Yesterday, I set off first thing in the morning to Newcastle Airport on my way to becoming (representing the Federation of Small Businesses) one of a small team of people from various parts of Europe, discussing small business IT issues in the Dell “Think Tank”, held this morning at the Westergasfabriek in Polonceaukade in Amsterdam.
By 11.30 Amsterdam time my driver was there waiting to take me to the hotel. As we were starting first thing today, they’d put me on a plane the day before and I’m guessing it was just sheer luck that I managed to get half a day out of the deal as many of the guys did not turn up till late last night. A shame, as it turns out most of them seemed a great bunch and I had so little time to get to know everyone.
The hotel was the Renaissance which is only a 10 minute walk from the central rail station and is quite nice apart from their WIFI which at 6 Euros an hour is just simply being greedy. Fortunately as Dell had dragged me over there, they paid for the WIFI. A nice hotel in a convenient spot–and from a previous visit to Amsterdam I had a vague idea of how to find my way around – so once I’d dumped the bags, I was off, armed with camera for a lightning one-man tour of the area. I could not tell you how far I walked but by the time I was done my feet were utterly shot. Sadly there is a LOT of construction going on near the station which is no so good for photography. Thankfully mid-afternoon the weather picked up and so went further afield and I had myself a great time in search of pictures. You can find the full photo album in my Google+ album here.
I didn’t deliberately enter the red light area, it’s just behind the hotel and pretty hard to miss and so on the way to taking the usual cathedral and related pics I took more than my fair share of shop front photos which you’ll see in the album above. They really do like their marijuana.
I had lunch at a local cafe – slice of pizza and a coffee (very pleasant) and then I was off in search of Kodak moments – sadly by tea-time it was getting a tad chilly so I came back to the hotel, had an early dinner and cleared off to bed.
First thing this morning a bunch of us met up in the hotel foyer – and Ben Chai of Lanix introduced himself – he had an advantage over me in that he’s read my blogs – we had a great chat until Amanda Metti of Axicom arrived to take us to our venue – she did a cracking job of looking after everyone, making sure we knew where to be and when etc. so at 8:30am this morning we all headed off with her to the Westergasfabriek for our “Think Tank” discussion which was really very productive and not at all what I was expecting (from the questions I was expecting the event to be simple a commercial wheeze).
After formal introductions we had a couple of hours talk, filmed, streamed live onto the web and with input from Twitter and other social media though to be honest I’m unaware of anything coming in from those channels as we were all so engrossed in the conversation. I met several great people and will no doubt keep in touch with a few.
We started by defining just what is a small business and the differences between the countries was not that great. We went on to discuss the relevance of technology to SMEs, how best to lever that technology etc. While we were talking a couple of ladies created the most fabulous – how can I describe it, whiteboard/graffiti/word cloud I have ever seen! For reference the company who did this are called CreativeConnection. If you look at my Google album at the whiteboard (larger image) you’ll see the range of subjects covered. Really very interesting and informative. One fellow, David Hathiramani – co-founder of “A Suit That Fits” described his business which started as the world’s first online tailoring company and now has over 30 locations worldwide and that’s largely down to use of technology.
We had lunch at the venue and then our driver took us back to Schiphol airport to go our separate ways.
All in all quite a pleasant couple of days. Next stop Chairman’s dinner, a couple of days of meetings in London and another short trip, this time in Gibraltar as a guest of ESBA, the European Small Business Alliance – looking forward in particular to a talk on Intranets. No doubt I’ll take the camera and just hope it’s not raining.
See the Google+ album for more pics.