled over the last decade, which is not surprising considering that Generation Y and Z highly value freedom, flexibility and feeling alive. After all, the dream of being a digital nomad appeals to us more than having a station wagon. Fifty years ago, that would probably have raised eyebrows. 

How do you deal with the shift in working preferences? We’d be happy to exchange ideas.

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]

6 Ways to Boost Customer Engagement

6 Ways to Boost Customer Engagement

"Engaged customers account for 23% more revenue than “normal” customers."

Whether the customer is king, is something that can be questioned. What can not be questioned, however, is that customer engagement should be on top of your 2020 agenda. Customer engagement is generally defined as the emotional connection between the customer and the company. And, although that might sound vague and dreamy, customer engagement is actually rather important. Engaged customers buy more, promote your product or service and drive loyalty. So much so, that engaged customers account for 23% more revenue than “normal” customers, according to recent Gallup research. Yes, that means that you are missing out if you are used to taking customer engagement with a grain of salt. Luckily, we are here to help and put together several ideas that will help turning your customers into engaged ones in an instant.

1. Start Analyzing the Customer Journey
What better way to know what your customers are going through, than having a clear, well-laid out customer journey? So, get into the shoes of your customers, take their journey and critically take note of every touchpoint. Do your newsletters add value or have they become a monthly, spam-generating habit? Do you respond to reviews? And are you doing that well? Are you actively following up on e-mails? Is your staff friendly and professional enough? Every touchpoint represents an opportunity to get closer to your customer, you might just as well make use of that.
 
2. Deliver a Consistent Omnichannel Experience
Having analyzed your customer journey once more, it probably becomes apparent that you are using numerous channels to interact with you customers. Physical locations, websites, e-mails, blogs, phone calls, social media, you name it, it is important that, regardless of the channel, the experience is consistent and seamless at all times. This might sound straightforward, but very few companies actually get this right in practise.

3.Get Witty on Social Media (But Not in Excess)Social media provide endless opportunities for interacting with your customers. Make sure your content is in line with your brand, that you actively ask for customer input and respond to this accordingly. Doing so in a sassy way is fun and will probably be appreciated. But, don’t cross the line; that will do more harm than good. Below is an excellent example of how Razer went a little too far when it attempted to put Apple in bad daylight when the 2016 Macbook Pro was released without an SD drive. An expensive joke. 

4. Be Prompt in Your Communication
People in the 21st century are impatient. I mean, aren’t you? 42% of customer reaching out to a company through their socials expect a return within 60 minutes. A delayed response is almost as bad as no response. If you are unable to attend to your customers’ needs within those 60 minutes, at least make sure they get an update stating when you will take care of them. People expect to be told what to expect.

5.Don’t Be Pushy
Customer engagement should be a natural flow of interaction between company and customer. This means that customers should not be forced into it. The company creates the opportunities and offers its services, but it is up to the customers to respond to this and actually make use of those services when he or she feels the need for it.

6. Monitor Your Reputation Score
Reputation scores are becoming more and more important determinants for customers to consider your brand and to even find you. Guess what? Most reputation scores are largely driven by customer engagement. Therefore, make sure that you aware of the kind of reputation scores that apply to you and how they affect your business accordingly. 

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]