1-on-1 with Harmen van Sprang and Pieter van de Glind: the Sharing Rebels
We believe that innovative professionals are the pioneers of the changing world. That’s why every week Professional Rebel goes in-depth with one of our favorites. This week we spoke to Harmen van Sprang and Pieter van de Glind, co-founders of shareNL.
Harmen van Sprang, 42, and Pieter van de Glind, 28, are two sides to the shareNL story. With different experiences and interests these two came together to develop the sharing economy in the Netherlands and now worldwide. They spoke to Roald Tjon about making dents and staying on course.
Can you tell us something about yourself?
Pieter: “I’m sort of addicted to knowledge. I have endless interest in almost everything and I find it difficult to not be learning about new things. I speak to a lot of researchers, universities and people who are interested in things like the sharing economy.”
Harmen: “If we’re talking about addiction then maybe I’m addicted to engagement. We call shareNL the knowledge- and networking platform for the sharing or collaborative economy, so if Pieter is indeed more the knowledge person, then I’m more the networking person.”
What does shareNL do?
“Our mission is to develop the sharing economy and become a hub with an objective role. The sharing economy is simply people exchanging products and services without the intermediation of bigger organizations.’
“We started from our passion because we liked the concept of the sharing economy. Afterwards the value came back to us.”
ShareNL’s flagship project is Amsterdam Sharing City, which has helped to turn Amsterdam into a model for cities around the world. Recently they also released a book, as a guide for people wanting to get into the sharing economy.
How did the interest in the sharing economy come about?
Pieter: “When I was studying sustainable development I had some of the best professors in the field of sustainability, but listening to them could depress you. They were thinking that the world is doomed. You also had the problem that sustainability isn’t a very sexy topic.’
“But then I found the sharing economy after I watched the Ted talk from Rachel Botsman, the case for collaborative consumption, in 2012 and I was convinced. I thought I had found something where people behave in a more sustainable way without caring for sustainability. I went full force into it and did my thesis on the topic.”
Harmen: “My first personal experience was a home exchange with my family in 2010. We went to an apartment in Paris and when we arrived, the family was still there and very welcoming with champagne in the refrigerator for us.’
“I looked up the sharing economy after and quite quickly came to Rachel Botsman. Everyone who works in the sharing economy knows of her or started because of her.”
Both Pieter and Harmen later were at a meetup called shareNL in 2013 with startups in the sharing economy like Snappcar, Thuisafgehaald, Peerby, Konnektid and Pieter’s own startup Tuintjedelen. Later that they year they met and started working on shareNL.”
Harmen: “We had the right timing and a good fit of the academic character of Peter and my network and engagement working as innovation consultant. Somehow it’s a mix that was perfect from the beginning and is totally part of our success.”
Would you consider yourselves professional rebels?
Pieter: “Yes, because we are developing phenomena that is revolutionary. You most typically feel like a rebel when you’re in say a panel at an EU conference. The people are from large corporations or big institutions and when you speak it’s completely different. You either melt into their kind of numbness or you jump into the rebel role and try to shake things up.”
Harmen: “We’re kicking little small dents in the universe by having this new topic. Just last week we were also asked to be in the advisory board of the city of Seoul in Korea when it comes to the sharing economy. We’re these two guys from Amsterdam just doing things from passion and it’s becoming a big thing.”
The Lesson: Starting from your own passion can lead to big things.
Which people have influenced you most?
Pieter: “Rachel Botsman, and Harmen of course. I’m a very impulsive person and I learned from Harmen that it’s sometimes good not to directly make the decision but to let it rest a little bit, like a good wine or a good whiskey.”
Harmen: “From Pieter I’ve learned that it’s nice to do things the other way, to be a bit more impulsive. I’ve also been influenced by my neighborhood and my community.’
“Two years ago I put an old dollhouse my children didn’t use anymore on the street. We filled it with stuff like old books and put a note saying, ‘This is a sharing home, just take out or put in whatever you like’.’
“You have an older guy living in the neighborhood and he’s always really, really grumpy. A few weeks ago he came up to me and said, ‘You’re the guy who started that little house right? Sometimes I find a book which is really interesting and I wanted to thank you for that’.’
“In the Jordaan there’s a big wall painting that says ‘ik speel in de stad met alles wat er bestaat’ or I play in the city with everything that is there. I use that in my presentations when I talk about sharing cities. That’s the whole concept, you play with everything which is already there.”
Is there something people would be surprised to know about you?
Pieter: “That I’m naturally shy. Most people wouldn’t say that, because I give a lot of presentations, but I always have this little hurdle I have to jump over before I can switch into that mode.”
Harmen: “I sometimes need to be alone to have a little peace of mind. I’m really social and I love being in social contexts. But sometimes I’m also an einzelganger, a person who goes by himself.
Any tips to other rebels out there?
Pieter: “Give yourself the time to celebrate. Just like it’s good if something sad happens that you allow yourself to cry or to mourn, it’s the same for happy things. You can have a book launch and the next day only talk about everything that still needs to be done or you can sit back and enjoy the moment for a while.”
Harmen: “Persevere. People tend to mold themselves to become a spin off of what they want to be. Keep your priorities and your ambitions straight. Stay a rebel and persevere. Don’t give up or give in. There’s too much mediocrity in the world already. Fuck that.”
The Lesson: Celebrate & Stay a rebel.
Professional Rebel & shareNL: Harmen and Chief Rebel Melissa sometimes meet to bounce ideas over coffee. We didn’t want to keep the great work and insights from the founders of shareNL to ourselves, which is why we got the “share men” (as Harmen jokingly called him and Pieter) to share their stories.
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