The world is flat, a visa can be helpful…

At this very hour I am supposed to be up in the sky, 30.000 feet, on my way to India, but I am not…  "Can I have your visa please?" struck...

At this very hour I am supposed to be up in the sky, 30.000 feet, on my way to India, but I am not…  
"Can I have your visa please?" struck me by lightning. @#*%!
For almost three years now, my company Qelp has been working closely with one, subsequently two business partners in India. For some people it’s hard to believe that we work together successfully, while we have never met in person. We do meet in cyberspace, some weeks even on a daily basis including weekends. We email, we chat through GTalk, we conference call, development work is delivered through workflows in our software platform, on test and live servers, JIRA issues fired back and forth, invoices sent and paid. Week after week, month after month. For a range of reasons I never went to India to meet Kalpa, Rashmi, Rabiya, Ravi, Swetha and their colleagues in person. Today I was supposed to go there for the first time, for a full program of meetings in Mumbai and Pune until Thursday. It just did not occur to me anymore, that I would need a visa until (not) checking in. Stupid of course, embarrassing even ;-) Having worked so closely together, my brain apparently felt the Indian embassy in The Hague implicitly granted permission to finally meet these people in person. At Qelp I think we practise Thomas Friedman’s, The world is flat to a significant extent. Offshoring, software-as-a-service for our customers, teleworking, virtual teams, operating internationally. Yet, we still live in a bricks and mortar society – one that does require a visa every now and then, for quite different reasons. Travelling in the European region, to the US, various countries in North Africa and the Middle East does not require ordering a visa in advance. There is either an EU treaty in place, you fill out a form in the plane or pay some duties upon arrival.
Hold on friends, sorry about this, I’ll plan for a new trip.

Benelux Techtour

Last week I had the privilege of participating in the Benelux Techtour: an event where  a selection of 24 “promising technology companies” from the Benelux meet with “60 senior representatives from...

Last week I had the privilege of participating in the Benelux Techtour: an event where  a selection of 24 “promising technology companies” from the Benelux meet with “60 senior representatives from VC funds, leading corporations and institutional investors”.
Being selected with my company Qelp as one of the 24 “winners”, I was invited to attend a great networking dinner at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. The COO of a tiny start-up from Luxembourg called Skype, explained us in his key-note speech how they became so successful. On Wednesday the Techtour left Amsterdam by boat for Utrecht and 8 selected technology companies including yours truly delivered a presentation to the investors. While I am not actively looking for venture capital right now, the event was an excellent networking opportunity to refresh some existing contacts and get some new buscards from investors, entrepreneurs, press and even a few potential customers. Compliments to Coen van Duiven and Ron Belt for putting this event together in their "spare" time. Coverage on the event can a.o. be found in Het Financieele Dagblad and De Telegraaf (both in Dutch).

Time to blog!

It’s about time to post a sign of life. My last item on this blog is from December 2, 2005, it seems like ages ago.When do you blog most? When you...

It’s about time to post a sign of life. My last item on this blog is from December 2, 2005, it seems like ages ago.
When do you blog most? When you have lots of time and nothing to talk about or when you are extremely busy and no time to blog? I don’t know. It goes back to the question why does someone blog in the first place. Several people have already tried to answer that question. First of all, blogging has become so mainstream that there is no longer one type of blogging, look at Wikipedia’s overview here for example. Then, blogging is a personal thing, reasons for wanting to blog vary from person to person. So, instead of trying to list all the reasons why other people blog, let me list mine:

  • I have always wanted to be a journalist. In fact, in 1985 and 1986 I was a freelance journalist for Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, writing background articles for their Economy section. I remember how proud I was, seeing my name appearing in print. It demanded however so much time next to my job as a management consultant, that after some time I could not cope combining the two any longer. But the passion for writing remained. Some day I may want to write a book – if books still exist then…
  • Blogging is an experiment to me. I am fascinated by technology and am an early adopter in more than one respect. Technology changes our lives faster and more often than we sometimes realize. The best way to learn about a new technology, is to practice it and that’s what I am doing. Practicing to discover.
  • Blogging to me is also a way of communicating with people I know but who I do not meet on a regular basis. My blog is a way to keep others posted on what I am doing and thinking. In addition to running Qelp as a company, I try to contribute to national and European debates about how we can stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship. To me this blog is a helpful medium to express my opinion and be able to point people to it as reference in an email for example

But perhaps in a couple of months or years, I get bored with blogging and stop all of a sudden. Russell Beattie, a mobile specialist who works for Yahoo, had tens of thousands of readers a day, and just stopped overnight (by no means can I compare my articles to the professional, in-depth analyses he would post). He posted on average 3 articles a day for several years and then all of a sudden closed his notebook. I use Bloglines as an RSS reader and Russell had a blog that I would read, every day.

Having said that, let me try to improve and start blogging again about what’s happening. Speak to you soon: in blog or in person.

Xbox 360 launch in Utrecht

Just returned from a pre-launch party organized by the Sandfire team. Sandfire brought the city of Utrecht and Microsoft together, culminating in a green spotlight for the Dom of Utrecht symbolizing the...

De Dom in UtrechtJust returned from a pre-launch party organized by the Sandfire team. Sandfire brought the city of Utrecht and Microsoft together, culminating in a green spotlight for the Dom of Utrecht symbolizing the Xbox 360 launch on December 2. In Utrecht you can get a bachelor in games design, the city is now even positioning itself as "the gaming city of the Netherlands". Combined with the national games days currently taking place in Utrecht, Microsoft could have picked a worse place for its long awaited launch. At the party in gallery De Kunstsalon, painter Adri Dijkhorst put his version of the Xbox 360 on display, which quickly became a collector’s item at Microsoft NL offices – he was asked to produce a second one. There were two Xbox 360 machines present at the gallery and I tried the  Project Gotham Racing 3 game for a few minutes, crashing every 10 seconds (my car, not the Xbox) despite the amazing graphics quality and advanced remote control. Spoke with 22-year old John Jonk, who is a professional game player. Professional means crossing the world to participate in game matches and making thousands of dollars per event. Some gamers make a living out of it, earning even more dollars. My kids at home have been complaining that "its about time we get a PlayStation 2 at home, everyone else has one". I have set a milestone before we go and buy one. When they heard about my invitation for the pre-launch party, there expectations rose. However, as there are a lot more (kids-friendly) games available for the PS 2, we won’t opt for the Xbox 360 (yet).

MP: “award 23% of procurement to SME”

It looks like the Dutch parliament is putting its arms around a Dutch Small Business Act now, a discussion I ignited with my June 21 press conference and the subsequent reaction from...

It looks like the Dutch parliament is putting its arms around a Dutch Small Business Act now, a discussion I ignited with my June 21 press conference and the subsequent reaction from the Dutch Minister of International Trade. Today I received an email from Dutch member of parliament (MP) Mr. Jan ten Hoopen (CDA) that he now submitted a formal request to the Dutch government through a "motion". In his motion (click here to download as a PDF in Dutch) he requests "to develop a facility similar to the Small Business Act in the United States" "…with a government target of 23% of all procurement of products and technologies…" requesting a response before January 1, 2006. Taking into account the support earlier expressed by the political parties PvdA and VVD, this is likely to become a serious debate in Dutch parliament.

Starring: Yahoo mobile phone

Yahoo seems to make the first move in the mobile race with Google I blogged about earlier. Today news leaked (?) out through the Wall Street Journal that a Yahoo branded...

Yahoo seems to make the first move in the mobile race with Google I blogged about earlier. Today news leaked (?) out through the Wall Street Journal that a Yahoo branded mobile phone is underway to the market, apparently for the US only initially: "SBC executives said the SBC-Yahoo phone, which will be manufactured by Nokia Corp., is expected to be available as soon as early next year and will cost $200 to $300. Operating on the Cingular Wireless network, which is co-owned by SBC and BellSouth Corp., the phone will also be an MP3 player, a 1.3 megapixel camera and will have a removable memory card." So let’s see now how long it takes for Google to announce a counter attack. If they want to outperform Yahoo, their phone should be manufactured in Taiwan by HTC based on Google’s specifications, support WiFi (enabling surfing on the San Francisco city network Google is bidding for), have a QWERTY keyboard like the Treo 650, cost less than $200 and become available in Europe simultaneously… Looking at Yahoo’s product announcements lately (widgets, RSS etc.) it almost looks as if they spot Google’s next move and then ensure they come with a product announcement earlier. I can imagine Yahoo nor Google wants to be portrayed as a follower in the current combat.

Update: goes without saying that both phones would sport new mobile advertising functions of course! Like a SIM-lock for Google AdSense ;-)

NL government: “Renegotiate WTO agreement”

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade Mrs. Karien van Gennip sent a letter this week to Dutch Parliament, answering MP-questions resulting from my June 21 press conference.In summary her letter covers three...

Mrs. Van GennipThe Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade Mrs. Karien van Gennip sent a letter this week to Dutch Parliament, answering MP-questions resulting from my June 21 press conference.
In summary her letter covers three topics (to download the Dutch letter as Word document, click here):
1. The Minister agrees that European SMEs cannot compete on equal footing with American SMEs due to a WTO-GPA agreement in place since 10 years.
2. To reverse the preferred treatment American SMEs are getting under the WTO agreement, the topic has now been put on the agenda of the current WTO-negotiations by the EU, supported by the Dutch government.
3. The Netherlands has started a trial with a SBA-pact for SMEs, a so-called SBIR arrangement which awards government R&D projects to SMEs.

The good news is that the Dutch government explicitly recognizes the unfairness of the issue and now actively supports the lobby to renegotiate the WTO-GPA agreement. I am glad my lobby effort and press conference in June on behalf of SUN&SUP had some impact. What I am less satisfied about is that the Dutch government feels it’s already doing something to support SMEs with government projects. The fact of the matter is that these SBIR-projects she refers to, total only a few million Euros, which is nothing compared to the 23% of public procurement the US government awards to American SMEs annually. Government procurement in the Netherlands totals 30 billion Euro (…) annually. Imagine only 10% of that, 3 billion Euro, flowing to Dutch SMEs every year. Wouldn’t that be a true impulse for employment growth and innovation among SMEs, the European Union is so desperately pursuing with it’s Lisbon agenda? I’ll try to get this point across.

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