We actually pulled this off

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

The Appsterdam Movement

This weekend the Appsterdam movement launched the Summer of Appsterdam, our first set of initiatives for building the City of Apps. We’ll have the whole summer to talk more about that. For now, I want to tell you about the actual event. I think—I’m not 100% positive, but I think—we managed to throw the greatest launch party of all time.

Lots of people have launch parties, and a lot of them are really great, but most of them only last one night. Our launch party lasted the entire weekend.

Festivities began on Friday night, as people arrived from all over the world to join with local App Makers in taking over the bar terrace of ‘t Loosje. We spent the night getting to know each other over drinks and snacks overlooking the historic Waag building, home of the city’s open data initiative.

On Saturday morning, attendees had their choice of six tours around the city, each lovingly assembled and expertly delivered by local guides. These were not just touristic strolls through shopping streets. I mean, just look at the program for the Appstars tour. That was just one of the adventures shared by each group of App Makers, each giving them a chance to get to know Appsterdam and each other.

Saturday night, we got together at Panama for a big launch party, sponsored by Igluu and Vodafone. I took the stage and delivered a keynote featuring people and companies in Appsterdam. We also had iPad stands where people could see what their fellow Appsterdammers have been working on.

During the party we introduced our website, our summer initiatives, our new and upcoming Appsterdam Noord and Appsterdam Centraal workspaces, and the Appsterfund, a collection of entrepreneurs and investors dedicated to providing Appsterdammers with the help they need to build their companies.

The room crackled with excitement and enthusiasm. People loaded up on T-shirts and stickers, as well as swag and discounts donated to the movement. Friends were made. Business was conducted. Products were launched. Companies were founded.

In addition to the planned events, Friday and Saturday nights we had Appsterdam After Dark, where groups of App Makers went out to experience the unique nightlife that has made Amsterdam famous. If you think you love your colleagues after a night out drinking, imagine how you feel after a night out in Amsterdam.

On Sunday, we had a hangout-warming hangover brunch at Appsterdam Noord on the NDSM-werf. Again, local App Makers gave of themselves, bringing their favorite toppings for that most Dutch of meals: diverse broodje. We ate, drank, and talked on the bank of the IJ, giving us all a glimpse into our future.

The sun shone down on the exhausted but invigorated App Makers and their families as they said their goodbyes and made plans to return. People trickled out to catch their planes, trains, and buses, or got on their bikes and rolled out in search of dinner.

Guided tours of Amsterdam. A family-friendly picnic. The most livable city in the world. Consider the bar raised.

But the real story of the Appsterdam Launch Party Weekend is not how great it was, but how it happened in the first place. We had no money, no patron, no company behind us. People produced a video and a magazine, put together tours, built a website, found sponsors, and took care of a million little details necessary to pull this weekend off without a hitch.

This launch was not my doing, but the work of some two dozen dedicated and passionate volunteers—people and companies who spent their time and money, working together to achieve something great for the good of all App Makers.

This weekend not only introduced Appsterdam to the world, it also validated the movement behind it. Can your launch party do this?

Is Amsterdam a cheap city?

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

Among the many things that make Amsterdam the world’s most livable city is the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive. That’s not the same thing as saying it’s cheap. If you want to live in a cheap city, move to Taipei. If you want to go even cheaper, look at Buenos Aires.

But first be warned—if you live in a city below the median cost of the Western world, you give up a lot. Taipei is amazing, but a bit harder to navigate if you don’t speak Mandarin and read Hanzi. Buenos Aires is wonderful, but you can’t walk down the streets alone at night, and I wouldn’t want to raise children there.

On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who insists on living in a city like San Francisco, London, or Tokyo, you’re going to find things cost 2 or 3 times what they cost in most places. Moreover, because wages have to keep pace with the cost of living, every person you hire is going to cost 2 to 3 times more.

When you start to look at things this way, not as a tourist, but as a businessman, Amsterdam does really start to look cheap. Aside from lower rents than the aforementioned cities, there are other cost-saving factors as well.

Cars are expensive. Gas is expensive. Insurance is expensive. If you can cut cars out of your life, your living expenses decrease dramatically. Amsterdam is that rare city where the bicycle is the dominant form of transportation.

The city is designed in such a way that everything is close enough to bike to. There is an impressive bicycle infrastructure, going beyond bike lanes to include freeways and parking garages. Bikes have right of away over cars, of course, but also pedestrians.

I love cars, and I love my car in particular. I will always treasure the memory of driving Toru Kumagai along 280 with my windows down and my radio up. But what I love even more is not having to have a car. Total cost of ownership for my bike, including maintenance and the possibility of being stolen, is less than the insurance on my car—and I have 19 spotless years of driving.

Then there’s healthcare. The healthcare system is fundamentally broken in the United States, and every attempt to make it better seems to focus on increasing the burden on employers. For huge corporations, this is great, because it makes it harder for people to work for themselves. We don’t have that problem here.

Then there is that intangible thing we call quality of life. As the most livable city in the world, Amsterdam is filled with happy people who don’t need to make a ton of money to be happy. If you move here from the valley, you can make half the money and be twice as happy.

Again, from the perspective of a businessman, which an App Maker certainly is, lower cost of living means lower cost of employees. As purveyors of virtual products, our revenue is not tied to the local economy, but our expenses still are.

Of course all of this has nothing to do with Appsterdam. It’s just a feature of the city, like personal liberty, open data and net neutrality are features of the city.

Appsterdam is also a feature of the city. App Makers who come here are plugging into a network of passionate and like-minded people. The knowledge exchange, free and low-cost workspace, and vibrance our movement brings make Amsterdam’s value proposition unbeatable.

So, yes, in that sense, Amsterdam is a very cheap city indeed!