The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) was officially launched in June 2014. By adopting a multidisciplinary approach, the institute seeks to develop and advance integrated solutions to metropolitan challenges that include and span aspects of various topics, like energy, water, mobility, health, food and waste. This essay reflects on the history and manner in which AMS was founded. There are several reasons to undertake such a reflection, but none more so than the atypical manner in which the institute was founded, which was both bold and risky. The City of Amsterdam used the idea of a creative competition for the establishment of AMS and set up a design contest. In this essay we reconstruct the development of AMS and show how it was built from scratch in such a short period of time. This essay illuminates the strategic actions behind the scenes, and reflects on the challenges that lie ahead for AMS.