Recently I wrote a blog about Amsterdam as a Startup Hub. In that blog I reviewed 10 blogs on this topic from varying sources. This resulted in a list of the great features of the Amsterdam Startup Hub but also some challenges. The article was picked up by StartupAmsterdam and they replied in a beautiful series of tweets on how they are working with others on tackling the current challenges.
I was triggered by all that information and decided to write a follow-up blog in which I will explore the points of improvement mentioned in my previous blog. In addition, I had a look at what the Amsterdam Startup community, incubators, accelerators and government are doing about these points Also, if I have any ideas 😉 I will provide them here.
Amsterdam Startup Hub points to improve
Access to capital
Access to capital seems to be high on the agenda for everyone involved in the Amsterdam Startupsscene. The Amsterdam Capital week was held last year for the first time and had as goal to connect Startups with investors. The Launchpad network organizes regular events to connect corporates with Startups.
Also Startup Boot is doing a great job in organizing workshops about startup funding and it would be great if these would be organized more often and in-depth about certain topics. I also attended a workshop from Rockstart a while ago, where a panel of VC’s were giving a great insight in the world of startup investments. Of course there is also an abundance of material online where you can learn how to make your pitch decks, how to structure your finances and how to start your search for capital. Yet, I felt rather lost when we started this journey with accessART (and still do sometimes as we are in the middle of our quest for capital right now).
What I miss most from my early-phase startup founder point of view is
- Personal experiences from other founders that actually raised money for the first time – It’s all about networking and that’s definitely not an issue, but some speed dates / presentations from successful startup founders (or maybe the ones that failed?) with actual time to ask questions would be great. What about a startup founder lunch meeting once every x weeks/months where young startups get matched with the more experienced ones?
- Workshops on finding investment and “How to talk money” – Series A, term sheets and due diligence may be regular language for some, but definitely not for all 🙂
Lack of scale-ups
Also this is a point that is under many’s attention. StartupAmsterdam provided me with a great list of scale ups that are founded in Amsterdam such as @Adyen , @WeTransfer , @TravelBirdNL, @elastic , @usabilla , @shapeways , @ticketscript_nl . Also, there are many worldwide success stories that have sales / marketing / engineering departments in Amsterdam. Think about Uber, Netflix, Salesforce and Shutterstock.
I think that Amsterdam can be proud of this list, and can definitely use it more to prove its status as Startup Hub. It seems from the articles I read that not all international press is aware of this list. Also, to grow, attract and retain scale-ups it’s important that the startup climate is fostered, improved and maintained. Keep pushing improvements in office space, tax, regulatory and visa opportunities will definitely help with this.
Lack of affordable office space
One of my favorite topics to talk about (and one that I don’t agree on with most people 🙂 ). With 80.000m2 of co-working space in Amsterdam, startup office space doesn’t seem to be an issue. All the parties mentioned in my post on the struggle to find startup office space are doing an amazing job, but I have still to find the co-working space that has a full-time desk available for under €200. So the question is (and should be asked more often), what is affordable office space. For a bootstrapped startup that has at least 3 people working, these kind of prices are not even an option.
Last week I attended the Startup Europe Week closure drinks organized and hosted by @StartDockAdam. I really wanted to house my startup in their building, but at that moment it was just not feasible. I had a short talk with the guys and upon the moment of going home, an idea came up in my head. What about a program (that we already nick-named “adopt a startup”) where scale-ups or corporates make a big table (or 3-4 working places) available for an early stage startup for 3 months. After this, the startup should be “mature” enough to find a follow-up solution. This way the scale-up “gives back” to the startup community, a corporate can see agile/lean working from close by and an early phase startup that cannot afford working space, can benefit from an internet connection, a place to sit (that’s not your home) and a jumpstart into Amsterdam’s startup community. More than happy to brainstorm about this another time with interested parties 😉 .
Small local market with a language no one else speaks
The international press seems to think this is a big issue for Dutch Startups, but I’m not sure if I agree. If you talk to startups that were born and grew up in Amsterdam, they say that the Dutch are a critical audience, but open to new things and innovation. The language is not an issue as everyone speaks English (at least a little..). Also internationalizing from an Amsterdam home-base is not difficult. Cities as London, Berlin, Paris, Milan, Madrid are a quick bus, train or plane ride away. StartupAmsterdam is also working with other Startup Hubs to organize exchange bootcamps . I think this is a great way to discover new markets and exchange knowledge!
Lack of cohesion within the startup community
I think that next to the office space issue, this is quite a big issue for Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Startup Facebook and LinkedIn groups are a good place to start your way into the scene, but there are SO MANY co-working spaces, accelerators, incubators, workshops, events, websites, newsletters, after-work drinks (etc..) that entering the Amsterdam Startup world is easy, but once you’re on one of the “islands” it’s easy to just stay there. But there is so much out there! I think a great idea is the StartupAmsterdam Event Calendar which gives some overview in all the events. I think it would be great if forces would be bundled, bigger and better events would be organized.
There are so many great people working with startups in Amsterdam (and the rest of the Netherlands), that it’s a shame there is not more integration. For example in the student world it’s quite common to mingle with other associations, organize common drinks, organize sports tournaments etc. I’m not saying the Amsterdam Startup world should become a fraternity or student association, but we can definitely get some inspiration from them.
Difficult place to find housing
The person that can solve the Amsterdam housing problem is a hero. @HotelJansen seems like a good initiative but was already fully booked for the next months when one of my interns from abroad was looking for housing 🙂
A point was made in some or the articles I reviewed that Dutch entrepreneurs need mentoring in how to grow globally and how to speak up for themselves. I think the startups that are in @rockstart & @sbcAmsterdam have quite good access to mentors. Also, StartupAmsterdam mentions @startupinres and @FoundersNW. I also know @TheNextWomen provides mentoring opportunities for female entrepreneurs. Also the @DutchBasecamp @StartupDelta mentor network seems cool!
In short, I guess there are some good opportunities to get mentoring and I will definitely digg a bit deeper into these to see what’s possible. But still I think it’s up to the startups themselves to surround themselves with the right people and advisors. And then especially the ones that know your industry and are able to give you that push forward. I think in general, this mentoring is attached to investment. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a lower level opportunity for people to mentor young entrepreneurs? Maybe sort of a match-making service?
Lots of work is being done to make the Amsterdam Startup Hub even better!
I think the people working on making the Amsterdam Startup Hub grow and become mature can be proud of themselves. Lots of work has already been done and is ongoing. It’s crucial to get the right people that can take actual decisions in the right place at the right moment. All in all, excited to be part of this and looking forward to see what’s gonna happen in upcoming months 🙂