For Silicon Valley you no longer have to get on a plane, you just land around the corner. The Spoorzone Tilburg offers plenty of room for visionaries, the experts of the future. With them, we cast a glance into the crystal ball and conjure up inspiring quotes, wild ideas, cutting edge innovations and downright utopian perspectives.
We are creating spectacular landscapes in which everything that is digitally connected and loose in a company is linked together. This is not an entrepreneur dreaming out loud, this is already the harsh reality. The days of just building flat websites, as serial entrepreneur Dustin Karelse did when he started in 2003, are long gone. From NOBEARS, he, his companions and a team of more than 70 specialists now manage complete digital customer journeys for companies such as Van Mossel Automotive Group, Jumpsquare Group and De Mandemakers Group. As he sees it, the world has changed at a rapid pace over the past twenty years, and these changes will only accelerate in the digital arena. In 2021 NOBEARS landed in the Spoorzone (first Houtloods, now TalentSquare). High time to ask Dustin about his vision of the future.
Dustin is an entrepreneur in heart and soul. In 2003, he founded Tirato, an internet agency that later merged with Qforma. For the acquisition of companies, he came up with Dutch Concept Group (now: NOBEARS group). Besides being an enthusiastic entrepreneur, Dustin is also a proud father. And everyone who has children knows: a whole new world opens up for you. If only because of the films you watch with your children. For Dustin, one of those films was Pixar's Wall-E from 2008, about the love story of two cute robots far in the future. "The people in that film are just lying on floating beds, behind screens consuming," he says. "Literally everything is done for them." It's an image that is already partly in play, Dustin thinks, referring to his robot mower that already takes care of the entire lawn in his garden. But also: the thermostat that knows whether you are at home or not, numerous screens around us that we look at and communicate with. "When it rains, my mower already knows not to mow. When I get into my car in the morning, my mobile phone predicts that I am driving to the office and I can see whether the road is busy. There's a lot we don't need to think about, subconsciously. And that's nice, but there is a downside. The time savings, choice and convenience are nice, of course. But sometimes it takes away a lot of the charm, he notices. Dustin: "Moreover, our behaviour is influenced and steered by smart technology around us, already now. A development that will only continue in the coming years. Making independent choices is something we have to guard against", he concludes. "No matter how cool I think everything we can do with digitalisation is."
By talking to each other a lot, you get to know each other better and better. A statement that may apply to friends, but equally applies to the smart technology around us. Dustin cites an example from his clientele: Switch, The Gym. With - indeed - also a new concept gym in Tilburg. For them, NOBEARS built an app with a tracking method that makes sports performances directly visible. Based on data (heart rate, calorie burn), athletes are either pushed or slowed down by their coach. Because of the data that is built up over time, the advice becomes better and more specific. The algorithms get a clearer picture of what the athletes need. "And that means you can be coached better and better.
That devices know more and more about us - get to know us better and better - is irreversible. It is already happening. And as we increasingly use devices to take tasks completely out of our hands, more and more information about ourselves will become available to parties who control these devices. Dustin: "Dealing properly with the ethical aspects of this is therefore extremely important. At this moment we already work according to the applicable laws and regulations, and we are ISO certified. And that's the way it should be," he says. "But developments are moving faster and faster, and the government is not always able to keep up with that with regulations. I think that, as entrepreneurs, we also have a responsibility in this: to maintain the right balance between what is possible and what is desirable."
Need information or a product? At the moment we often look for what we want ourselves. But in the near future this will increasingly turn around, Dustin thinks. In the future, products and services will come to us automatically. "I always draw the comparison of a butler: you tell him or her once which tea you like and at what time you like it. The next time, you think, 'I feel like having tea' and at that specific moment it's already in front of you." Exactly this is also happening in digitalisation, he continues. We tell social media what we like or find interesting, we tell Spotify what music we like, Netflix tells us what we like in films and series, our mobile phone lets us know where we are when. "My prediction is that we will connect all these data streams globally more and more and that we will get offerings and content on our plates much more personalised."
And what happens to all that data? More and more devices and services will take tasks off our hands within fifteen years. Driving your own car may no longer be necessary. The groceries? Thanks to smart (refrigerated) cabinets, the standard necessities will arrive exactly on time at the doorstep without your interference. Or imagine that your smart thermostat takes the hassle out of finding and negotiating with energy suppliers: how easy is that? All these predictions for the future go hand in hand with great time savings and efficiency. But what is left for people? A question Dustin asks himself out loud. "I wonder what people will do with all the time savings. For instance, if you don't have to drive your car anymore, what do you do on the road? It creates space for creativity to think up new innovation opportunities. In the end, that is what makes humans beat machines. But we have to make use of that time.
After Heusden, Utrecht and Eindhoven, Dustin's company NOBEARS is also establishing itself in Tilburg. A logical choice, as far as he is concerned. Good talent is scarce, and in Tilburg there are enough talented people around, partly thanks to the various educational institutes. The good accessibility and rapid development towards a true city of innovation that Tilburg has undergone in recent years are also major plus points as far as Dustin is concerned. But that is not all, he says. "From the NOBEARS group we are always looking for companies that can help us further improve our services or that would like to join our group as a company. There are always missing pieces."
One of the aims of coming to Tilburg is to get to know each other. From genuine interest, and to gauge what other digital agencies are doing. "If there is a click, you notice it immediately. That gives a kind of sparkle. The feeling of: hey, how cool, why don't we do this together!" It is precisely by working together that you come up with ideas that you would never have thought of on your own. And Tilburg offers the perfect ecosystem for that. Because of the presence of like-minded companies, and because of the willingness to do it together. "If it does not come to cooperation immediately, that is also fine. In the worst case, you give each other a few golden tips and some inspiration. But I don't think that has ever made anyone worse."
Spoorzone Tilburg is the new and pioneering talent and innovation district of the Netherlands. Adjacent to the railway station and well connected to the city, region and country, it offers the ideal base for your company or satellite establishment. In this raw industrial area full of culture, catering and history in the city centre, people are working hard on the future. It is a knowledge-driven biodome built for and by creative entrepreneurs with interactive technologies and behaviour as its basis. The presence of Tilburg University, ROC and Fontys Hogescholen ensures knowledge, talent and vision. The area itself is compact and sustainably developed, offering a life-long stay for entrepreneurs from start-up to scale-up and beyond.