Mr. Claus, Plugg, Belgian Talent

Over the last days, I have seen and encountered so much young talent. I believe that we are seeing a new revival in dare and will. Look at our sport women. Or Humo’s Rock Rally, where 14 and 15 year old demonstrated a musical inspiration that is amazing. Or others in cycling, fashion, arts, etc etc. Even in business we are living a revival.

Today we had a nice conference in Brussels named www.plugg.eu – and even if the content of the seminars was not overwhelmingly good, the start-up creativity in Belgium is starting to florish.  I have met so many people over the last weeks that feel stuck in their job, and want to create. A day like this inspires all. No-one is to judge besides yourself. As posted here before.


However, the day got a totally different feeling once I heard that Hugo Claus passed away... It is now 4.30 am, and I am watching vrt news edition – and it feels like a sad dream. But what inspiration has he given, dare shown, inspiration given, with his opinions and leading opinions ... Difficult to express, he would have done it better.

And then I see a newsitem about Belgian politics. And now I became even sadder. But in a different way. It's an angry sadness. The role of a political leader should be to make things better and do good for society, to help those in need, and to shape a perspective for the current and future generations. The current complete lack of interest in creating a perspective is ashaming. What one does with his or her own life is private, how they un-inspire the next generations is irresponsible, and very sad. Creating perspective and inspiration to youngsters is a key element for every (public) figure or person. I wish I could say one party is different, but unfortunately I cannot ... .

Let’s hope that the youth is strong enough – and that their maturity in music, arts or business pulls through in politics and results in screaming: “if all the disgusted ones go, there are only disgusting ones left – and we won’t let that happen”.

At a day that should be a festivity for entrepreneurial business in Belgium, it has become a day that Mr. Claus left us. I have made a couple of personal choices over the last months, on a day like this it feels so easy and right to have taken them. Let's just do what we have to do.


05:47 Gepost door bart in Actualiteit | Permalink | Commentaren (3) | Tags: hugo claus, plugg, belgian politics |  Facebook |



On the plane this morning from Brussels to Stockholm I ran into one of the first persons that ever worked for me at Skynet. He has a successful international career in an international technology company. On top of that, I will have a quick dinner at the Stockholm airport this evening with another former Skynet colleague who needed to give a speech in Sweden. What an incredible amount of talent we once gathered at Skynet… but more about that in one of the next posts.

Anyway, when reading the newspaper, there was an article about the lack of entrepreneurship of Belgian students, Apparently Belgium is ranked last (last!?) in a study on the ‘western world creativity’.

The main reason would be that universities don’t encourage or support to start your business.

Well, I can totally believe that. I had the pleasure of attending studies or courses in University of Hasselt (then still LUC Diepenbeek), Universities of Liege, Vlerick in Ghent and Antwerp, plus some time at Columbia and Harvard in the US. Yep, even if I had to work and lend a lot – I wanted to learn as much as possible at a certain moment, hopefully for my entire life.

Truth being told and looking back on it, LUC/University of Hasselt (where I stayed for 4 years) didn’t really encourage risk-taking. I had a great student time (especially off the campus) and education was pretty ok, but a educational facility that encourages no sport, culture, entrepreneuship or politics lacks ambition. They are doing much better now. But would I be 18 again, I would probably leave after 2 years or so. Hell, they even managed to organize exams until the day after the Rock Werchter Festival. No joke: the Monday after probably Europe’s best 3 or 4 day festival there was 1 (crucial) exam. For this reason only one could boycott the school. That said: the school could be the perfect example of creating a multi-disciplinary intercultural school, establish a mini-Europe of Hasselt, Liege, Maastricht and Aachen and become a perfect test ground for research, start-ups and collaborative entrepreneurialism.
Damn, I would like to help to support that one day to do something back to the region I love so much.

Top of mind - here are some more possible reasons: 
- Once you start a job in a corporate environment, all incentives to create disappear. Great salaries, comforting social security, company car: ‘hey, we are all in a comfort zone.’ Why risk anything?
- There is not a lot of support to take the risk. There actually are many initiatives – you probably should hire an ‘initiative programs’ manager to really understand all government programs, but this should be at the center of our attention. High taxes, an insecure future after 60 and few effective government support that really work. The risk is part of the fun, but when I see how Scandinavian companies and universities are working together…
- We probably celebrate and ban companies and their leaders too much. Just look at technology alone: Option, Real software, Ubizen, Lernhout&Hauspie – all of them won prestigious Manager or Company of the year awards… People that start and fail are doomed. So different to a culture where this is cultivated.

Over the last year I constantly hear that Belgian’s are great managers but poor entrepreneurs. There is probably some truth in it, even if we are the country of small business, where true innovation could come from.  But we have all the elements at hand to build something amazing, being at the heart of Europe and with knowledge of any imaginable domain.

Entrepreneurs make that a country remain on the edge of research. Employment creates prosperity, and in our welfare system it is going to be crucial since employee and corporate taxes fund the sustainability of our prosperous country.

I admire people that create. That Dare. That dare to dream and give it all they have. I have talked, read and reflected about it so much over the last weeks and months, and the conclusion after today’s encounters with friends colleagues confirms the same: what holds us back? Why are we afraid to give up “security” before we are even 45? Even if it can be a choice which I respect, but why do young (university degree) managers nearly always choose the sure and well projected path, and not the risky but adventurous road of daring to follow our dreams? I would like to know the percentage of young graduates that choose a career in consulting or finance, to switch to an operational managerial function 5 to 10 years later to become CEO or Director when they are 50.

It doesn’t only have to be creating companies, but my generation doesn’t enter the risky world of politics a lot either. Nor do we discuss a sense of duty towards society and do what we idealistically believe in so much. I once heard Mark Eysckens (Belgian Minister of State) say that it is better to be an ideologist without illusions than an illusionist without ideology. Yeah yeah, sounds like the back of a calendar quote– but why do we, the post-baby boom generation, remain so nice, good and modest? I read about the explanation that we are the unlucky ones, after baby boomers we need 2 salaries to afford a house; we have unsure retirement plans and whatever… Give me a break.

Anyway - no judgement of anyone meant. Accept myself maybe.



3 months in Munich

Hey all,

Since the beginning of July, from the moment that ProSiebenSat1 acquired SBS to form the new ProSiebenSat1 Media group, I have been living between Munich, Amsterdam and Brussels.  

I had never even thought of making a city trip to Munich, but over the last few weeks I discovered the city intensely. Although it is not the most vibrant city in the world and it’s a definite benefit that I followed German as a third language at University, I can honestly tell that my top6 of the moment looks like:
  • the Oktoberfesten, mostly know of it Beerfesten with Lederhosen. This year a total of 6 million people attended and drank over 6 million liters of beer. Fun to watch and do, and see how a seemingly folkloric event is actually an intense social highlight
  • the rock band Nine Inch Nails came to the Circus Krone, one of the concert halls in Munich. Next I will go to is Interpol mid November in Tonhalle.
  • kind of the opposite: we watched the Flying Dutchman opera from Wagner in the magnificent Munich Staatsoper (kind of symbolically, because my friends named me like that since I lived in Amsterdam and I am flying a lot around Europe this year)
  • shopped in the Maximillian strasse and had a prosecco in one of the Italian bars
  • walked in the Englischer Garten, and see the weird surf experience
  • discussed in the numerous biergarten and other places the controversial history, and understand that there is an active conscience and discussion, and this debate left a deep and very self reflecting impression on me
Again, Brussels, Milan and New York feel more like ‘home’ to me, but I recommend everyone to come over here for a couple of days in a Gemutliche atmosphere, and drive on to the Garmin Partenkirchen or Kitzbuhel - both approximately 1 hour away – to get your head in the clouds. That's probably where it should be more often!



The tour awaits no-one

The tour the France never created a huge amount of emotions this year. It could have been about the small differences between at the (remaining) top - can you imagine riding 3553.9 km, and than have 3 cyclists within 30 seconds? But this year it was about something else.


Let me give you my opinion.


1. last week-end Eric invited me to ride the Eddy Merckx route from Meise (not the one from Ruien), around Brussels. Eric has become one of the persons I became to trust very much, and he is also one of the few people that are completely honest to me. So besides the usual shouts that should lose a couple of kilos and that I should exchange my Bianchi for a 'real' Eddy Merckx, we went of to ride 75km. The Eddy Merckx route takes you through some magnificent views and parts of Brussels, but I thought Eddy Merckx deserves a better designed route around Brussels.

Morale: cycling is one of most demanding and most beautiful sports in the world.


2.yesterday I read 2 books on cycling: Memoires van een wielerverzorger by Jef D’Hont, the notorious story of a 'soigneur' explaining the drugs in cycling, and the amazing ‘the tour awaits no-one’ by Mart Smeets, presenting the work of 9 photographers with fantastic guiding stories. The dirt and the beauty of the Tour in 1 afternoon – sport is emotion. Both books evoked quite the opposite sentiment, and I’d recommend everyone to read them.

Morale: the tour has always been full of people that use drugs, and its ability to create emotions is unprecedented.


3. after the dismissal of Vino (how similar to Landis can it get: a big breakdown followed by a heroic win…), Rasmussen (if you become unfindable during 3 weeks before the Tour starts in the most controlled sporting event of the world, you are a fraud or a fool, but anyway you must get out – bravo Rabo for consistency), Cofidis and some others – the Tour became a true thriller. With some luck, the most important prices go the new generation: Contador, Boonen and Soler.

Morale: A new generation takes over, and they may have a different perspective and impact.


4. many newspapers, sponsors, … will leave cycling for what it is. I applaud sponsors like Lotto, Rabobank or others that create so much youth support, that they both would have deserved a winner. Related to the ones that boycott because ‘this is untruthful’ and other reasons: well, we didn’t stop covering the Iraq war, although truth and honesty weren’t exactly the key values in that dispute.

Morale: keep the faith, this sports needs sponsors and media to exist


5. the positive minded argue that the sport is cleaner than ever before, and that only some of the top cyclists take drugs. Well, this ‘top’ is becoming rather broad (Basso, Ulrich, Landis, Vinokourov, Rasmussen, …), but also I think that the problem will definitely remain with the 'lesser' talented. OK, the toppers are and will always be cyclists – and take drugs to become the best.

But imagine for one instant if you are a 29 year old professional cyclist, and you are at risk of loosing your job because others are better – and the ones that are as good as you became better, got lucky, or … use drugs now and then. You are now confronted with 2 choices: stop your cycling career, or enter into an anonymous, very hard labour nightshift in the uncertain automobile sector. Still think only the toppers use??

Morale: we are far from having a clear sport.


So my take:

cycling is the most beautiful sport in the world, and I hope their leaders dare create a strategy and waterproof operations to clean up the current mess. I also hope that media and sponsors will remain loyal, because the new generations just might have a different attitude, and they may lead this sport to where it belongs: in our hearts, in our minds and in our legs.

Mart Smeets says in his book very often: the tour waits for no-one. Maybe, just maybe, it should wait a while for itself.



05:08 Gepost door bart in Actualiteit | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: tour de france, contador, boonen |  Facebook |


Romania 2.0

Birds flying high, you know how I feel (poor sound, but notice an entire stadium singing). Still post-enjoying the Muse concert at Wembley… I know it’s a (too) bombastic show, but if anyone they can have it, they can. Here’s the start of the concert (poor quality, but it shows the intenseness of the show)– and here a nice summary of most of the concert (even if many of the highlights aren’t there…).


And now for something completely different.

Over the last 20 days I had a rather diverse but also quite exhausting couple of days at work. Take last week. In 5 days, I had meetings, negotiations or workshops in London, Brussels, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Brussels. 7 countries in 6 days… I was invited to go to the Ocean’s race in Valencia for the week-end, but it was more important to me to have a relatively calm week-end with Femke, some Brussels mates, read magazines and books, go to a culturel event in Antwerp, have an evening drink with my former Skynet management committee just outside Brussels, and talk to my sister and some friends in Limburg.


That said, the most impacting evening was probably Tuesday. After an entire day developing our digital business in Rumania and a dinner – I was confronted with 2 choices: go to bed or take a night discovery of Bucharest.


You guessed right – at midnight I asked one of the drivers of the hotel to take my through a tour of the city. Around 1am we stopped for a while in front of the Palace of Parliament, probably Bucharest’s most (im)famous construction. Standing in front of it and looking at the monumentalism around makes you wonder about the madness of this regime at some time. The cab driver (who used to be in Ceausescu’s army) explained me the past and current political structure, the feeling of the population after entering the EU, the growing scepticism, why the locals don’t visit the Palace of Parliament (that actually was originally named Casa Poporului – House of the People…), etc… Although this is a country that is experiencing growth in some domains (in the media business: over the last years media spending grew over 50percent in total, broadband connection grew a staggering 28 percent in one year, … - these are usually indications economies are growing) – it has infrastructurally been standing pretty much unchanged. Instead of talking about web2.0 (there was no real web1.0), the discussion is about Rumania 2.0: what should the purpose and drive be of this complex 22 million country?


Some days later I read that 15 persons have died in Bucharest because of high temperature… It isn’t the staggering number of Parisiens of some years ago, but it also makes you wonder in a week where me and my environment are talking about advertising awards, football transfers, epo or Werchter… Believe me that I am not downplaying (I’m also mainly doing all of the above). Just reflecting upon it for a moment. Rumania 2.0. Wish I can contribute a bit.




The Belgians are better?

A couple of days ago I attended a literary evening in Amsterdam. The SLAA (Amsterdam foundation for literary activities) organized a 2 day program on Flemish Belgian writers. The first day got titled ‘The Belgians are better!’. Being a Belgian living in Amsterdam, I couldn’t resist ;-)


While walking there, I ran into a friend who works for Microsoft. We talked about how great Amsterdam is to live in, about Microsoft trying to counter play Google, and about this literary festival.


He ended by a summary (of which I had already heard half, but anyway):

'We live in a really crazy world:

The best golfer is a black guy,

The best rapper is a white guy,

The French think the Americans are arrogant,

Microsoft wants to use antitrust against Google,

And Belgians think they are smarter than the Dutch.'


The evening was great: Tom Lanoye, Bart Koubaa (thanks for the beer!), Yves Petry, David Van Reybrouck en Arjen Fortuin had a very interesting discussion, and of course it had nothing to do with Belgians being better. They explained their view of the differences between Belgians and Dutch society, about the differences in reading culture (it is true that the availability of so many great bookshops makes you read more), about having to adapt words to make them understandable in the other culture - even if we speak the same language, and mainly Tom Lanoye talked about the difference you can make by taking a (political) position and opinion.


And looking back at 2006, he probably has a point. StudioBrussel (the coolest of Belgian radios) creating social responsibility by raising 2.5m euro (and winning 2.5 million hearts!) in a project named ‘Music For Life’: Tom Barman organized concerts all over Belgian and there are others, and Humo (more a lifestyle than just a magazine) provides free with their magazine with a DVD of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.


One used to say that art should have the sideline perspective of society, but in Belgium they seem to be the very engine of social conscience.





Father suggests: Enrico Gasparotto (Giro)


When I had my father on the phone, we mainly talked about 2 things:


First - he told me that my ‘Joost’ didn’t work. Since my father embraced the web, I suggest new initiatives for him to test. I explained him there were a lot of new content distribution platform on the web, such as Joost, babelgum or brightcove - but overnight it became 'MyJoost'. All the things that didn’t work perfect have become My – such as MyBelgacomTV (he had a point there as I had been busy 50percent of my time once to put belgacomtv in the market), MyBittorent, My xxx (replace xxx by everything that I recommended but that didn’t work flawlessly) but surprisingly enough it is not MyGoogle or MyPod (he is probably very happy with that). Guess it’s a father-son thing. For all of us sons ;-)
Just FYI: Joost is an interesting tv distribution platform that is preparing a public launch, but it had indeed a couple of hick-ups these last days


Secondly - he told me to watch again the opening stage (a team race against time) of the Giro d’Italia. Enrico Gasparotto, a quite unknown (but very talented IMO) team mate of Danilo Di Luca (one of the favourites to win the Giro), wore the leader jersey. And it was great to see: normally the team leader (Di Luca in this case) comes as first over the white line in teamchronos, so that he is first in the general classification. You saw Di Luca screaming at Enrico Gasparotto to slow down and let him go first, but he pretended not to hear anything, ended first and yep: won the first pink jersey.


He told afterwards that he didn’t realize, but I know better. He read my previous post, and projected himself at 70 looking back at his life. He had the choice between being the faithful helper that cycled all his life in service of Di Luca, or pretend not to know what happened, get over the finish first and be(come) a pink jersey leader. One of the great honours for Italian cyclists. I saw already him showing off in his Toscana house to his grandchildren: ‘look here – an old picture of your grandfather when he was first in the Giro d”italia’. I saw him thinking:’ it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven’. Look at this picture: does he look like he feels very bad? :-) And just for the record: I am not judging, just describing.


Enrico Gasparotto will have had and continue to have a tough discussion with his team or at least with The Manager of Di Luca – but I saw on his face, and I am sure he would do it again. Any time. For the sake of being able to tell his grandchildren some stories at his Toscana hill house.




Brussels Airport - the return.

Some weeks ago I had a discussion with a dear friend of mine who works at the airport about the quality of the services at Brussels Airport. I have been flying a lot these last months, and compared to the (nearly frightening) efficiency of Munich or the incredibly well-run overall service at Schiphol in Amsterdam, I found it quite a disappointment.


Although he told me Zaventem was the best airport, I convinced him (slightly exaggerating) that it was amongst the worst:

§         for European flights you need your jogging shoes to get at your A gate (it can really long) and it is very boring to do it each time again

§         the check-in takes quite some time compared to others

§         the shops and restaurants are pretty poor

§         an article in the newspaper explained quite some luggage got lost in 2006 (even though it appears to be quite normal for a transit airport like Brussels)

§         etc etc


We went together to watch the cycling event ‘De Ronde Van Vlaanderen’ in Geraardsbergen, and arrived talking about it again. The day after an unannounced firemen strike occured... Although I have no idea why it occured and I believe that striking is a right if used under the right circomstances, it at least helped me in convincing that flying off Brussels is always a bit of an adventure.


One of the elements, the lack of good shops and restaurants, is really a missed opportunity. For one, for the passengers it makes the long walking and waiting a bit nicer. These grey walls and desolate coffee bars don’t contribute a lot in creating a happy atmosphere. But secondly, if well run this would create a lot of additional income, which in turn could be invested again in the modernism and comfort for its travellers. An airport could be (co-)financed by a well-developed and managed commercial area, which would benefit everyone. Cinemas do this via their 3C’s (Candy, Coke and Chips), but you see alternate business models built on commercial or advertising funding everywhere: from TV stations to search engines to flight tickets to ...


This said, my last 2 passages went flawless, and the rebranding of the Brussels Airlines do the airport very well, even though I remain with a previous remark (see http://becks.skynetblogs.be/post/3856723/brussels-airlines) and some search engine optimisation (try typing BA in Google) remains needed.


Seen our discussions, I see the secret hand of my friend in my last passages. My check-in, departures and arrivals were completely perfect, so timely that I expect him to have organized this especially to convince me. So a sincere thank you Jan A, I know you are behind all this, and that you are probably already designing a state-of-the-art commercial arena as we speak!





My longest birthday ever!

De laatste jaren probeerden Femke & ik steeds een feestje te organiseren bij onze verjaardagen. Reden uiteraard om een beetje te vieren, maar nog belangrijker om onze verschillende vriendengroepen samen te brengen. Vlamingen en Walen, Limburgers en Antwerpenaars, Skynetters en EDS’ers, werk en privé, oude en nieuwe vrienden, familie en nieuwe kennissen – yep: vanalles.


Dit jaar kon het om praktische redenen niet deze week, so it’ll be for a later time. Maar ... net terug van Amsterdam, en we gingen voor 1 drink in de Archiduc, maar dan toch maar langs AB Café en Daringman. Toch fijn en grappig gevierd, gelachen met Eric en serieus gebabbeld met Arno, en dus maar afgesproken om allemaal samen naar zijn concert in Amsterdam te gaan.


9u ’s morgens: vliegtuig naar LasVegas over Atlanta. Zowat 18h onderweg, maar lokaal nog steeds maar 18h. So birthday celebration again! Ons vriendenfeestje is pas binnen een paar weken, maar this was pretty cool. Blij dat het gedaan is though...


en dank u voor alle lieve berichten allemaal... was er niet goed van.