Amsterdam: known to many foreigners as the world’s cannabis capital and (in)famous for its red light district. Not so much for the locals though: a few steps away from the obvious tourist traps you’ll find a budding tech and startup scene. It’s the birthplace of The Next Web, too.
In the first in a series looking at awesome tech company offices, here’s a look at some of Amsterdam’s finest.
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
In collaboration with WOVOX.com.
Colourful and playful best describe the office of self-proclaimed ‘first online greeting cards service in the Netherlands’, Greetz. This company started out by sending cards in the form of tin cans. Today it has over 15 million posted cards on its name, and it seeks to conquer the international market. Judging by the looks of their crib, they seem to be doing well enough.
Probably the youngest company on the list, LayerGloss officially started in May 2012. Building a tool that allows people without any real technical skills to build their own iOS applications, it’s been dubbed ‘One of Europe’s hottest startups’ by Wired Magazine.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this workplace is a quiet refuge in a residential area of nearby Haarlem. That’s right, the town that New York’s Harlem was named after. This office has big windows, a pear tree in the back garden and lots of Apple products. All to create the homely atmosphere that founders Phuong Do and Martin van Spanje were after.
The guys at 22tracks created an online/mobile ‘jukebox’ with 22 genre-based playlists, each featuring 22 songs. So it comes as no surprise that they’re keen on playing music at the office. And they found a perfect location. Originally a steel factory, this building later turned into a music academy and still features thick soundproof doors. Pure bliss for the guys inside – and for people outside.
In 2003 eBuddy created the world’s first independent web browser-based instant message service. Its head office is based in the heart of Amsterdam, along one of the city’s most famous canals. With 28 nationalities, it’s quite a global get-together. Our visit showed us a very close-knit group of mainly expats, who consider each other friends rather than colleagues.
Rokin 75 is the address of an early 20th century building in the heart of Amsterdam. It was stripped down in 2010 to resemble a New York industrial style and now houses a vibrant startup community and other creative companies. One of its occupants is Usabilla, aptly named after its visual feedback tools for marketers, designers, usability and user experience experts.
People here work standing, behind a desk, on the couch, on a bean bag, or on the balcony with city life at their feet.
Hyves entered the social networking arena not long after Facebook. It quickly grew into Holland’s biggest, turned into a verb, and it even received a spot in the Dutch Van Dale dictionary. For a while, it was faux-pas for politicians to go without a Hyves profile. Those days are over, but the office is not.
You’ll find this colourful place just across the street from the Dutch National Bank. Inside, each level boasts a different vibe to reflect the uniqueness of Hyves users’ profiles. Did they take their inspiration from the Facebook office, or was it the other way around?
Running a successful business isn’t necessarily about size. 9apps, which specializes in cloud computing, operates from the backroom of a wine store. Founder Jurg van Vliet and his coworkers have become so fond of the place that they’re now in doubt about expanding the team, because that would mean having to move to a bigger space.
As (mobile) photo sharing apps go, Mobypicture was one of the earliest birds (or whales). The platform sprouted from Mathys van Abbe’s love for photography and a desire to share his adventures. With its office now on a converted houseboat – the founder’s former living quarters – Mobypicture literally roams Amsterdam’s ‘Silicon Canals’. Well, floats without moving.
Sharing the building with Usabilla, Smart.pr develops an online tool for companies and PR professionals to spread their news more efficiently and effectively, and to measure their actions. The team only moved here recently, and they absolutely love the space, light, and rooftop terrace. Oh, and Fußball of course.
The Blender Foundation is behind one of the world’s most popular open source 3D modelling applications. Running quite an interesting business model, it generates revenue from an e-shop that sells 3D animation books and training materials, and through donations from entrepreneurs and companies that wish to see its development continued.
Blender’s Amsterdam studio facilitates 3D projects, be that games, movies or visual effects. Based in an old restored waterfront house, it’s located right behind the Artis Zoo. Which might explain why each week a different team member becomes the ‘monkey butler’: the one preparing lunch.
Living on the cheap in an anti-squat office is the life of many a start-up. Occupying the South-East white-collar district, Peerz works to replace the standard résumé with a tool that lets you ask your peers to help you build a strengths-based profile. It may not be the prettiest of locations, but with lots of room to spare it’s perfect for a company that, like all start-ups, anticipates growth.
This is definitely one of the sleekest and most magical office designs we ever laid eyes on. Welcome to PostPanic, a hybrid design/animation studio and production company. What you’re seeing is, perhaps surprisingly, a very functional office layout. Postpanic keeps design, animation, direction and production all in-house. It’s their way of safeguarding quality and keeping execution close to a project’s original idea.
The team wanted to have clearly separated spaces, but to maintain an atmosphere of openness. So, no space is closed off, and where possible the rooms are visually connected. The stairway in the main hall perfectly serves a stand for watching football, one of the team’s passions.
13. The Next Web
Well, we couldn’t write about Amsterdam without a peek inside our own office now could we? As you may well know, The Next Web is a company with three sections: events, the blog, and TNW Labs (a bunch of startup brands and services like TwitterCounter, SocialStatistics, Paydro, PressDoc and Spread.us).
You can find the office around the corner from Mobypicture, along the same ‘Silicon Canals’. Made up of one big room and several smaller ones, the space often remains crowded in the evenings, sometimes even at weekends. The TNW team only lives and works by a single rule though: leave your coat hanging on a chair instead of in the hallway, and you get to down a beer during lunch. Daily push-up bouts, tracked and measured meticulously by apps, compensate for this (unnecessary) calorie intake.
Coming soon: Berlin
Next month will see us taking a virtual tour of Berlin’s biggest, smallest, most famous and unknown workplaces. Want to tip us? Or tell us which office in which city you’d like to learn more about? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments!
Photography: eBuddy by Joris Leiten for WOVOX and Bianca Prodescu; 22tracks, 9apps, Blender and Peerz by Mike van den Heuvel for WOVOX; Hyves and Greetz by Pactor; PostPanic by Ania Markham; Usabilla by Usabilla; The Next Web by Bob Borstlap for WOVOX; LayerGloss and Mobypicture by Thierry Vrakking for WOVOX; Smart.pr by Martijn van Hoek.
All photos are published under a Creative Commons licence.