Meet Peter Kentie, managing director of Eindhoven365 (http://eindhoven365.nl/?lang=en), the organization responsible for the city marketing of the Eindhoven region.
Eindhoven365’s target audience includes local and international knowledge workers, tech starters, talented people looking to launch their career, and city explorers. One of the company’s objectives is to draw people from these target audiences to Eindhoven, so chances are, if you’re an expat or partner of an expat, you may have been attracted to the city partly thanks to the efforts of Peter and his colleagues.
You’ve probably also enjoyed activities and events in Eindhoven that are produced or sponsored by Eindhoven365. The company is an active sponsor of Dutch Design Week (http://www.ddw.nl/en/), and produces the famous GLOW Light Festival (http://www.gloweindhoven.nl/website/glow/glow.php). This year, as a finale to the festival on November 14th, they are planning a GLOW Run where participants will don special GLOW Run-shirts and GLOW-gadgets and run through downtown Eindhoven, past the light displays, finishing their route at the Stadhuisplein (city hall square).
Peter was born in Eindhoven and has lived here his whole life. He refers to himself as a “Philips child”, born in Eindhoven of parents who were brought together from different regions in the Netherlands to work for Philips.
He has agreed to meet me in his beautiful office overlooking the Catharinaplein in downtown Eindhoven. He leads the way into a glass-walled conference room and we settle into the leather swivel chairs and easily fall into conversation.
I’m curious to hear about some of his most memorable moments from living in the city. I am struck by the vivid visual imagery he uses to describe his experiences. He tells me about the time in 1978 when PSV won the UEFA Cup (better known today as the Champions League). “I remember it very clearly,” he recalls. “I was sitting by the pond in the park and there were big celebrations – it was the first time that something really big happened here in sports.”
But Peter’s memories are not all pleasant. He talks about the year 1994, when DAF Trucks went bankrupt and at the same time, Philips laid off thousands of workers. “In that period, 30,000 out of 90,000 people lost their jobs.” However, no one coming to Eindhoven now would suspect that the city had so recently suffered such a massive blow to the economy.
“Eindhoven was down and out like a boxer in the ring with a swollen eye, and then 17 years later, Eindhoven was the world’s smartest region.”
This resilience is part of what makes Eindhoven great, Peter believes. Despite retaining the difficult period of the 1990s in their “collective memory”, as Peter calls it, the citizens of Eindhoven have always been industrious, energetic, and positive about the future. They aren’t daunted by challenges.
“That’s what I like about Eindhoven: It’s kind of indestructible.”
He uses another reference to football to illustrate his point. In 1988, PSV went on to win the European Cup, and by doing so, challenged cities much larger than Eindhoven, such as Madrid and Lisbon. “But on the pitch, it’s 11 to 11,” he says. “It’s not about your size; it’s about your capability and your drive.”
Eindhoven’s resilience is reflected in (and perhaps partly due to) Philips’ ability to adapt. Peter finds Philips’ ability to change remarkable. “I think if you would pick up a Fortune 500 magazine of say, the year 2000, a significant number of those companies are now gone. But Philips has always adapted and changed and modified itself so that it’s still relevant 125 years after its start.”
Eindhoven is well-known for its innovative influence in technology and design, and the region is famous for its startup companies. Peter draws attention to several aspects of the “Eindhoven mentality” that contribute to making the area a breeding ground for startups.
For starters (no pun intended), Eindhoven boasts an open mindset and a willingness to experiment and try new things. People know that they won’t be punished for starting something up; instead, they’ll be rewarded. Peter has observed that “the crazier the idea, the more twinkles you see in people’s eyes”. Sometimes, he admits, the ideas can be quite naïve. But he says that people in Eindhoven generally try to stay positive, keeping to the notion that “the glass is half full.”
Eindhoven is also an energetic city. Peter tells me that when he was first doing brand research for the city, he was immediately confronted with this energy, and wanted to dig deeper to find out where it came from. What he discovered was a tendency of the citizens of Eindhoven towards unconventional thinking. He also noticed a collaborative mentality, where people are willing to join in on each other’s ideas and projects. “If you multiply the collaboration with the unconventional [thinking], then you get this energy.”
Peter has also observed that there is a sort of unwritten expectation of the citizens of Eindhoven that they should contribute something to the city. This expectation also holds for internationals in Eindhoven. He says that if the most important attitude in Eindhoven is one of openness, the second is that a person should contribute something. And thanks to Eindhoven’s relatively small size, one person can more easily be a driving force for change.
“In Amsterdam, you kind of blend into the masses. But here, a person can stand out.”
He mentions Li Edelkoort, a famous trend forecaster originally from Wageningen as an example of this idea. Li came to Eindhoven and, as Peter says, “changed our [Eindhoven] academy into a design academy, and made a ‘school of cool’.”
Anyone can come to Eindhoven as a “pioneer” from elsewhere in the country or the world and make a difference. In that sense, Peter believes that the “spouses” (referring to the network of expat partners within Expat Spouses Initiative) are “equal in assets” to their working partners in terms of their potential to make a difference in Eindhoven.
Want to hear more? Come to the Global City Eindhoven event on October 2nd to learn more about these and other topics and to participate in active panel discussions with Peter and other prominent global citizens of Eindhoven. For more information and to register (it’s free), visit http://globalcityeindhoven.com/.
Bottom-up enterprises such as Expat Spouses Initiative (http://expatspousesinitiative.org/) aim to achieve a more global future for Eindhoven by encouraging expats who follow their partners to the Netherlands to integrate more with the local community and to contribute to the growth of the local economy.
About the author: Kathryn van Zwol is an American-born, English-, French-, and Dutch-speaking global citizen of Eindhoven. She recently graduated with a master of science in social psychology (work and organizational psychology), and has professional experience in HR and Marketing. She is a volunteer for Expat Spouses Initiative and strongly identifies with the ideas and values at the core of the organization. She loves writing and has enjoyed being able to tell the story of the Global City Eindhoven event panelists.
1) The Global City Eindhoven Event is organised by Expat Spouses Initiative.