Can you describe what you do? Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to.
Driven by an unquenchable thirst for technology and business, I meandered from one project to another. During my studies as an industrial engineer in computer science, I developed a fondness for software design. After completing my master’s degree in 2010, I worked for Financial Architects as an Application Developer and later on as a Sales Engineer. In 2014, I started working as a .NET consultant for IT-Flex in Antwerp. And over the past few years, I’ve been fully focused on my own start-up adventure hoplr, which is part of the KBC Start-It community in Antwerp. Hoplr is a start-up company, creating a private social network for local communities and neighbourhoods. Users get verified by address to share local information, trade used goods, inform on events and promote their local business. Today we support more than 50,000 users in more than 400 different neighbourhoods.
How do you perceive Antwerp? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?
I have to admit that I used to be biased about Antwerp. You know, you hear all kinds of things. Braggers, racism, traffic jams, chaos, … But actually Antwerp is nothing like that at all. When I started working there I noticed how friendly the people were, how much there is to do. A city bursting with life. A metropole. Furthermore, Antwerp is the city par excellence that is investing in innovation. And they really do it well: startup village, Duval Union, KBC Start-It, Telenet Kickstart and many more. Unfortunately one bias was true. The traffic jams are really terrifying at certain moments.
What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives? What gives the city its edge?
The openness to explore. Not all cities are as progressive. It creates a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs. It’s no coincidence that our startup is also based in Antwerp – the city has the edge. Luckily other Flemish cities are starting to notice these vibrant scenes, as well.
The city par excellence that is investing in innovation.
How would you say Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
Well, to name one thing: Antwerp really threw me out of my comfort zone. Not only as an entrepreneur, but in all aspects. Especially on a social level. I have become more open, more mature, more communicative and more passionate about life in general.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?
I would start at the central station. One of the finest of its kind. Then walk down the imposing Meir to the KBC Tower. Behind it are fantastic, beautiful and cozy squares, stretched all the way up to the water, where you can exhale and enjoy life. To end all that, I would return to the start and finish off with some nighttime dancing at Ampere.hoplr.com Photography Joke De Wilde