The Amsterdam Pub Summit is taking place on Friday week (April 25th) at 18.30. Come and celebrate King’s Day eve with a few drinks with the tech community. You can find out more and register for free here. Our good friend Paul O’Connell has put together this piece for us to celebrate the event.
The Netherlands is a talent stronghold with unique markets, scrappy startups and a supportive government all while sitting in the Goldilocks zone of Europe. This should be a crowning jewel of Europe’s Startup Ecosystem. But it’s not quite yet.
Strong infrastructure with high grade technological services and a wealth of hungry minds needing their companies to succeed enabled the return of the risky Dutch entrepreneur willing to seize opportunity by the neck. Yet some cornerstones needed to be in place to start on the groundwork for a unique community of startups.
1. Reinvigorate the talent index
The Dutch are a smart people. They are resourceful, pragmatic and possess a single mindedness that sits at the heart of great leaders and business people. Throughout history the Dutch have held a predisposition for entrepreneurship currently rating no.3 on The GEDI index, which ranks ‘10th out of 71 participating countries index’. Universities and schools are now teaching the skills needed to recognise opportunities in solving problems. Building a recognition of who startups are and what they aim to do is as important as attracting large VC firms.
Externally talent has been streaming into the Netherlands with the advent of Rockstart Accelerator, StartupBootcamp, YesDelft through their worldwide, class recruitment drives. A strong saturation of English speakers and an international appeal serves as a powerful brochure to settling into this society. One of the greatest advantages of living in the Netherlands is the possibility and willingness to share a coffee with anyone at any level of business offering opportunity for all that take advantage of it.
2. Reinvent Markets
Journalism how it’s consumed, interpreted, valued and paid for is being dragged from its print origins and retrofitted for a new generation. The publically validated startup De Correspondent is a‘ journalism platform that focuses on background, analysis, investigative reporting, and the kinds of stories that tend to not conform to what is normally understood to be ‘news.’’ (Ref). Experimenting with reimaging the writer’s narrative form and how content can be delivered according to specific topic knowledge. In a similar field Blendle launched the ‘itunes of journalism’ with aims to break traditional payment models for content.
Large media entities are taking ‘mobile first’ approaches developing Mobile Accelerators and incubators to rethink journalism, in hand with innovation. Curated knowledge feeds from experts are booming here with startups like Gibbon, 24 Sessions and ZEEF approaching it from different directions.
3. Rethink Traditional Investment
A new crop of positively charged investment funds is on the rise with founders now realizing that “Managing expectations and building relationships with investors by showing progress over an extended period of time” is the key to gaining trust and longer term investment. Firms like Boralis, Vitulum Ventures, Sanoma and key investors are changing the predilection for low-risk revenue positive investments. It’s not yet standard but there is hope on the horizon.
The alternative of Crowdfunding has had a positive effect recently with car-sharing startup Snappcar raising €558,625 using a convertible loan structure. Buzzoek raised €285,000 on Leapfunder with two campaigns and SellanApp reached €250 in two rounds on Symbid. Unusual funding structures based on percentage buys with no attached rights for investors are becoming more common as Founders test the waters with new formats.
4. Ambassadors That Excel
The people and companies raised here are the greatest ambassadors for the ambition of startups in the Netherlands and we very proud of their shared successes. YourKarma blazes the way in the New York with its prepaid sharable Wi-Fi. Renato and Paul of Human have cracked motivating people to move a little more with their #daily30 app. Fosbury is killing the mobile loyalty program being part of Techstars Austin. Peerby has been lending knowledge as a Rockstart graduate and Techstars London with it’s sharing app. We also have the Dutch Dynamo that is Neelie Kroes (vice president of the European Commission) championing European Startups with manifestos, support and forward thinking policy changes sometimes in conjunction with TNW impresario Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten.
5. Political Backing
The VVD (a Dutch political party) has created 43 proposals for Dutch Parliament to ‘simplify policies, make investments in venture capital more attractive and try to attract foreign startups on basis of a startup visa’. These mark a co-operation and acknowledgement of the startup ecosystem being a symbiotic not isolated relationship that paves the way for opportunity in job creation and foreign investment in our own talent index. The wait now lies in seeing these proposals become reality and fostering a relationship between startups and government.
6. Celebrate Community Builders
At the heart of every startup ecosystem are the people who take time out to drive the bigger picture. I wanted to mention a few key individuals: Gregor Noltes runs Rockstart Answers a ‘pay it forward’ initiative that tours the Netherlands. Leon Pals is the gravity-well of Rotterdam. He heads up Evolv Weekend, Rotterdam Startups Meetup and the working space The Startup Port. James Bryan Graves introduced Hackers & Founders a monthly meetup to Amsterdam (also Hackers and Designers) and now launches H&F Space. Mike van Hoenselaar and Hanna Vera van Drunen for years have helped to connect and promote startups throughout the Netherlands.
What does the future hold? If the imagination and willingness to tackle new problems with this solid support structure can be maintained this engine of startup replenishment will keep ticking. This will make the Netherlands a breeding ground for building, developing and recycling companies.