“And it all started out as an ambitious conference in Amsterdam,” says Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten. “I was working with two friends at the time. We really wanted to hire a booth at an existing tech conference, but that turned out to be incredibly costly. So we made the decision to organise our own conference.”
Combining the qualities of blogger, speaker and entrepreneur, Veldhuijzen van Zanten is the founder of The Next Web and several other successful online businesses. We meet in The Next Web’s playfully decorated head office, which happens to be located in the same building as AMS-IX – the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, one of the world’s largest data centres.
“When we started out, we invested a lot of our own money in the conference,” Veldhuijzen van Zanten says. “Of course we took risks, but that’s what entrepreneurs do. Luckily for us, the gamble paid off and the first conference turned out to be a great success. In the end, it was all worth it... and we wanted more.”
Starting a blog was the next logical step. “When we started out, our goal was posting eight blog entries a day; we hired a young Dutch journalist to help us out. By providing a constant flow of relevant information, we wanted to create a permanent buzz – not only when a conference was near, but all year long,” says Veldhuijzen van Zanten.
“Since then, things have moved along quickly for The Next Web,” he continues. “We were pioneers in the undiscovered territories of technological journalism, and we loved it. Looking back at it, I think our open-mindedness and humorous tone of voice has been a great contributing factor to the success of The Next Web. Every time someone suggests that we should think twice before doing something, we know that we are still on the right track.”
The Next Web reaches a vast worldwide audience of tech developers, specialists and influencers on a daily basis. This asks for a modern approach to journalism. “Although we have our head office here in Amsterdam, The Next Web’s team is spread all over the world. This is the only possible way for us to constantly provide our readers with the latest news. The world doesn’t necessarily stop when everyone in your own time zone is fast asleep.”
Keeping The Next Web’s headquarters in Amsterdam is a conscious decision. “Even though the current epicentre of the digital world can be found in Silicon Valley, Amsterdam perfectly suits our needs,” says Veldhuijzen van Zanten. “Did you know many international tech companies consider Amsterdam the most important stepping stone onto the European tech market?”
And it’s not only the companies that like the city, says Veldhuijzen van Zanten. “Amsterdam is a great place for tech expats. There are currently a lot of large technological companies located here, providing plenty of opportunities and jobs. And I love the fact that Dutch IT expert Ger Baron has recently been appointed as the city’s CTO – Chief Technological Officer. This shows that the city is very aware of the digital side of the economy and wants to make it work.”
In addition, Amsterdam is just a great fit for The Next Web on a more spiritual level. “Amsterdam is a very creative and entrepreneurial city, where people are not afraid to give their opinion. And that’s just what our writers do as well: they present the facts, but they also analyse them and share their opinion on certain matters.”
To ensure their news stays as relevant as possible, The Next Web mostly employs bloggers who have worked for mayor tech companies. “This way, our writers can provide a lot of inside knowledge in their articles. Not perfectly objective maybe, but as long as they give full disclosure on their love or hate for the company this should not be a problem. In fact, I believe it’s a huge benefit. Inside knowledge can give a story much more depth.”
Editorial independence is essential to the company. “If one of our bloggers is sceptical about a technological development,” says Veldhuijzen van Zanten, “he or she should be able to write freely about it. Our readers expect objectivity and we strive to give them exactly that. This is something our sales team can have a hard time with at times, but luckily our writers don’t. Otherwise, we would not be the world’s largest independent tech blog.”Do you want to stay up to date on the latest worldwide tech news? Make sure you check http://thenextweb.com regularly.