Brussels, capital of Europe. Worst pupil in innovation class.

Posted by

It’s a pitty most of my readers will miss half of the fuzz as according to Google Analytics, only 15% of you is from Belgium. Nevertheless I am so furious about what’s happening in my backyard that I just have to vent this somewhere. Please do read at least the RED part where you can help us out!


If you know one or two things about Belgium it’s probably that Brussels is our capital but also the capital of Europe. It’s that we have the greatest food in the world like Belgian fries (the original!), chocolate and waffles and of course the best beers.

But when you start talking about politics you get a whole different story. You’ll hear that we have two very distinct parts that are divided by language (Dutch >< French), we have no less than 9 different levels of government and a sprawl of political parties. You might also know that Belgium is number 1 in tax on labour throughout Europe (see graph at bottom). And don’t even get me started on the fact that people in public services cannot wear religious symbols like a scarf, turban or kippah. Oh, and did I tell you that when you are in the Dutch part of Belgium they are not allowed to help you in French even if they can? They use symbols for that …


What you probably don’t know is that we are last in class when it comes to innovation. I consider myself very lucky if I can have an actual conversation on my cell phone without having to go outside. We have started rolling out 4G this year to a few major cities but not for iPhone. In Brussels city we have regulatory restrictions that make 4G hardly impossible to implement. 

UBER is not welcome!

And then UBER started offering basic services in Brussels. Like in every big city in the world they face a local taxi lobby that is afraid of their income. As usual they get backed by local governments as these profit from the taxes they raise on taxi licenses. 

To avoid regulatory problems as they arise in every city UBER has created a service called UberPop where you just use the app for ride-sharing and where you only pay for the used gas. Of course that’s just a safe way to get introduced in a new city and see how the local authorities respond.

First thing that happened is that the Brussels Minister of Mobility Brigitte Grouwels CONFISCATED THREE UBER CARS! I know, outrageous, no? When that didn’t really help, some taxi companies went to court and won.


Later today we found a blogpost (Dutch) where the Minister of (anti)Mobility explained why. Feel free to throw it through Google translate as I won’t even bother to give it more energy than necessary. One of the biggest mistakes the minister is making is using protection of the passenger as a main reason. She probably has missed the fact that the NAME, CAR TYPE & LICENSE PLATE are digitally shared with you and that when you step out of the car you get a receipt with the way the driver has followed. I can assure you that UBER drivers always choose the best route.

Screenshot 2014 04 15 21 08 50

Map v8oam9n2

I have used UBER in at least 5 different cities around the world for hundreds of € in total now and each and every time I have asked the drivers how they feel about UBER. I still have to meet the first one that really complains. I can talk for over an hour about the more than positive experiences I have had with these people. I can’t say the same about regular taxi drivers anywhere in the world! I don’t think our minister even knows closely what she is doing.

UBER is welcome – Thank you Neelie! 

There is a light in the tunnel! Euro commissioner Neelie Kroes is one hell of a top politician. In her blogpost of earlier today she wrote here disgust over this crazy court decision. It’s definitely worth while following miss Kroes on twitter as she is a true patriot for innovation on a daily base. If she were a man, I’d say she has balls. If she was younger, I would be in love 😀

Help us out!

You can do one thing for me: tweet @bgrouwels (and put me @hansdeleenheer in cc) how good your experiences are with UBER throughout the world!

Income Tax

source Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development

Be Social and Share: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail


    1. I sense some sarcasm here 🙂

      No-one is above the law. That’s for sure. However, abusing the law as a weapon to exclude innovation is outrageous. The government is not using any efforts to go into debate with UBER. In that Dutch article the minister in fact says they rather build their own app. Srsly?!

  1. 1) No 4G for Iphone, why do you mention this? That’s only the fault of the dirty games Apple plays, where a provider has to pay a fee to have Iphone tested on their 4G. Everyone knows that’s just commercial bullshit because they want money. The EU just make Apple pay a huge fine for this.

    2) Uber drivers do not have insurance like all other taxi services have (and are required to have). Regulations should also be obeyed by Uber and their drivers just like the rest.

    1. 1) I wasn’t focussing on the Apple part but on the fact that we overall hardly have any (4G) coverage. The Apple part was secundary. By the way: making use of 4G could even be an extra cost. So even if you are in an area that has coverage and you have a 4G phone you’ll still get 3G.

  2. I rather liked your “If she were younger, I’d be in love” hahaha.

    One small issue I’d like to point out : passenger safety isn’t limited to trajectory.
    Regulated drivers, supposedly, are trained & capable, in ways that private individuals are not, supposedly. I’m guessing that means licensed taxi drivers won’t, say, start singing along with Taylor Swift and crash the car during the refrain, as private individuals might do (there’s no telling what kind of crazy private individuals are up to).

    1. This, my dear friend, is the rational of people that have never experienced UBER. Not to be offensive but this is the ignorance the current politicians are abusing to spread fear.

      Even the insurance part they use as a reason now is’t really true as UBER has very clear proactive programs amd insurance for shared driving.

    1. I know, there are more places in the world were legislation is not suited for these types of (r)evolution. All I can say is ‘resistance is futile’. Creating a Brussels’ App for example is the dumbest answer to this movement. The only way forward is the way of embracing and making all efforts necessary to welcome these types of services. Uber is today active over 90 cities in the world. Even if 20 of them are still not in full service, that still is a great movement that cannot be ignored or bullied out.


    The URL tells much of the story, but the reason is different. No one would believe Russian politicians may worry about some people’s safety. Uber in Saint-Pete sometimes costs more than average taxi (sometimes the same), but I somehow stopped using others. As a tall person I have to say that riding S-Klasse instead of Economy cars (often used as a taxi) makes perfect sense.

    1. Thx Dima,

      My worst experiences in StPete were with those horrible taxi drivers. That alone would make me use Uber. No more trying to communicate with these guys and not having to pay cash are major reasons for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *