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The Next Web 2019: Ask the big questions

2019, 05, 15

Vera Engelbertink

Last week Bart and Vera were at The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam. Two days filled with innovation inspiration, tech talks, digital discussions in a festival setting at the NDSM wharf in trendy Amsterdam North. Sound awesome of course, the place to be. But we came for the content of course. And did they deliver.

It was a full program with speakers, where you constantly had the feeling that you were missing something when you were in a session. 2 days of FOMO. But that didn’t kill our buzz as we had sorted out our schedule pretty well. There was something for everyone:

Nike and Red Bull, for example, came up with inspiration for marketing innovations such as Nike’s new AR Fit Nike Fit (more here), which uses Augmented Reality to see which shoe has the best fit for your feet at home.

Or Red Bull Media House, which collects data with sensors to create a digital buddy for you during the practice of extreme sports (and making killer content in the process).

Zalando was of course also present. They are busy creating a constant feedback loop to ensure that they can help you find the right size for certain types of clothing, based on your previous purchases or bad purchases.

Our key takeaways:

Want to innovate? Use platforms
Besides the big brands, the platforms were also present; Shopify (now also active in the Netherlands), Google and Messagebird emphasized that if you want to innovate and learn fast, you need to use ‘building blocks’. Don’t create everything yourself and use the right platforms to add intelligence or to make data useful. Messagebird even went so far that they recommend not to create websites or apps anymore, but call messaging the new storefront. Not a bad idea. Shopify reminds us of the mobile first world: two-thirds of all transactions on their platform is already mobile. Google was already thinking beyond the incredibly powerful tech that is now available: don’t forget that we still have to deal with people. We also have an ethical duty and you are learning machines something. So you better be a good teacher.

Want to innovate? Team up!
On several stages there were interviews with entrepreneurs who shared their experiences, such as Floraholland and Fit for Free. They have implemented extensive innovations in traditional companies. They agreed that with the right (external) experts and your own team, you have to step outside the organization to get things going and create freedom to innovate. Then it is crucial to go back into the organization, to show results and proof, to become concrete and to invest energy in getting people involved. Make sure that you build a solid business case of, for example, your MVP that has been created, with clear predefined KPIs that it should contribute to. You don't want to create an old vs. new situation if you’re innovating or changing your business.


Looking for a job? Not in the future
Jacques van den Broek, CEO of Randstad, discussed the challenges and changes in the world of HR. He indicated that he did not expect that people would come to Randstad for a job in the future. Technology makes it easy for everyone, with the help of intelligent machines, to find work, get suggestions on new openings or changing jobs. Randstad will also have to change because of this. He therefore spends almost all of his time on these developments in the world of HR and gaining insight into the digital world and what its working on. In fact, Randstad has an innovation fund with which they actively invest in Startups that challenge their business model.

Young people leaving Facebook for Instagram? Don't believe the hype!
Simon Kemp showed us in great detail that there is far too much clickbait around on how people use the internet and especially social media. For example, it seems ubiquitous that Facebook is not growing and that young people are leaving Facebook for Instagram. Both is simply nonsense. Facebook is still growing fast and young people are not going to Instagram. They go to apps such as Discord, Reddit and TikTok. Moreover, these new platforms do not interrupt their users. For example with Ads. It is therefore important as a brand that you move towards inspiration, because there is no longer an option to intervene by paying. A good idea for the future, because you will soon have to pass algorithms to reach people at all. (more info on

Never be afraid to ask the big questions!

Our key takeaways:

Vera: "The common thread for me was that everyone is using technology to make the world a little better. So how can technology and digital solutions contribute to solving real-world problems such as food waste, inclusion , transparency & stimulating a circular economy. But not only from a philanthropic point of view, it will actually deliver more business value.

What I was very enthusiastic about was the story of Jessi Baker, CEO of Provenance; a platform that is busy making the supply chain of products more transparent by means of blockchain technology. Consumers want to know where their products come from; that is the way you can build brand trust. These types of platforms make that possible.

Not only do you build trust with the consumer in this way; you can also discover and tap into new target groups. Purna Virji from Microsoft showed in her story how a technological solution that has arisen from helping young people with disabilities to their arms who want to play games can also help others who, for example, are temporarily unable to use their arm(s) if, for example, they broke it or are holding a baby. Thus a solution that you thought would only be suitable for a small group, turns out to have a much larger market. "

Bart: "In companies you need new ways of thinking and skills. If you want to continue to participate as a company in the future, we have to work on other ways of thinking and innovating. You need these skills in the digital future in companies. (So education also needs to adap) It is important to know how you can innovate quickly and learn or unlearn things quickly. Innovation is not just a single person or department and you also cannot change existing culture - it is a mindset with new skills. Multidisciplinary teams are the future if you want to innovate in any area. Specialists who have good collaboration skills is the short summary of this. Together with the right mindset and a sense of security to be allowed to change is key to achieving results in a company.

Participate. It is no longer a matter of whether tech is going fast or not. It goes faster than you can keep up with, whether you are in digital or not. We are only really getting up to speed now. That can be negative, but also positive. Make sure you are aware o on what it means for your brand, company or industry and take action yourself to try things out, learn and experience. Moreover, you don't have to make anything yourself, there are countless platforms with building blocks available online. It is about how you can make something of this for your business and stay ahead of the competition or build a unique customer experience. By working on it you can anticipate and innovate. And whoever innovates stays alive.

James Beacham from CERN said it in his really mind blowing keynote: "Never be afraid to ask the big questions!"

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