Interview: CEO of The Next Web, Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Photo: Hans van Brakel
Photo: Hans van Brakel

We talked about The Next Web with Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, founder and CEO of TNW, one of the most intriguing technology sites in the world. Boris is indeed a man who is in love with his business as well being a successful businessman and this feature of him is reflected significantly to The Next Web, which he founded.

We can call TNW as Europe’s most important technology site and you are the founder of it. Did you think that it would have such an impact when you establish this site in 2006?

Certainly not. When we first started with TNW Media we just liked blogging and noticed people enjoyed our style of writing. It wasn’t much more than that, and we certainly hoped to one day generate some revenue based on our traffic, but we didn’t think we’d ever be really ‘influential’.

Are there any start-ups where you invest in? 

All my attention goes to TNW, and being the CEO is more than a day-job so I don’t invest in other companies. But I did inspire an entrepreneur to build a system for handling email, and it is called Virtuat.com and you can test it while it is in beta. I totally love it!

What are your predictions with technology in the future? For example, are there companies that can compete with companies like Apple, Alphabet and Amazon? 

I have a lot of faith in small teams doing great things. Yahoo was once just two guys doing cool things. Then it became the biggest site on the web, then they were challenges by two other guys in a dorm room, which became Google. Disruption often comes from the unexpected. I don’t think companies are too big and will therefor be safe from disruption. Quite the opposite.

Where is the artificial intelligence progressing? Should people be afraid of it? 

I don’t think it helps to be afraid of things like this, and I don’t think it is progressing so fast we need to new worried. It is also something thats happening in the background and even when it becomes more advanced, we as consumers probably won’t really notice much of it. Similar to cloud hosting, it is great, but you don’t really think about it.

If you were the president of a country, what kind of policy would you implement to have a say in the technology world?

I’d find a country CTO and empower them to use technology to help the country be innovative and make good use of technology. Technology is changing the world, but usually it isn’t given as much priority as things like road and railways.

We know that Israel gives great support to the start-ups. When we say technology, can we say that Israel is one of the few countries in the world that gives the biggest support? 

I don’t think it is the government itself that is giving so much support, but the unique circumstances that make Israeli companies thrive. It is a small company with great ties to the US, and young people learn a lot about technology in the army, and are then super motivated once they get out of the army. There are a bunch of unique factors like that that makes their situation unique.

Which phone brand do you use? What are the must-have applications installed on your phone? 

I use the iPhone X and the new iPad Pro. Two very portable devices and extremely powerful. I do also own a laptop, but haven’t used it for a while now. Using the iPhone X and the iPad as my main devices makes me feel like I live in the future.

Rewarding Apps: I like simple tools that empower me. I use the basic Notes app, and reminders and Mail and Calendar and I actually like their simplicity. There are more feature rich notes apps, and great Todo apps, but I’m efficient with basic tools that don’t distract me with too many features. I also use (and love) Slack, Feedly, Trello and the Google Drive suite of products. TripIt is an app that I couldn’t live without. I travel a lot and love forwarding all my plans to plans@tripit.com and seeing it turn a bunch of random emails into tightly organized travel plans that sync with my calendar.

As an important internet entrepreneur and the top name behind a very important brand, what advice would you like to give to young people? 

To just get started. You’re young, energetic, ambitious and you understand the world better than all of those old people who seem to think they run things. You’re fast and flexible, and they’re all big and slow. You don’t need anyone’s permission or help to become successful, so just get started.

 

 

About the Author
Emir Eksioglu, is a journalist and an entrepreneur. He published articles in important institutions such as Huff Post, Times of India, Economic Times, Jerusalem Post, U.S. News, Foreign Policy, GQ, Tehran Times and was introduced as the youngest media boss thanks to some of his investments in Turkey. He has many initiatives in technology and media fields. His biggest passion is Trabzonspor.
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