Before the launch

A window of opportunity for the sharing city

Ever since Harmen and Pieter officially co-founder shareNL in August 2013 they received calls from all types of stakeholders, including many more sharing economy startups, policy-makers, researchers, business leaders and journalists. Already in September 2013, Harmen spoke for various European policy makers at the European Economic and Social Committee. Aware to the significance of the phenomenon, it did not take long before they decided they wanted to turn shareNL into an independent agency, instead of an organization representing a single set of stakeholders. Being independent would turn shareNL into a safe place for all, so that the sharing economy can be developed in a responsible way with an eye for both its opportunities and its challenges.

The birth of Amsterdam sharing city

During the autumn of 2013 Pieter and Harmen frequently met with a group of volunteers to speak about the future of shareNL, at the attic of a co-working space. It was during one of those sessions that they connected the dots. Pieter’s thesis had proved that Amsterdam citizens are willing to share. Mayor Park Won-Soon of Seoul had proven that a city could become a sharing city. Composing a vision and a network for Amsterdam became one of shareNL’s earliest activities. A vision of a city that utilizes the opportunities the sharing economy offers to built sustainability, social cohesion and economic resilience. But also a city that aims to formulate answers to the challenges this new and rapidly growing phenomenon entails. Apart from the vision, they also started to built a network of ‘ambassadors’ throughout the city. In their eyes, the city is formed by not only its citizens and the municipality. Not in the least, also entrepreneurs, enterprises and for example knowledge institutions shape the city of today. So what the co-founders of shareNL did, was involving all these ‘players’ and let them accede the network of ambassadors.

Monday the 28th of October 2013 was a stormy day. As Harmen and Pieter drove their bikes through the Amsterdam Canal District there was a roaring sound. A big canal tree collapsed right in front of their eyes smashing a parked car and crashing into the canal. “Disruption is here,” Harmen said as they drove on to the offices of the Amsterdam Economic Board.

The Amsterdam Economic Board – or ‘the Board’ – was established to streamline the working relationships between the private sector, knowledge institutes and government organisations, with a view to further increasing prosperity and well-being in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA). The Board addresses complex urban issues through innovation and collaboration between the private sector, knowledge institutes and government organisations on the metropolitan scale. The Amsterdam Economic Board is made up of 25 leading directors of academic institutions, company CEOs, alderpersons and mayors from the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. Together they are devising the strategy for the metropolis of the future.

While the storm lingered on outside Harmen and Pieter pitched their idea to a small team from the Amsterdam Economic Board. Carlien Roodink, former city councillor and Business Innovator at the Board recalls:

On the 21st of November 2013 a policy window of opportunity occurred. Harmen was invited to speak at ‘Smart Innovation in the West-Side,’ organized by the Amsterdam Economic Board.[1] Meanwhile Pieter got invited to speak about his research at the yearly congress of the City’s research and Statistics department. Facing a room with over a 150 local policy makers and city officials, Pieter decided to share the results of his research quickly and then move on to introduce the idea of Amsterdam as the worlds second sharing city.