mission & vision.

thrive together.

We believe in the power of people. We build bridges between startups, creatives, and corporates, fostering an environment and community that inspires growth, learning, and connection every day. We are the largest startup ecosystem in Europe and thriving together is what we do best.

Amber &
Niels.

Humans have a curious love for the solitary genius who, against criticism and endless failures, forges an idea that changes the world. In reality, this is rarely the case. Pioneering innovation and acts of creativity in business, art, literature, technology and society as a whole are nearly always rooted in people working together. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg. It’s easy to tell the story of each individual, but there has always been someone next to them. And the idea of thriving together goes far beyond two brilliant minds coming together; it can stretch to include hundreds of people and initiatives such as IKEA co-creation and LEGO Ideas go some way to reflect the modern shift towards an encouragement of open innovation and the value in difference and numbers.

It’s rare to walk into any business today and not hear the word “collaboration” mentioned, and rightly so. If implemented thoughtfully, cognitive diversity blossoms and businesses can tackle new and complex ideas to wonderous ends. Working together is an idea that not only drives innovation but improves productivity, engagement, longevity, motivation and leads to new ways of learning and thinking. But underlying all of this is the need of an environment that fosters the cross-pollination of ideas, personalities, skills and approaches. If working together is the key to innovation and beyond, and connection is the key to starting fruitful relationships, a space that nourishes connection is essential.

Here at B. amsterdam, our mission is to create an environment where people can thrive together. We’re proud of what we’ve created so far and that’s the idea behind this series of interviews. We talked to four pairs of entrepreneurs who have worked together in the past to hear about their collaborative work, the power of co-creativity and their advice on how to thrive together the right way.

Could you both introduce yourself, how you know each other and what you worked on together?

Amber Franssen: I’m the creative director and co-founder of the creative agency Truman, and I worked with Niels on an advertisement last year for his company Temper, a platform for freelancers in hospitality. During our pitch for the project we had some really critical questions for them and in a way we challenged them; why is this your plan, maybe you should think of this, we think you can do better here and I think that was a healthy start. I think they valued that. Then we started on the campaign which was really challenging for both of us, partly because they wanted something different, something big both conceptually and physically. Whilst it was challenging, as a creative, it’s amazing when someone wants the big idea because it allows you to really stretch out and explore everything.

So, we made a big idea for them; we made a film about their concept of being your own boss, that everyone can be their own boss. In the film hundreds of people go out onto the street, all running together full of this empowering energy and finally they pull down a statue which symbolizes the traditional boss. It was all filmed in Cape Town and we had a team of hundreds of people working on it. It had a really special energy to it all.

Niels Arntz: I’m one of the co-founders of Temper, and as Amber said, we did this big national campaign together in the beginning of 2019 and we needed a creative agency to help us. My girlfriend actually worked at an agency a number of years ago and Amber and her co-founder Paul worked there as well, and then because they were at B., I literally walked past and introduced myself. I didn’t’ know them personally but I just knocked on the door; it’s nice to have so many like-minded people around you. The film was shot over a few days and everything seemed to fall perfectly in place; the weather, the result and the team

were incredible. There’s so much that has to happen for a project like that and it all came together.

What made it a successful collaboration?

AF: I think trust and understanding were two big things that made it so successful. Temper hadn’t worked on anything like this before, and they put a lot of trust in us to push the idea in the right direction. We have a lot of experience with projects like this and because of that we needed the trust and understanding from them so we could be ourselves and achieve what we knew we could. I think it was a really special trust given how inexperienced they were with agencies, advertisements and us. It was a big jump for them, and the end result is so much better for them taking that leap. I also think it was special that they kept saying to me “it’s nice that you can grow, and us too”. They understood the idea of growing together and valued that.

NA: Giving that trust definitely made a difference and we saw the consequences of doing so; they dove right into our audience and the challenges our users face, and that was such a different approach compared to other agencies that had also pitched. They blew us away. We want to build Temper with others who help open our eyes to what we can do, and Truman did that. It wasn’t just us telling them what to do, they also told us. We don’t know everything and we’re happy to admit it. It was the first time doing something like that and they guided us through that whole process and made it happen.

And what was the best outcome of this collaboration apart from the actual product itself? What else did you gain?

AF: We’re actually already thinking about how we can extend Temper’s communication next year, so we now have a really nice relationship with them that can be built on in the future. And aside from both Temper and us being really happy with the film, it was great to see it reach its targets. The success went beyond just our own happiness to those who experienced the result as well. I think working with startups and scaleups is also a really enlightening process; they have a different DNA, a much more intense, often shorter term thinking, and we learned a lot from that.

NA: For me, one of the things that really made an impact was the manifesto they wrote for the new way of working Temper has created, and they even coined a new word for it. To jump back briefly, we work with what people would usually call freelancers, but that term has a stigma attached to it, and we want to change that through Temper. So Amber and Paul came up with “freeflexer”, a mix between “freedom” and “flexibility”. This was something totally new, a new word, and to this day it’s a central idea to who we are. I’m in the Hague a lot with ministers and policy makers and they even use the term; that’s something we have to be really grateful to Truman for.

How do you think working with others affects creativity and do you think creativity is always better together?

AF: I think creativity is better when you’re not alone, but that doesn’t mean the more people you add the better it is. There is such a thing as too many people and it can get to a point where it just doesn’t work; you need the space to search for, discuss and develop ideas. Personally, I really like working with one other person, and that’s how we work at Truman. Having someone else there though is so beneficial for feedback, and hearing other opinions is healthy and necessary.

NA: Other people always bring new sparks to creativity. You can do it on your own, but an idea is always pushed further by other people. At Temper we’re currently working with

writing, and how that process can both add to and consolidate an idea. Funnily enough, however, I usually start writing after a conversation with someone. And as Amber said, there is such thing as too many people, and creativity needs to be thoughtfully cultivated; a team can quickly become a group if you’re not careful.

In what ways can you thrive with others that you can’t when you’re on your own?

AF: It’s more fun. You can share it. It was so nice on the last shoot of the final day in Cape Town we got Paul, one of the managers at Temper, to sit in the director’s chair and let him direct the last shot. We were running out of time, it was chaotic, the sun was going down and, in many ways, it was really stressful. It had been a long day, something like fourteen hours but the energy was incredible, and that’s something you can’t achieve on your own. We all had a massive group photo at the end, and you can see the happiness we had together. I think people often think how working with others can attain better results, and it can, but it can also just be a lot of fun.

NA: I believe it has a lot to do with that idea of being curious, about hearing what the other person has to say and you can’t do that on your own. If you just have yourself to listen to, it’s easy to reinforce narrow views and that’s why I think working together with people is so important; to open yourself up to different perspectives and ideas, for your sake and the sake of the business.

What was the most revealing thing about working together? What did you learn personally?

AF: In my experience, when you work with someone you always have the face of the business and then the actual person. I’m a director, but I’m also Amber and it’s really nice when someone lets you in to work with the person. That’s what I got with Temper. It wasn’t just working with a business, I worked with Niels and the others I met. It’s also how Truman works so it became clearer throughout the process that we were a really good match. One year later and I’ve had some clients who weren’t like that, and I’ve learned it doesn’t work for me, I need that human connection.

NA: I have a very clear picture in my head of what success looks like and how things should be done, but Amber challenged me and made me embrace an open mind, to be curious of other ways of working. I think that’s part of a healthy relationship; you can tell each other directly what you think and that’s what we did. We’re going to continue that in the future.

What’s the first step to thriving together?

AF: Honesty. Temper came to us with a question, something they wanted to answer but one they couldn’t themselves and they were honest about that. It’s a kind of vulnerability, accepting that you can’t necessarily do everything yourselves and being okay with not knowing, before reaching out and asking someone who might know. In Temper’s case, when they reached out, we said we can help you do this, but there are also things we need help with. You have to be honest from the start.

NA: I agree, I think being vulnerable is a good starting point. If you don’t know your exact direction and you don’t exactly know what you want, be open and upfront about that. When you both embrace that way of doing things you can create something new. And then you also need to be clear on what your definition of success is. Amber and I had a shared belief in what we wanted from the project, but if you don’t have that, then you’re going to be rowing in different directions.

Ernst &
Yusi.

Humans have a curious love for the solitary genius who, against criticism and endless failures, forges an idea that changes the world. In reality, this is rarely the case. Pioneering innovation and acts of creativity in business, art, literature, technology and society as a whole are nearly always rooted in people working together. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg. It’s easy to tell the story of each individual, but there has always been someone next to them. And the idea of thriving together goes far beyond two brilliant minds coming together; it can stretch to include hundreds of people and initiatives such as IKEA co-creation and LEGO Ideas go some way to reflect the modern shift towards an encouragement of open innovation and the value in difference and numbers.

It’s rare to walk into any business today and not hear the word “collaboration” mentioned, and rightly so. If implemented thoughtfully, cognitive diversity blossoms and businesses can tackle new and complex ideas to wonderous ends. Working together is an idea that not only drives innovation but improves productivity, engagement, longevity, motivation and leads to new ways of learning and thinking. But underlying all of this is the need of an environment that fosters the cross-pollination of ideas, personalities, skills and approaches. If working together is the key to innovation and beyond, and connection is the key to starting fruitful relationships, a space that nourishes connection is essential.

Here at B. amsterdam, our mission is to create an environment where people can thrive together. We’re proud of what we’ve created so far and that’s the idea behind this series of interviews. We talked to four pairs of entrepreneurs who have worked together in the past to hear about their collaborative work, the power of co-creativity and their advice on how to thrive together the right way.

Could you both introduce yourself, how you know each other and what you worked on together?

Yusi Zhang: My name is Yusi Zhang and I work for AkzoNobel in the Agile Transformation and Digital Innovation Team. I’m an Agile Coach that helps build and implement agility into the business as well as coach new ways of working. I got to know Ernst because the Global Digital Marketing team wanted to shift their current way of working and how they worked with external partners. Nina, the manager of Agile Transformation & Digital Innovation brought Ernst into our team as an internal resource to help AkzoNobel to build our experimentation capability. Four key projects that were important to the marketing team were selected and then we started creating experiments to test and validate innovative ways of working. I was effectively working with Ernst to learn how to set up these experiments and then also to challenge and question if these new approaches worked.

Ernst Weijers: So, I’m Ernst and I work for Innovation Booster, and that means I’m an Innovation Consultant. I help large corporates, such as the one Yusi works for, innovate. I help them create new products and services, validate them quickly and also help set up the structure and culture needed to make innovation work in the long term. As Yusi said, AkzoNobel needed some help with pushing various transformations forward, building skillsets and innovation methodologies, and that’s where I came in. Whilst Yusi is right in saying that the experiments we carried out were for the Global Digital Marketing team, we were also using them as a use case of transforming old ways of working to new ways of working. Yusi definitely had an almost two-sided role; learning from me so that he could implement the outcomes into the business long term and challenging what I was doing and why I was doing it to make sure it was the best thing for AkzoNobel.

What made it a successful collaboration?

YZ: I think Ernst really showed the value of always validating your own assumptions, something we often don’t do very well in a larger organization. When you get to a certain size, it’s easy to presume you’re doing everything correctly but accepting you’re not always right and seeing how that can lead to better decisions is so important. Ernst helped demonstrate the power of making value-driven decisions to others in AkzoNobel. On a personal level I learned a lot, and because I was constantly challenging what he was suggesting, I think he did too. That dynamic created a really healthy relationship; knowing that we had things we could learn from each other but also willing to question things as well.

EW: Yeah, it was a healthy give and take relationship. We had a really good rapport and understanding between us; who was good at what and then giving that person the space to do that task well. And we were both really open to learning and not knowing everything. We both knew we were experts in our respective fields, so we were okay with being shown or told something by the other person.

And what was the best outcome of this collaboration apart from the actual result itself? What else did you gain?

YZ: I think there’s often much longer-term outcomes when you work with someone and this was no different. For instance, there was the actual mindset shift which will no doubt continue to affect how we work at AkzoNobel, and now there’s also the potential for other collaborations down the line. There’s often a knock-on effect from a collaboration, and when it goes well like it did with Ernst, there’s a genuine recognition of the longevity in the results. It also acts as an example for other sections and teams in the company, and the results will ripple out in breadth as well as time.

EW: Exactly. This was a kind of pilot; do we cooperate well as companies, do we add value, do we like working together and we figured out the answer to all of those questions was yes, so it’s definitely opened doors for more collaborative projects. I’m actually working now with a different department of AkzoNobel, so you can see how one event or collaboration can spark an enduring relationship between both people and companies.

How do you think working with others affects creativity and do you think creativity is always better together?

YZ: Yes, but it does depend. The more people you have the more perspectives you have, but that shouldn’t be traded off for clarity of thought and meaningful feedback which can suffer if there are too many people. If you look at successful collaboration, I think it’s more about finding people that complement you in various ways and being thoughtful about combinations of different people can benefit each other. But perspective is important, and that does comes from other people, even if it’s only a few.

EW: I agree. Almost always it’s better, but there definitely is a but involved. If you take Steve Jobs as an example, he didn’t just invent everything on his own, and there’s always a team of brilliant people behind these things. Each person has something to contribute; it could be content, approach, personality, leadership or anything else. Creativity can really benefit from acknowledging these diverse contributions and harnessing them. I also think you do need a clear and structured approach to things. Creativity can be structured, because with no structure, it can quickly get too much.

In what ways can you thrive with others that you can’t when you’re on your own?

YZ: I think the support you get from working with other people is crucial, and you don’t have that if you’re on your own. It’s also about helping yourself grow and working with others really contributes to being able to grow in different ways. When you have people around you your days become more varied and so does your growth.

EW: What most people are doing at B. is being entrepreneurs. And the biggest lesson I learned from my previous job from an entrepreneur who ran multiple companies (someone who failed and succeeded a lot) was that entrepreneurship is acknowledging what your good at and then gathering people around you who are good at the things you’re not good at. If you know you suck at something, get someone who doesn’t with you. You can’t work like that on your own.

What was the most revealing thing about working together? What did you learn personally?

YZ: Because I was new to setting up these experiments, I was constantly learning new things, so I guess the most revealing thing was how much there was to learn. And observing how Ernst work was really interesting. I’m always intrigued to see how people approach different things in comparison to myself. Also, whilst I was learning new things, I was also building on existing knowledge but seeing how to take that existing knowledge and implement it in new ways. It was a really productive period of learning.

EW: As innovation boosters, we have a tendency to take on multiple roles when we work. We might be process facilitators, we might take on more operational work or take a more advisory role. So there’s a whole bunch of things which can be a strength, but it can also be a weakness, and sometimes it feels like certain areas are being diluted. Yusi was really good at performing in his role as a coach. He knows what he should be doing and what he can do, and his results benefit from the clear focus he has. He showed me the value of that focus, and how you can add a lot of value within a specific role. You don’t have to do everything to add value and Yusi knows that.

What’s the first step to thriving together?

YZ: The first step is getting to know each other before you start the actual work. Getting to know someone builds the trust that is so fundamental to a successful collaboration, and I think many of us don’t take enough time to do this. We’re all human and it’s good to realize that.

EW: Yeah, I can’t stress this enough. Working with someone needs to be enjoyable and getting to know them is the start to finding out if it’s going to work. If you’re working at least forty hours a week with that person, you better like them because if you don’t, you’re screwed. I’m also a big believer in that acknowledgment I talked about earlier; be vulnerable and admit you might need help. Then be curious about other people and what they can bring to the table. Always be open to learn from them.

Dieuwke &
Fabian.

Humans have a curious love for the solitary genius who, against criticism and endless failures, forges an idea that changes the world. In reality, this is rarely the case. Pioneering innovation and acts of creativity in business, art, literature, technology and society as a whole are nearly always rooted in some form of collaboration. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg. It’s easy to tell the story of each individual, but there has always been someone next to them. And the idea of thriving together goes far beyond two brilliant minds coming together; it can stretch to include hundreds of people and initiatives such as IKEA co-creation and LEGO Ideas go some way to reflect the modern shift towards an encouragement of open innovation and the value in difference and numbers.

It’s rare to walk into any business today and not hear the word “collaboration” mentioned, and rightly so. If it’s implemented thoughtfully, cognitive diversity blossoms and businesses can tackle new and complex ideas to wonderous ends. It’s an idea that not only drives innovation but improves productivity, engagement, longevity, motivation and leads to new ways of learning and thinking. But underlying all of this is the need of an environment that fosters the cross-pollination of ideas, personalities, skills and approaches. If working together is the key to innovation and beyond, and connection is the key to starting those relationships, a space that nourishes connection is essential.

Here at B. amsterdam, our mission is to create an environment where people can thrive together. We’re proud of what we’ve created so far and that’s the idea behind this series of interviews. We talked to three pairs of entrepreneurs who have worked together in the past to hear about their collaborative work, the power of co-creativity and their advice on how to thrive together the right way.

Questions

Could you both introduce yourself, how you know each other and what you worked on together?

Fabian Wolf: I’m Fabian, owner and CEO of Lefhebbers, and we develop brand identities for companies. We don’t focus on any specific segment or market; we’re open to it all and we believe that our work speaks for itself. We met Ricardo (Co-founder of B.) when he saw some of our work and was interested in who did it. After finding out it was us, he asked if we would be interested in creating the identity for B.. We were in between offices and he told us that he had this amazing office space, but little did we know it was at the very start of everything, quite literally. It was just a concrete building site and he said, “what do you think?” It was funny because whilst it wasn’t anything at the time, he did have a real vision for what it was to become. Anyway, we came to an agreement and we started on creating the brand identity of what B. is today. We actually sat in the sun on the roof that is now Bureau and just started thinking.

Dieuwke van Buren: And I’m Dieuwke. I started as an intern at B. in January 2014 and now I’m Lead at B.. I came into B. just as Fabian and Lefhebbers were working on the B. brand, so our journeys started around the same time, which is how I know Fabian. Whilst the brand was the original spark between B and Lefhebbers, it feels like we’ve been working with Fabian ever since, perhaps because they created something that is still very much the face of B., so the collaborative nature of our relationship never ends.

What made it a successful collaboration?

FW: I think we developed an identity that stood for itself. At the start, we had to convince tenants and businesses of the future of B. and the vision it was aiming for, and I think it did that. Lefhebbers, B. and I all grew from the collaboration and I think that growth was because B. didn’t have a singular, preconceived idea about what the end result should be. They definitely had an idea of what they wanted the place to be conceptually, but they allowed us to mould that idea into a brand. That balance was really important to give us the space to create but also for B. to discover what they could be.

DB: We got, and continue to get, a lot of compliments about the brand. It’s recognizable and it’s inspiring, and I really resonate with what Fabian just said. Its success was based on the vision of B. that acted as a foundation for Fabian and his team to work from. It wasn’t a restrictive process and allowed each side to contribute their strengths and ideas whilst working towards a common aim.

And what was the best outcome of this collaboration apart from the actual result itself? What else did you gain?

FW: I think there’s always an emotional side to a collaboration, and with B. it was, and is, a good one. We were there at the very start and we’re still here, so there’s a sense of a meaningful relationship with the business but also the people as well. We’ve had some brilliant times over the years, there’s been so much that has come from that first meeting. And it’s nice to know that we’re always going to be the guys who came up with the brand identity; that shared ownership between us over the brand is really important.

DB: For me, when I started working at B. I had a very different sense of what working was. I thought you go to work and you go home, that’s it. I hadn’t experienced the fulfilment and energy you feel through working on meaningful projects you relate to. But working with Fabian overthrew this thinking; he had so much passion for his work and I remember it was the first time I really felt the entrepreneurial spirit. That’s definitely stuck with me since and it’s allowed me to find that energy in my own work.

How do you think working with others affects creativity? And do you think creativity is always better together?

FW: Creativity is different for each person, but I do think two minds are nearly always better than one. Even if you have opposite views on what creativity actually is, listening to that other person will benefit you in some way.

DB: Working with others definitely benefits creativity. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to work intensively with someone else to feel those benefits and it can be more distanced than that. But whether you are working directly with someone, or just having someone as a sounding board to your ideas, they will always know something you don’t. It’s no different with Fabian and I; I know things he doesn’t, and he knows things I don’t.

What was the most revealing thing about working together? What did you learn personally?

FW: I learned a lot about respecting each other’s working methods and respecting other peoples’ knowledge. If you decide to collaborate with someone, always be open to their opinion.

DB: The ‘rules’ about how to use a brand effectively. It was all very new to me, and I didn’t realize the depth and thought that went into not only creating a brand but using that brand as well. Fabian knew a lot about identities, and from him I learned how consistency and simplicity can create a sense of confidence and certainty behind a brand.

In what ways can you thrive with others that you can’t when you’re on your own?

FW: Thriving is about exceeding your own expectations, but it’s also about exceeding your own expectations with others. There’s a real sense of ‘we’ when talking about thriving, it’s inherently about collective progress, and I really like that. There’s something fulfilling in progressing with other people that perhaps you can’t get as much if you’re on your own.

DB: I like that idea of progressing with others, it’s something I’ve learned more and more. Working with others allows you to contribute to their development of skills and ideas and they can contribute to yours in return. This ties in with being honest and creating a place that is accepting of (constructive) feedback. If you’re open with each other about what you like and don’t like, you can all move forward and that’s really valuable.

What’s the first step to thriving together?

FW: Managing expectations is critical. You have to have shared expectations, and again, that comes back to that all-important idea of being open. What do you want to get out of a collaboration? Secondly, be frank about what you can do and more importantly what you can’t do.

DB: Always be open and always listen to someone else’s perspective. Even if you think you have the best and correct solution, you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve when you let other people into the process.