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Greek start-ups go orange

Greek start-ups go orange

The Orange Grove initiative is a Dutch-Greek start-up which aims to stem the brain drain and reduce youth unemployment, writes Maria Vasileiou. It might sound like an initiave to stimulate citrus farmers in Greece, but Orange Grove is actually a start-up incubator in Athens launched with the help of Dutch money. At the flexible workspace of Orange Grove, a typical example of crowd funding initiated by the Dutch embassy in Athens, around 80 young Greek and Dutch entrepreneurs get together, work, network, learn, meet like-minded people and follow master classes and lectures by experts from Dutch multinational and Greek companies and university professors. Among the companies involved is Heineken’s subsidiary in Greece (Athenian Brewery), which is the main sponsor of Orange Grove, Interamerican, Philips, KLM and Coco-Mat. Academic experts offering master classes to the young entrepreneurs come from Dutch and Greek top-ranked universities. Group effort 'Orange Grove is very much a group effort. Many people and institutions with a link to both countries contribute,' explains Jan Versteeg, the Dutch ambassador in Greece. 'The bill is almost entirely paid by Dutch and Greek companies. Many of them are very important players in the Greek economy.' The idea was first conceived on board a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Athens in February 2013, after Versteeg had visited a similar incubator in Groningen. The next steps involved discussions with alumni of Dutch universities living in Athens and Greek students in the Netherlands, but also with Dutch ministers. When foreign affairs minister Frans Timmermans visited Greece in April last year the ambassador raised the idea with him. As he says: 'the minister exploded with enthusiasm'. Companies Two months later Eurogroup president and Dutch minister of finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem also encouraged the embassy team to push on with the project. Academics and business leaders then came on board. The Orange Grove initiative aims to stem the brain drain and youth unemployment issues in Greece. Six out of 10 Greek young people are currently jobless. But those who are selected to join Orange Grove are given the opportunity to create their own start-up company. 'Our aim is to help turn brain drain into two-way brain mobility. We offer help to young entrepreneurs, so they can stay here and work on their innovative idea, or return to Greece after finishing their studies in the Netherlands or elsewhere, says Versteeg. Greek industry When Boukje Vastbinder, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Delft University of Technology first visited Orange Grove in November, she was impressed by the variation in business ideas and the enthusiasm. 'The entrepreneurs seem to be highly educated, in Greece and abroad, and very motivated to work at an exciting start-up. The products seem to connect with recent start-up trends or strengths of the Greek society and economy like agriculture, tourism, transport and shipping,' she says. Michalis Sinodinos joined Orange Grove when the initiative started in autumn last year. After having studied economics in Europe and the USA and working on a project in Asia and in a governmental department in Athens he found himself jobless. Innovation 'At that point I said to myself: I will either join Orange Grove or leave Greece,' he says. After six months with the project, he has developed Poseadon, an app which gives information to people at sea about their whereabouts. 'The difference between a navigator system and our project is that the user becomes part of the map,' says the 35-year-old, who has been sailing since the age of six. Sinodinos is currently looking for funds to take his product to market and calls his experience at Orange Grove 'a real opportunity'. 'When [European commissioner] Neelie Kroes was here, we had the chance to speak to her directly and show her our projects. We asked her how we could access European funds for financing,' Sinodinos explains. 'At Orange Grove we also learned how to cooperate. Most of us stay here until late in the evening talking about our projects and brainstorming about new possibilities.' Christina Stribacu, a 33-year-old art history graduate, says Orange Grove made it possible for her to start exporting her family’s olive oil production under her own brand, LIA. 'Until recently we were selling to a wholesaler. But now we have started exporting to France and Belgium and we will soon expand to the Netherlands and to New York under our own label,' she explains. Both Sinodinos and Stribacu were among the first group of entrepreneurs to join Orange Grove. 'The initial group consisted of young people working on ten start-ups,' says Natasha Apostolidi, political advisor at the Dutch embassy, who is also in charge of running Orange Grove. Selection process 'The second group was made up of 20 projects and the third, which has been finalised, has another 10. Projects have to be innovative in order to be selected.' Every project is 'allowed' to use the premises for a full year. 'During the next few months we will see how many of these projects manage to get financing and become independent enterprises,' says Apostolidi. The success rate will also be taken into account when the initiative is evaluated afte three years. In the meantime, official visitors are on the increase. Dutch trade minister Lilianne Ploumen and senior economic affairs ministry official Simon Smits were two of the latest visitors, and representatives from Dutch embassies around the world have been looking at how the project was set up. 'The initiative is still very young but seems to be a big success already in terms of getting exposure for the Greek start-up scene and in the amount of start-ups that entered the programme,' says Delft's Vastbinder. Of course, Greece cannot compare to Silicon Valley or Amsterdam, one of Europe’s hottest start-up capitals. Yet the project's supporters see such developments as an unquestionable sign of latent potential, reflecting a spin in the country’s sad economic story. The seeds are growing roots, nourished by the ideas and entrepreneurial spirit of a new generation, marking Greece’s efforts for deeply grounded turnaround, but also Europe’s potential for effective cooperation.  More >


Do Dutch lotteries appeal to expats?

Lotteries are and have been a popular form of entertainment for centuries, and especially in times of crisis are welcomed by many as a potential way to 'escape the misery'. Really? An article about lotteries on a respectable platform for English speaking expats in the Netherlands? Yes - and why not? Lotteries are and have been a popular form of entertainment for centuries, and especially in times of crisis and/or economic uncertainty lotteries are welcomed by many as a potential way to 'escape the misery'. And while the Netherlands have a lot to offer to expats, the weather conditions are not among the perks. The many rainy days offer a perfect opportunity to play, occasionally or on a regular basis, the lottery online and play for gigantic international lottery jackpots! Lotteries are popular the world over. Giant amounts of money are at stake, basically all the time. That is to say, giant to some might be less giant to others, depending on your frame of reference. While the jackpots in the Netherlands' biggest lotteries may be impressive, they are a lot less impressive when compared to the gigantic amounts that await the more than lucky winners of pan-European lotteries like the EuroMillions lottery and especially the big American lotteries, Mega Millions and US Powerball. Jackpots in the EuroMillions lottery can reach up to €190 million, but the jackpots in aforementioned US lotteries don't have a limit and have grown to amounts that pass the half million dollar bar! Mega Millions holds the record of the biggest jackpot ever with the amount of $656 million, while the largest jackpot won by a single winner is the $590.5 million US Powerball jackpot, which was won in May 2013. Definitely the kind of prizes that start temporary instances of 'jackpot madness'! Holland's King's Day Lottery One of the biggest Dutch lottery events of the year is the upcoming King's Day draw of the Dutch state lottery. The player that wins the jackpot will receive €10,000 every month for as long as thirty years! Still, a simple calculation (without taking interest into account, which in all fairness is currently almost negligible in the Netherlands anyway) tells us that the total amount won is €3.6 million. By all means a very nice and large amounts, but not in the least bit an amount that rabid lottery players will start drooling over. The Dutch New Year’s lottery often offers a larger, one-time amount (close to €40 million on December 30th 2013), but equally often is shared by many winners who all take a fairly small piece of the jackpot 'cake'. In short: lottery loving expats are not in for a treat when stationed in the Netherlands. From Amsterdam to Chicago, from Manchester to Tokyo This is not the end of the world and it definitely does not mean that expats should put their lottery playing needs in the freezer while living in the Netherlands. Nowadays, it is so much easier to play lottery online anyway that it really doesn't matter where in the world you live, as long as you have a working internet connection. You could be in an internet cafe in Nepal, or lean back in New York's Central Park with your iPad or smartphone, really, and find an online lottery provider that offers tickets to your favorite lotteries - which will most likely be the lotteries that offer the biggest jackpots. One of those online lottery agencies is theLotter, based in the UK, with more than ten years of experience one of the more established players in the field. theLotter offers the opportunity to play online in the world's biggest and most exciting lotteries, including the biggest American, European and Australian lotteries. Local representatives buy official lottery tickets in your name, which are safely stored and scanned directly to your account for proof and safety reasons. theLotter shows you exactly how the ticket purchasing process works and offer you a very easy way of participating, with regular special deals and discounts you can benefit from. Lottery prizes may be prone to local taxes, but are 100% free of commission! If you're a lottery fan, make sure to take your shot at winning more than amazing prices. If you're not, then go about your business as usual. Martijn Opperdoes  More >


Cycling in the King’s footsteps

Cycling in the King’s footsteps

Cycle along past the most important places in King Willem-Alexander’s life and enjoy some unique Dutch scenery at the same time! After over a hundred years of rule by queens, Holland has a king once more. To commemorate this milestone, Cycle Trips Holland has launched a truly royal cycling route. You can peddle in the footsteps of the new Dutch king, past all the important places in his life and see some beautiful, typically Dutch landscapes too. The King’s Route begins and ends in Utrecht, the city in which King Willem-Alexander was born in 1965. En route cyclists will encounter many stately homes, royal palaces and country homes. You can trace the King’s footsteps from his youth in the wooded surroundings of Lage Vuursche via Leiden, where he went to university, on to the impressive church in Amsterdam where His Majesty was sworn in. 'The route was inspired by last year’s inauguration,' Desiree Moonen, founder of Cycle Trips Holland explains. 'When I began setting out the route soon after, I was overwhelmed by the choice of wonderful locations. It was almost too much to fit into a single route!' Steeped in tradition The King’s Route is an excellent choice for cyclists with a keen interest in traditions and history. Some of Holland’s best-kept country houses and mansions are along the way. Buitenplaats Vreedenhoff, for instance, with its impressive wrought iron gates which date back to 1749 and took three men to make. Or De Hooge Vuursche, built in 1912 by a rich merchant navy officer and his baroness wife and richly decorated by many influential Dutch artists. The most impressive buildings, however, are of course the many palaces of the Dutch Royal Family. The route leads past Drakesteyn Castle, where the King and his two brothers grew up, and Soestdijk Palace, where his grandmother Princess Juliana and her husband Prince Bernhard lived. When his mother became Queen, her family moved with her to The Hague, to Huis ten Bosch Palace. It was Willem-Alexander’s home for many years and is soon to be his home again once more. Hobnobbing in The Hague The overnight stay in The Hague offers you the opportunity to take a look at the beautiful Binnenhof, Holland’s seat of parliament. The first buildings on this site originate from the 13th century and were all clustered around the fishing pond on the country estate of Count Floris IV. The pond is still there: it’s now called the Hofvijver. Sit in the courtyard and enjoy an Italian ice cream as you watch cabinet ministers and MPs hurry between buildings. Be careful, though – you’re allowed to cycle through the courtyard so look out for fellow tourists and locals rushing to work! Lively: Leiden and Amsterdam It’s not all palaces and ancient history on the King’s Route. There’s a stop in the lively city of Leiden, where the King lived while he was studying for a degree in History. You can cycle or stroll past his digs on the Rapenburg and have a beer at Cafe L’Espérance, where the Prince was a regular. Of course the route would not be complete without a visit to Holland’s capital Amsterdam and the Nieuwe Kerk where King Willem-Alexander was sworn in. The church borders on Dam Square, a stone’s throw away from the picturesque canals and beautiful town houses that wealthy Dutch merchants built in the 17th and 18th century. Be sure to take time out for the Rijkmuseum too, which recently reopened after extensive renovations. Cycling through the countryside As you cycle from city to city, you’ll enjoy the typically Dutch landscapes that inspired the country’s master painters: green meadows interspersed with narrow brooks and fluffy white clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky. The King’s Route will also take you through picturesque country villages and lively cities, along the North Sea coast and through the wide, sandy dunes. If you book for arrival in spring, you can expect to see field after field of colourful flower bulbs in bloom. Tulips, daffodils, bluebells and of course wonderfully fragrant hyacinths. Just add clogs and a windmill for the ultimate Dutch picture postcard! Full-service Cycle Trips Holland is known for its high level of service and flexibility, as schedules and routes can be adapted to suit individual wishes. Accommodation on the King’s Route is in keeping with the route’s royal flair and includes boutique hotels in which the customer truly is king. There’s no need to worry about your luggage – it will be transported to your next hotel. And should you need technical assistance en route, skilled technicians will ensure you’re back in the (cycle) saddle as soon as possible. 'Our motto is ‘Scenic Routes, Exclusive Accommodation’,' Desiree Moonen explains. 'That’s why we take great care in selecting hotels and guest houses with that little bit extra. Some are uniquely situated in historic buildings, like many of the hotels on our Zuiderzee Route. Others are country escapes offering luxurious surroundings and personal service.' Spoilt for choice Cycle Trips Holland has a total of ten routes to choose from, each highlighting some of Holland’s most beautiful scenery and must-see sites. On the Zeeland Route, for instance, you can learn more about Holland’s eternal struggle with the mighty sea and marvel at the activity in Rotterdam’s busy seaport. The Friesland Route, on the other hand, introduces you to a green and lovely Holland, dotted with picturesque towns and peaceful hamlets. It’s the ideal cycling trip for those who wish to relax and unwind. 'Whichever route you choose, Cycle Trips Holland has one ambition: to make your cycling holiday a truly unforgettable experience,' Desiree Moonen concludes with a smile. For more information, please visit www.cycletripsholland.com or contact Desiree Moonen by mail at info@cycletripsholland.com.  More >


Master Dutch painter revolutionised fire-fighting

Master Dutch painter revolutionised fire-fighting

As the Wassenaar Brandweermuseum prepares to celebrate the man behind the modern fire hose, Tracy Brown Hamilton discovers the impact of his invention. On July 6, 1652, Amsterdam’s fire brigade fought in vain to save the Old Town Hall on Dam Square. All contemporary fire-fighting methods were employed: buckets of water, long poles to pull down burning walls and wet tarpaulins to throw over nearby buildings. The fire spread so quickly that nothing but a smoking tower remained. The scene has been immortalised in paintings and drawings by the likes of Rembrandt, Aert van der Neer and Jan Beerstraten. Inspiration Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712) was 15 years old when he witnessed the Town Hall blaze, and like other artists he also depicted the scene in sketches and paintings. But the event also inspired him to invent an engine that revolutionised fire-fighting. One of these engines can be seen at the Wassenaar Brandweermuseum, or fire-fighting museum, a unique collection of engines, uniforms and other fire-fighting memorabilia. On Saturday, March 1, the museum celebrates his birthday with a tour guided by an English-speaking historian. 'Van der Heyden is really a great hero of the seventeenth century,' says Kees Plaisier, coordinator of the Brandweermuseum. 'Fire was a major problem in those days.' Destruction Carelessness with a candle or a bed warmer could be almost instantly destructive. 'There were many wooden houses and very narrow streets,' Plaiser says. 'A fire could devastate the entire city.' Fire 'engines' in Van der Heyden’s day were cumbersome tubs into which water had to be manually placed and then pumped and sprayed out of a rotating, gooseneck nozzle. The engines had to be placed dangerously close to the fire. 'It was very ineffective,' Plaisier says, 'because you could not move around. You could not fight the fire from above or the side. You could only stay in one place.' Revolutionary invention Van der Heyden, who was also a successful cityscapes painter on a par with Rembrandt, designed a fire engine that was lightweight and mobile, and had hoses for both water supply and output. 'With the hose, the firemen could really direct the water at the fire, from above or below, rather than stand in one spot,' Plaisier explains. The engines made Van der Heyden a very rich man. He sold them to the likes of Peter the Great, and William of Orange took some of the engines with him to England in 1672. He also completely reorganised the fire brigade in Amsterdam. 'He divided the city into districts,' explains Plaiser, 'and the men who lived in each district would fight fires there, rather than fire fighters going all over the city and arriving too late.' According to Peter Sutton’s book, Jan van der Heyden, firemen were volunteers who received training and drills overseen by Van der Heyden every year. They did not receive wages and, in fact, were subject to fines if they arrived late to a scene. According to Sutton: 'Even bystanders who refused to lend a hand when conscripted by firemen could have their hat or coat confiscated!' In addition, the victims, who were assumed to have caused the fire through carelessness, paid the cost of putting out the fire. Van der Heyden’s engine was the basis for fire-fighting technology until the invention of the steam engine nearly 200 years later. The Wassenaar Brandweermuseum is open every Saturday and Sunday, 12:00-16:00. Entrance is free. www.brandweermuseumwassenaar.nl  More >



An MBA is not a degree

An MBA is an integral part of ongoing personal development, not just a piece of paper, says Christo Nel of Nyenrode Business Universiteit. (Sponsored feature) (more…)  More >