City Focus: Amsterdam, a gateway to technology innovation
Amsterdam is aiming to solidify its reputation as a gateway to technology innovation in Europe. Business Chief takes a look at what the Dutch capital has to offer.
With a large English-speaking community and a vibrant business ecosystem, Amsterdam is considered "a gateway to Europe and used as a launching pad for EU test markets," claims Ton van 't Noordende, a senior partner at Dutch startup investor Keadyn.
Leading tech giants Tesla, Uber, Optimizely, Netflix, Atlassian and Nextdoor already have European headquarters in Amsterdam. The city also plays host to market-leading tech and funding events like Summit AI, IBC, Amsterdam Capital Week, StartupFest, and the TNW Conference. IAmsterdam reports that “there is no ecosystem in Europe that is as collaborative and forward driven as Amsterdam”.
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The city already plays host to several burgeoning artificial intelligence and machine learning startups, and is working to grow its ecosystem every year through its tech and funding events. Let’s take a look at a selection of Amsterdam-based AI startups.
Tech startups in Amsterdam
Applyr is a seed-stage startup located in Sloterdijk, Amsterdam. The company specialises in intelligent chat-bot AI, designed to provide efficient solutions to the top of the corporate recruitment funnel. “The bots are smart and configurable, and provide intelligent insight,” according to IAmsterdam. The intelligent bot-to-human software is intended to provide applicants with personalised conversations, in order to create “the most human experience possible”.
Unlike most chatbot services, which operate through third-party platforms like Facebook Messenger, Applyr integrates seamlessly into the customer company’s careers website and application system. The ability for recruiters to outsource initial recruitment stages to intelligent AI is expected to improve both workflow and applicant experience, as well as improve the quality of final stage hires. Applyr was founded with the financial support of Amsterdam startup studio VentureBuilders and currently operates with a staff of six.
Aidence is an early-stage growth startup that provides intelligent software solutions to the field of medical diagnostics. Its product uses computational engine Deep Learning, providing radiologists with an integrated insight and analysis tool that “automatically detects and classifies various disorders on multiple imaging modalities”.
Deep Learning is a revolutionary analytics program that has been shown to achieve human-level accurate readings of medical images. It is believed that Aidence’s radiology analysis tech will not only promote efficiency in the medical field, but can provide more accurate readings on average than its human counterparts. Aidence announced last year that it had acquired another $2.75mn in seed funding from notable investors Northzone, HenQ, Health Innovation Fund, and the medical specialists of the Haaglanden hospital group. The firm is currently valued between $11mn and $15mn and employs 10 people.
Harver is a late-stage growth startup specialising in talent-matching and evaluation aimed at improving recruitment strategies in the pre-hiring stage. The Amsterdam-based HR startup uses intelligent screening procedures that assess candidates on tasks they’ll have to do on the job by generating engaging test scenarios, according to TMI Investments. The service is also part of an initiative to modernise applicant experience, treating them “like a customer,” Harver claims.
The company already provides recruitment and HR services to tech and retail giants like Netflix, Vodafone, and Booking.com. Customer data reports a decrease in employee turnover of up to 70%, an increase in quality of hires of up to 300%, and a decrease in company time spent reviewing pre-interview applicants of about 90%.
The company announced in January 2018 that it had attained a further $4.2mn in funding from its primary backer, Insight Venture Partners, bringing Harver’s total funding to $15.2mn. The company is valued between $17mn and $25mn and employs 68 members of staff.
World Summit AI 2018
Amsterdam’s vibrant artificial intelligence community aims to celebrate its successes, as well as expanding its talent and funding pools this October. The Gashouder, a 3,500-capacity venue in the heart of the city, will once more play host to the World Summit AI.
The organisers claim the event is set to “gather the whole ecosystem, enterprise, startups, investors and deep tech to discuss the future of artificial intelligence”. With the 2017 summit boasting 140 in the field, the Head of Software and Development for Sainsburys Argos described it as “the best event for feeling the global pulse of AI”.
In 2018, attendance is predicted to double, with an emphasis on practical demonstrations and customer engagement, everything “from starting your own AI experiment to deploying machine learning models to gain insight from data”.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”