Executive Edge Session


European CEOs gather in Amsterdam in search of their digital DNA

Not just startups have flocked to Amsterdam for this year’s edition of Startup Fest Europe. CEOs of Europe’s largest companies came together in a quest for their company’s digital DNA.

This can be exciting or uncomfortable, it even proved to be genuinely scary at times. But it is vital in making their companies future-proof.

Wassili Bertoen & Onno Bierhoff - 4 October 2017

In the monumental setting of Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk, Deloitte organised its Executive Edge Session at which Europe’s leading CEOs and board members discussed this hot topic with startups and investors. All in the connective spirit of Startup Fest Europe. A series of events that is all about facilitating meaningful connections between startups, investors and corporates.

Executive Edge Session | StartupFest Europe | Digital DNA | September 27, 2017

A full house

The inevitable full agendas of the target group proved no obstacle in filling the venue to the last seat. Perhaps not even that surprising considering the speaker line-up that was packed with highly respected international business leaders and visionaries.

Deloitte the Netherlands’ CEO, Peter Bommel, kicked off by pointing out the extraordinary exhibition in the midst of which this event was taking place. With large images of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela throughout the venue, this was always going to be an inspiring evening. As we got underway, Startup Fest Europe’s main event ‘CapitalFest’ was still in full swing on the other side of Dam Square but its chairman prince Constantijn van Oranje was sure to join in later.


Among others, Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, Biotech-expert Andrew Hessel and Singularity University’s Amin Toufani were welcomed on stage by Deloitte Center for the Edge Europe’s managing partner Wassili Bertoen. Their messages fluctuated from comforting (‘Not IQ, but the Adaptability Quotient is most valuable in your employees. And in contrast with IQ, AQ is highly coachable’ - Amin Toufani) to rather discomforting (‘In a few years millions of people will have their DNA sequenced and there will be companies that will want to offer that service for free. But no one knows what company that will be’ – Andrew Hessel).

After his keynote on his company’s impressive digital journey in Health Tech, Royal Philips CEO Frans van Houten shared his thoughts: ‘you cannot innovate in splendid isolation. By stepping outside working with customers and partners together, there is a much bigger chance of achieving success’. A rather accurate summary of what the Executive Edge Session is all about.

Monkeys and business

The fireside-chat in which Rabobank CEO Wiebe Draijer interviewed Amazon’s Werner Vogels, went from humble and honest (‘Our phone didn’t work, but that’s an experiment. It’s only an experiment if you don’t know the outcome’) to downright hilarious (‘to me, top-down structures are unnatural. In the wild there are no ranks. You have the head monkey and the rest of the monkeys. That’s it!’).

During dinner in the magical atmosphere that this venue had to offer, Dan Barry, former NASA astronaut and robotics specialist, captivated the audience with his talk on the interaction between man and machine.

Cecilia Flatum, a health care partner at Deloitte that flew in from Norway for the event, summed up her thoughts afterwards: ‘this has been truly inspiring and eye-opening for both my client and me. We share the vision of developing the patient's health care of the future. The session and discussions gave us valuable insights that will be explored further on our journey’.

It is safe to say that that no one left the 15th-century church in the heart of the Dutch capital without feeling buzzed about the future.

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