Appsterdam Revisited

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

Since my first post about the Appsterdam movement, there has been a lot of discussion. I take this as a very good sign. People are interested! Here are answers to the questions I’ve been asked most often:

Where can I get updates?

I will talk about Appsterdam here on my blog, as well as on Twitter, where I’m @bmf. For official Appsterdam updates, you should follow @appsterdamrs.

What’s your angle?

Whenever you ask people to care about something, they inevitably want to know what’s in it for you. Specifically, I’ve seen people ask whether I’m being paid by the government to evangelize the city of Amsterdam. I can assure you that no such arrangement exists, though if the city wants to pay me, I’ll gladly take the money.

The truth is I love Amsterdam. After traveling the world, visiting different locations, and really thinking about what makes a place great, I’ve come to the inevitable conclusion that Amsterdam is the most livable city in the world right now. The only thing that would make it better is if my industry was centered here.

I don’t miss Silicon Valley, I miss the people there. I miss being able to go next door to get help with a random problem. I miss overhearing people talking in excited tones about some new thing they’re working on. I want to build a paradise for developers, because I am a developer, and I want to live in that paradise.

In a more abstract sense, I seek what we all seek, those who give their lives to changing the world. I seek the immortality that comes from contributing in some meaningful way to building the future. I seek to be remembered by a city for changing the face of that city, by a country for changing the course of that country, and by a people for bettering the lives of those people.

What are phases 2 and 3?

I didn’t do a very good job of delineating all the phases, so here goes:

  • Phase 1 is the pioneer phase, one small group setting up the infrastructure, documenting the requirements, and planting the flag, so to speak.
  • Phase 2 is the founder phase, inviting over the people who will bring the current community to critical mass.
  • Phase 3 is the employee phase, when the people from phase 2 start hiring people from the throng that follows.

What are the living conditions?

Once the wonder of this place wears off and you start seriously thinking about moving here, the first question that comes up is one of money. Can you afford to live here? What are salaries like? How much is rent? Is it hard to find an apartment?

Room and board are at the median rate for the western world, which means they are more like Seattle than San Francisco. A one bedroom place in the city center will run you €1000-1500 a month. I’ve not had a lot of trouble finding an apartment. Food here is really good and really cheap. You can bike everywhere so you don’t need a car, and health care and insurance are much cheaper than in the States.

All of this adds up to needing half the salary you do living in California for a much higher quality of life. This is great for entrepreneurs, because salary is a real cost, and if you want people you can see face to face, that cost is tied to your location. Europe is full of talented people who aren’t well served by the hiring practices or corporate cultures of local employers, who are more than happy to work for a sane salary.

What about our families?

Amsterdam is a great place for families. The best way to prove that to them is to bring them over for a visit. They will fall in love as you will, and as I have. Even if you are only here for a year, it will be a grand adventure your family will talk about for generations. As we get more information about pets, schools, and other specifics, we’ll post them here.

Many of us have married very talented people whose diverse skill sets will be prized among the community. We will have enough people that an entire meta-economy will be formed around our needs. While we can tap the local and expat communities for those jobs, it will also create opportunities for our life partners.

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, gay or straight, a technophile or a technophobe, Amsterdam as a city, and Appsterdam as a community, has a place for you. Both are, and have always been, strengthened by diversity, by tolerance, and by opportunity for all who are willing to contribute.

Can Appsterdam scale?

One easy problem to foresee is a wave of new people coming in and smothering the original idea of Appsterdam under a pile of venture funding and douche baggery. Our best defense from this undesirable future is our culture. We have already seen this with the waves of developers attracted to the platform by iOS. Our community has survived and thrived by spreading its memes.

Another metaphor is that of a small company that starts hungry but grows fat, losing itself along the way. How do we have Appsterdam scale like Apple, and not like Google? The solution to that is simple: scale like Apple. Apple operates as a tight conglomerate of startups united behind a common face. Appsterdam is the exact same thing, without the corporate curtain.

Do you have to be an Apple developer?

The memes developed by Apple developers are bigger than Apple. Our coopertive business model, our reverence for good design, our moving from software engineering to product engineering—these should be the norm for any platform. It’s not a question of what your app runs on, it’s a question of where your app comes from. The best thing we can do is to welcome anyone making apps who gets it, and to offer help and guidance to all who come wanting to learn to make great things.

Why not Detroit? Or Berlin?

One of the best counter-proposals I’ve gotten against Appsterdam is the idea of moving everyone to Detroit and creating a renaissance there. While I’m sure Detroit would appreciate the boost, it doesn’t solve the immigration issue for Europeans, and more to the point, I’m not sure we can sell people on moving there. The same problem goes for, say, Germany. Deserved or not, Amsterdam has caché, an international reputation, and centuries of hype that, in my experience, it largely lives up to.

Lest we leave the good people of Detroit in the lurch, my hope is that Appsterdam will serve as a rising tide to all ships. It should be a precedent that serves as an inspiration to, and beacon of hope for, cities and developers all over the world. We will also be of direct benefit from people returning home, and the inevitable stream of Appsterdammers trying new places, as missionaries or tourists, as well as former Appsterdammers looking for the next next big thing.

I heard bad things about: the weather, real estate, …

When I talk to people about moving to Amsterdam, I get two general classes of responses. First, there are the people who have been to Amsterdam, and are universally and immediately enthused. Then, there are the people who have only heard about Amsterdam, whose responses frequently feature this or that bad review they had heard about Amsterdam.

I don’t know what it is about Amsterdam. Its reputation is as a haven for freedom and commerce, a capitalist paradise smack in the middle of Europe. Yet people hold on to these chestnuts to satisfy their inevitable reflex that there must be a catch.

Part of it is what I term the Dutch Modesty. Dutch people love to tell you how the Netherlands are not as nice as you think. I think this is partially genuine modesty, partially being spoiled by living here, and at least partially the desire to stem the tide of immigrants to a place of such idyllic repute.

For the uninitiated, hearing about Amsterdam is like being in the Matrix and being told about Zion. The implications about your own living conditions alone will throw some people into instant denial. Our minds, thus injured, grab any passing salve.

The cure is simple: come to Amsterdam. See the place for yourself. Talk to the people who live here, the people who have moved here, and discover for yourself how good life is here. Join the other group, the people who have found their Amsterdam. Join the people who know.

What about yo fat-ass mama?

My mama? Yo mama so fat the Deltaworks keep her number on file in case of emergencies. Yo mama so fat her last name is Polder. Yo mama so fat her belly button has its own windmmill. I said yo mama so fat her asscheeks are the highest point in the Netherlands.

I’m trying to be a cultural ambassador here. Won’t you help?

4 thoughts on “Appsterdam Revisited

  1. What about visa/work permission issues? If you’re working for yourself, I guess you can do that anywhere, but you did mention employees…

  2. Very interesting proposal. What about immigration issues? I’m from Brazil and I think I’d need a special visa to live there. How easy is it to get a resident visa?

  3. Cool, sign me up! How serendipitous… I moved here last year from Silicon Valley for all the same reasons. And I’ll be at Hackers and Founders tonight; see you there!

  4. Now, the only problem I had with this idea is that you systematically left out any information on how to contact Appsterdammers. You tell us to give a call to the community already living there to help plan a visit or a longer stay, but where to find them?

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