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Tag: Personal

True story.

A couple of days ago, Femke and I were walking in this Bristol Farms, a kind of combination of a supermarket and a deli (with incredible good take-away food) in Beverly Hills on Robinsons. In the shop, we heard ‘Californication’, a great song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

And then I overheard this ‘Fawlty towers’ conversation.
Femke: (after singing outloud “Dream of of Californication): “Can I have 1 Ceasar salad to take away please’
Bristol Farms person: “Certainly miss. You like red hot chili peppers?’
Femke: “No”
BF Person: “Why are you singing the song then?”
Femke: “huh?”
BF Person: “You are singing a red hot chili peppers song…” (looks dazzled)
Femke: “oh … thought you meant if I like red hot chilli peppers on my salad” …

I guess it’s the right time for a quick visit back to Belgium for a couple of weeks to celebrate a friends wedding (looking forward to it Lode), a couple of board meetings, some brainstorms and the best festival in the world (even if this years’s line up isn’t much special) … Pukkelpop!

Hope to see you there!

About 22 years my journey into ‘new media’ started. I was around 13 years old, did a summer job, but didn’t really need anything – so I saved my money.

And then I saw that amazing commodore-64 (nostalgia page) at a local photographer in Hasselt (Belgium). The c-64 opened up an entirely new world, and probably ‘made’ me do what I am doing today. After a couple of months I was tired gaming, so I went on to code. From basic to machine code and assembler. The next 5 years were somehow dominated by writing code, trading software and launching demo’s or BBS’s – and starting and ‘running’ groups. These groups worked like little companies, with names such as Ultravox, Warriors of the Wasteland, Tetragon or F4CG. The last one was an Italo-Belgian group (‘Some fries, some spaghettis, a lot of talent‘ was the tagline for some time), with also some Germans, US guys and Nordics.
It was fascinating, and the ‘scene’ was exactly like the first internet period around 1996-1999 and the new “2.0 period” that is occurring now.

I had 2 trustees: a graphical designer (now one the major talents and leaders IMO at Telenet in Belgium), and a technical person – probably the most ingenious person I have ever met. And probably even rarer: a person I would trust 100% eyes closed. Ruben (that’s his name) works now in California near Irvine on the next generation optical networks.

Yesterday we met up at his place in ‘downtown’ Irvine, which is somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego. Both our families (he has a fantastic wife and 2 kids) met up – and it was … AMAZING. We haven’t seen each other a lot over the last 15 years (except at some school reunion)- but damn: this is the kind of friendship that doesn’t arrive often. After a couple of hours – we were back at assembler and machine code, c-64, the current internet and technology scene, at startups vs established companies, but also at life, death and dreams.

Ideas sparkled all over the swimming pool… Trust is so seldom I have discovered over the years – and besides some former colleagues at Skynet, I can honestly say that Ruben is one of the only persons that I would start nearly anything with, and that counted in personal but also in ‘professional’ atmosphere. I’d do anything for him. Even if it is the last thing I do, I will start another venture with him. There’s one that we were thinking of yesterday, but I’d have to move to SF or LA to realize that. Which might actually be an option.

Also today, I got a call to get involved further in a project that is really important to me, made an incredible walk between cliffs and the sea with Charlie and Femke (“Blah” is Charlie’s new focus word), and even took up golfing today after 5 years of inactivity. Hell, Femke choose a hotel on the Torrey Pines Golf, where the 2008 US open took place- so I had to give it a shot again :-)

Just a perfect day … I am getting healthy and feel alive again. Thank you Jeroen for the warnings…


After the Fortune Brainstormtech, I went to attend the AlwaysOn Summit at Stanford university. The most interesting part was a near full day of ’10 minute start-up presentations’. Seen amazing ideas and companies related to GPS technology, social media feeds, mobile apps, vertical and semantic search, ecommerce and so on…

The next evening I got to the annual TechCrunch August capital meetup on Sand Hill road at Menlo Park, and I spoke with more vc’s on that evening than I spoke in my entire life. I am writing and article/report for some folks with the following subject: ‘Can Silicon Valley become Europe’s ally?’. Talked to so many people, including Europeans from Slovenia (amazing group of people!), Sweden, France, Germany, and even from Spain! – and they were all … moving to Silicon Valley. That seems to be the recurring theme of this week: Europe goes (to) Silicon Valley.

We stayed in a hotel in Palo Alto, and during an afternoon I was wandering alone around the city, went for a lunch, and ended up sitting with a team from facebook (they had offices just around the corner). Discussed ‘industry’ too, mainly about Facebook Connect. The ease of getting to discuss ideas and projects is just incomparable to anywhere else in the world. I guess that’s part of the eco-system. There’s also things that are better in Europe, believe me, but the ease of getting into it, of getting connected and of sharing ideas is just very different.

Next up is a drive along the HighWay1 (coastal road) to Los Angeles. Yahoo!


We are at a 3-day event, organized by Fortune, named the BrainstormTech. It’s always great to be in San Francisco, but this location at Half Moon Bay is pretty incredible (good though that there are conference rates for the hotel though).

The first day started in the afternoon, and at most conferences this usually means 1 speaker during opening reception. BrainstormTech’s first afternoon already featured some pretty strong discussions and presentations, especially from the Marc Benioff (ceo, Michael Dell (Dell), Gary Hamel (Professor London Business School), Jeff Bezos (ceo amazon), and some others. During evening dinner, some bloggers got a stage – and it was entertaining though pretty ‘light’. There’s definitely something going on in blogosphere.

The 2nd day got sort of ‘disrupted’ by an enduring tooth ache, and I have already seen 2 dentist here to help me out (I’ll write a dentist recommendation post later on), and the 3rd day was again amazing, with speakers like Chris Dewolfe (ceo MySpace), Eric Schmidt (ceo Google) and Neil Young (yes, THE Neil Young), who talked about music, technology and green tech. You have the full program here.

I need some time to devour all the info, but here are my first take-aways:
- mobile is HOT, and the iPhone is the king in mobileland creating an entirely new application distribution and usage pattern (although Europe and Asia are way ahead of the States)
- a quite pessimistic view about entrepreneurialism in Europe (talent, capital, platforms and especially risk taking and appreciation), especially from the Europeans in the panel (Loic LeMeur, Martin Varsavsky).
Or let me phrase it differently: an incredible ‘fun, ease and potential glory’ of innovation and scaling out of Sillicon Valley (and Sillicon Valley only – as it is consider a ‘land’ on its own). It was also great to hear from Alex and Tariq, but especially Loic’s Seesmic has gained an incredible amount of traction in a very short period.
- software development has known very few innovation over the last 10 years, but a fundamental shift is about to occur (a panel discussion about the future of code with very smart ideas and opinions from Charles Simonyi)
- Saas, Paas, Aaas (inside industry acronyms) are gaining importance rapidly
- some social media details like: Facebook has now over 650 employees, MySpace does 800M to 1billion USD turnover and is launching a music platform in september, Hi5 is the strongest grower worldwide. European platforms like SkyRock, StudiVZ, Bebo are very well known – but others like Netlog or Hyves are completely unknown (unbelievable actually)
- the success and drive of Nicholas Negroponte’s project ‘one laptop per child’
- and probably the main message: simplicity rules on apps, devices, platform, … More about that in a later post.

It felt rather weird to enjoy Neil Young twice in 2 weeks: once at a rock festival in Belgium, and once at a Fortune conference in California. And damn: this 62 year old has so much energy that it inspires all of us to do so much more.

This kind of conferences gets you thinking. A lot!


It has been quite a week

On Monday we announced a strategic agreement with Yahoo, to be our sales house for multiple years in Germany

On Tuesday our the mobile version of Netlog got some attention (try us on iPhone by the way, a great experience)

On Wednesday we ‘officially’ kicked off our commercial activities in Italy, and had a small event together with WebAds and over a 100 agencies and advertisers in a cool venue in Milan

On Thursday, besides finding a couple of new recruits, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of IAB Belgium with a great party. I am on the Board of the IAB since 5 years or so – and it has been a remarkable evolution.

It’s great to see how the interactive industry is evolving. Last week – at the IAB Europe Interact congress in Berlin – you felt the confidence, professionalism and belief of an entire industry. Startups , grownups, changups: everybody understands that a generation is choosing new and different media, that internet is here to stay – and that social media have become an important part of the experience. And we have only just started!


(posted May 16, 2007)

When I had my father on the phone, we mainly talked about 2 things:

First – he told me that my ‘Joost’ didn’t work. Since my father embraced the web, I suggest new initiatives for him to test. I explained him there were a lot of new content distribution platform on the web, such as Joost, babelgum or brightcove – but overnight it became ‘MyJoost’. All the things that didn’t work perfect have become My – such as MyBelgacomTV (he had a point there as I had been busy 50percent of my time once to put belgacomtv in the market), MyBittorent, My xxx (replace xxx by everything that I recommended but that didn’t work flawlessly) but surprisingly enough it is not MyGoogle or MyPod (he is probably very happy with that). Guess it’s a father-son thing. For all of us sons ;-)
Just FYI: Joost is an interesting tv distribution platform that is preparing a public launch, but it had indeed a couple of hick-ups these last days

Secondly – he told me to watch again the opening stage (a team race against time) of the Giro d’Italia. Enrico Gasparotto, a quite unknown (but very talented IMO) team mate of Danilo Di Luca (one of the favourites to win the Giro), wore the leader jersey. And it was great to see: normally the team leader (Di Luca in this case) comes as first over the white line in teamchronos, so that he is first in the general classification. You saw Di Luca screaming at Enrico Gasparotto to slow down and let him go first, but he pretended not to hear anything, ended first and yep: won the first pink jersey.

He told afterwards that he didn’t realize, but I know better. He read my previous post, and projected himself at 70 looking back at his life. He had the choice between being the faithful helper that cycled all his life in service of Di Luca, or pretend not to know what happened, get over the finish first and be(come) a pink jersey leader. One of the great honours for Italian cyclists. I saw already him showing off in his Toscana house to his grandchildren: ‘look here – an old picture of your grandfather when he was first in the Giro d”italia’. I saw him thinking:’ it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven’. Look at this picture: does he look like he feels very bad? :-) And just for the record: I am not judging, just describing.

Enrico Gasparotto will have had and continue to have a tough discussion with his team or at least with The Manager of Di Luca – but I saw on his face, and I am sure he would do it again. Any time. For the sake of being able to tell his grandchildren some stories at his Toscana hill house.



Bart Becks appointed Senior Vice President of SBS Broadcasting group
Hey all,
although I don’t usually indicate professional Skynet news on my blog, I’ve received so many calls, sms’s and mails that I’ll post some personal news here as well.

After 8 fantastic years at Belgacom Skynet in Brussels, I will move to Amsterdam to work for the SBS Broadcasting group.

Hereby an extract of the complete press release:
“SBS Broadcasting Sarl announced today the appointment of Bart Becks (34) as Senior Vice President New Media of SBS Broadcasting Group, with a start date of January 1, 2007. The announcement was made by Patrick Tillieux, acting Chief Executive Officer of SBS Broadcasting Group.In the newly created position,

Mr. Becks will be responsible for the overall development and coordination of digital media services and revenue streams based on the internet, mobile devices, interactive television services and other emerging digital platforms across all of SBS’s operating units. He will be based in Amsterdam.”

A successor was appointed, being Eric Brant, a great senior leader from Proximus. You can find more about it via the Belgacom press center.

No-one leaves a fantastic company and team easily – so it was not something decided overnight. This said, I’m really excited to go to Amsterdam and build out a new future within the SBS group. I sincerely think and wish for Skynet to keep growing like the past 4 years, and for everyone to find the same passion and pride! The direction team in place will surely lead in that direction.

More later.