Who knows apps better than the guy who helped develop the Apple Store app itself?

Don’t let the playful lemur decor fool you — Mike is very serious about apps.

After learning to program in Seattle and training other app developers at Apple in Silicon Valley, the Hawaii native (and lemur enthusiast) decided to leave California to embark on an international journey to strengthen his leadership skills. After a year-long speaking tour and comparative study of European cities, Amsterdam stood out as the obvious winner for cost of living and quality of life — and he’s called it home ever since.

“The government is really keen on increasing the technology footprint of the city, and so I really wanted to participate in that,” he said.

Mike founded Appsterdam, a consultancy company and corresponding non-profit foundation that helps app makers in Amsterdam learn, grow and create better apps. Between weekly meetups, a peer lab where people can solve each others’ coding issues and weekly office hours with Mike himself, the foundation strives to be a source of knowledge and inspiration for aspiring coders.

How did he discover Meet Berlage? His friend Felix used to invite him to work in his Utrecht office space for free, and Mike loved the concept of community and inclusivity Felix was cultivating.

“One of the things that was really lacking here, was you couldn’t really walk into Coffee Company with your laptop and sit there all day and work; they kind of frowned on that kind of thing,” he said.

Later, Felix founded Meet Berlage — and Mike now calls the space on the third floor his own, complete with a private rooftop where he cultivates flowers and vegetables in the summer. “I not only came here, but I actually referred a bunch of my friends here,” he said.

There were multiple aspects of Meet Berlage that drew him in: the history and architecture of the building, as well as who Berlage himself was — and the socialist, inclusive society he wanted to create.

“To me, there’s a dual story: the building itself is just fantastic, in the center of the palace quarter in Amsterdam, which is itself fantastic — it’s the best possible location in the best possible building in the best possible city,” he said.

“The other part of it is that spirit of welcoming people to come in as part of a community — so that when people land here and take the train to Central Station and step out in the overwhelming wall of bikes and tourists… it’s really great for them to have a place they can come to just sit down, break out their laptop and get some work done, but also to start to connect with a greater community of people, make some friends, possibly find work, start a company: the whole Meet Berlage dream.”

His favorite Dutch word? “Maatschap.” It technically means corporation, but it’s more generally used when people come together because their own interests align to a greater good — what he sees, along with gezelligheid, as the core of Dutch society. He sees Amsterdam’s egalitarian culture as a stark contrast to the elitism of Silicon Valley, which gives Amsterdam a competitive advantage: “It’s a good counter-example to Silicon Valley, which makes it a good candidate for a competing world center of technology,” he said.

To learn more about Appsterdam and to get involved, visit their meetup page — and check out this video to learn why Amsterdam is the perfect city for app developers.

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Ellen Barnes
Ellen is an Amsterdam-based writer originally from Atlanta, Georgia with a special interest in relaying the impact of meaningful organizations through powerful stories. Ever since earning dual degrees in digital journalism and psychology from the University of Georgia, she's worked with non-profits, startups, digital marketing agencies and governmental organizations to help them tell a better story.

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