SingularityU Amsterdam: A Small Country with a Big Community

Singularity University
Sep 26, 2018

The SingularityU Amsterdam Chapter connects cross-disciplinary professionals, including Peter Maarten Westerhout, Alix Rübsaam, Maayke Aimee Damen, and Jordy Egging (pictured below).

Group photo of SingularityU Amsterdam Chapter members.

“We localized the body of thought coming out of SU to what is going on in our region because we want to share knowledge and experience in order to inspire others to do something here,” comments Peter Maarten Westerhout from the SingularityU Amsterdam leadership team. “We run events for alumni, but also for the curious.”There is no shortage of curious people in Amsterdam. Historically, the Dutch have been known for their global explorations, and more recently they have become one of the most vibrant startup culture cities in Europe.“The Netherlands and Amsterdam especially are quite involved in thinking about new technologies. Relative to other countries, the Netherlands has a strong interest in technologies and also has a large startup culture,” shares Alix Rübsaam, another member of the SingularityU Amsterdam leadership team. “The city of Amsterdam even has a CTO. We were excited to have him speak at one of our events.”Maayke continues, “Because our country is so small, we have to think a lot about the global grand challenges. For example, water or waste management issues are something that we need to talk about because of our demographics.”

Filling a community void

A common thread for the SingularityU Amsterdam Chapter team members is that each one of the four members once felt isolated regarding their interests in technologies and exponentials. “We have each found a way to an existing community we didn’t know existed. So to be able to facilitate such a journey and help others find their community is the idea we started with,” shares Jordy Egging, another SingularityU Amsterdam leadership member.Although it is often difficult to quantitatively measure the number of connections and outcomes from these new relationships, the team is confident that they are adding value to a growing community. Some evidence includes regularly receiving letters of appreciation and gratitude from event participants. And several others have offered to host future events for the Chapter.It is not uncommon for the Chapter’s events to have sold out within hours of announcing the event. In fact, the team had to make a special effort to cap the number of attendees at around 150 per event.The growth of the community has been fueled in large part by referrals. “Around a third of the people who attend our events are first-timers,” shares Jordy. “People send the invite to others who are not already in our communications channels, which really helps to get the new curious onboard and grow the community around it.”“We recently hosted an event at a really awesome tech co-working space with a nice garden here in Amsterdam. People came in and immediately started networking. Our team was making introductions as often as we could. We made a short introduction about what the evening was about, a bit about our SU community and then about why we intentionally chose to host our event in this coworking space. Then we had three speakers, saved up questions and then held a really nice moderated discussion with the participants,” explains Maayke.

SingularityU The Netherlands

For such a small country, The Netherlands has a disproportionately large number of Singularity University alumni and Chapters. Currently, there are four different Chapters in the Netherlands—Eindhoven (currently seeking volunteers), Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Nijmegen.The team has been able to collaborate with the already established SingularityU The Netherlands country partnership. Although SingularityU The Netherlands is quite different from the SingularityU Amsterdam Chapter in its offerings and day-to-day experience, the opportunity to collaborate is very much a part of the Chapter’s success.“We have been really lucky to have access to the larger SingularityU The Netherlands community as well. For years, the country partnership team has been organizing events in the Netherlands and we were able to tap into this 2,000+ people strong community to spread the word about our events. We also attend each other’s events which makes the collaboration really easy and fun,” explains Peter Maarten. Alix continues, “We work with the other Chapters really well. They are awesome and always help us with whatever we need help with. We always make sure we align events, share resources, speakers, dates, important stuff coming up so that we don’t have overlapping events.”

Community events

The Chapter focuses on running two different types of events. The first is a networking type of event. While they do offer some content, the events are mainly focused on bringing the community together to connect people who share similar interests and passions.The second type of event focuses heavily on local impact, which involves choosing a local challenge space, inviting expert speakers and hosting conversations and dialogue around that topic. These events have led to many beneficial shared experiences, including discovering coworking spaces, landing new jobs, co-hosting events, and more.“There is a community of people who have the same interest. The community feels very open and curious,” adds Jordy.The Chapter has a strong sense of community and purpose. “We provide people who cannot afford the price or the time to go to SU with information so that they can learn the exponential way of thinking and then incorporate that into their lives,” explains Maayke. “For us, what we aim for at the events is that we help them get to know others who are interested in the same things to be able to help each other and we provide them the knowledge and tools to be able to do that. All our events are aimed at this.”Are you interested in engaging members of your local community in thoughtful conversations about exponential technologies? If so, learn more about our growing global network of Singularity UChapters. Explore the current Chapter locations, and if you don’t see your city or country represented, apply to lead one!

In the Spotlight: Singularity University ChaptersSU launched the SingularityU Chapters program in 2015, and the SingularityU Global network has grown rapidly ever since. In this “SingularityU: Chapter in the Spotlight” blog series, we interview Chapter leaders to learn what led them to establish their SingularityU Chapters, what their Chapter experiences entail, and what makes their cities an important part of a global ecosystem.