Amsterdam Startup Hub? In this article I list and discuss several articles on Amsterdam and the Netherlands as a Startup hub. I’m a happy inhabitant of Amsterdam and I think it’s super interesting to see how other countries see Amsterdam’s Startup scene and how it can be improved. These articles are mostly written by leading tech / startup blogs from outside of the Netherlands and often discuss the pro’s and con’s of Amsterdam Startup life.
Amsterdam Startup Hub – Benefits and Challenges
It’s interesting to see how most international papers and blogs go back to the history of the Dutch as traders, innovators and international business pioneers. All writers seem to agree on that the Netherlands are on the right track to become a real Startup hub, if the government and successful entrepreneurs and investors are willing and able to take some barriers away.
The conclusions that can be drawn from all of these articles are as follows:
What’s going well in Amsterdam’s Startup scene?
- Great and affordable place to live and work (apart from housing)
- Recent government commitment and visa/tax incentives
- Highly educated workforce and great English skills
- Availability of Startup accelerators
- Recent surge in availability of co-working spaces
- Recent involvement of corporates
- Good technical infrastructure (i.e. fast internet connections available)
- Closeness to (European) markets
- International community of Startups and Startup Founders
- The Dutch have an open mindset and embrace innovation
Points to improve to really become a Startup hub?
- Access to capital – mainly the larger amounts are hard to get within Dutch borders. Also, Dutch investors require proven concepts and only invest after initial sales.
- Lack of scale-ups
- Lack of affordable office space (I will devote an article to our struggle to find affordable office space soon!)
- Small local market with a language no one else speaks
- Lack of cohesion within the startup community
- Difficult place to find housing
- Dutch entrepreneurs need mentoring on how to speak up for themselves in a global environment
It’s interesting to see that some already saw this development years ago – the most dated articles I found were written in 2013. But the interest in this topic really surged in 2015.
StartupJuncture – August 2013 – Sieuwert van Otterloo
StartupJuncture lists 4 advantages and 2 challenges on moving your Startup to Amsterdam. It can be argued that Startups could have to HQ’s – 1 in Amsterdam for the great place to live, talent pool and technical infrastructure, and 1 in the US for access to capital. The other challenge mentioned is lack of affordable working space in Amsterdam.
USNews – February 2014 – Lisa Chau & Joshua Schiefelbein
USnews mentions the great English skills and highly skilled workforce in the Netherlands. Also, the highly-skilled migrant visa is pointed out, including its tax benefits. In addition to that, the accessible government and corporate business and modern technical infrastructure are invaluable. It’s pointed out that it’s not just Amsterdam, but cities like Utrecht, Eindhoven and Delft are great local hotspots too.
Tech.eu – April 2015 – Robin Wauters
This article basically discusses the pro’s and cons of Amsterdam as a startup hub. Some of the main benefits mentioned are the ability of Amsterdam to attract highly-talented people because it’s a great place to live, the availability of co-working spaces and accelerators and the high level of education. Things to improve are access to (larger amounts of) capital, the possibility to quickly scale-up and the cohesion of startups within the Amsterdam startup scene.
Bizjournals.com – May 2015 – Julie Pham
Julie Pham talks to several Startup founders about their experience in the Netherlands. It becomes apparent that 80-90% of the Startups applying to StartupBootcamp are not Dutch. The incentives and push of the government are mentioned, as well as the varied, yet small local market for an Amsterdam Startup. The challenge to find investors for both (very) early stage startups as well as larger capital amounts is emphasized once more.
Forbes – May 2015 – Shellie Karabell
Forbes discusses the start of Startup Delta and describes it as the “not-for-profit public-private partnership created to kick-start projects based in one of the Netherlands’ dozen or so tech hubs including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague, Delft and Maastricht”. The Netherlands is not only playing around with small startups, but is increasingly focusing on scale-ups as TomTom and Adyen. Crucial business services such as Schiphol Airport and the port of Rotterdam, good railway connections, a world-class logistics industry and great internet connectivity make the Netherlands a great place to start a business. Yet, the difficulties of getting a visa for non-EU citizens and relatively high labour costs and taxes are issues to take into account – these are things StartupDelta is working on. As minuses the Dutch weather and bluntness are mentioned 🙂
Business Life – June 2015 – Julie Meyer
Julie Meyer points out that the Dutch trader mentality is now going Ditigal. The Amsterdam Startup scene attracts Startups from the whole continent as Startup Delta is promoting the Netherlands as a great place to start your business. Amsterdam is the HQ for large international companies as Uber, Netflix and Tesla and many promising startups.
Forbes – June 2015 – Karsten Strauss
Karsten Strauss takes a new view on the Netherlands as Startup Hub. Instead of only wanting to attract young companies, the Netherlands also encourage startups to think outside of country borders. Although multi-lingual and highly educated, the Dutch local market is small and is of a language that no one else speaks. Dutch startups should become less humble and learn that it’s ok to fail.
Techcrunch – July 2015 – Conrad Egusa & Steven Cohen
Government commitment, great English skills and having Amsterdam, Delft and Eindhoven as great (and affordable) places to live make the Netherlands a great place to found a startup. Yet, access to capital is one of the main barriers and the government has to be careful that it retains its talent – as easily as people move in, it’s equally easy for move to move abroad to other great places as Londen, Madrid or Berlin. The advise in the direction of the government to develop the Amsterdam Startup scene is to keep up the progressive thinking and support of the startup scene!
Computer Weekly – October 2015 – Karl Flinders
Computer weekly discusses how Amsterdam is positioning itself as a gateway to Europe for startups. Amsterdam wants to make it easier to set up small companies in the capital and wants to achieve this with legal, tax and HR benefits such as visa’s and income tax discounts. There is plenty of talent available, but more “scale-ups” like Booking.com, TomTom and Adyen are desired. The integration of startups and corporates is discussed and it’s pointed out that several new technologies are the domain of startups. Corporates cannot longer afford to sit around and wait for their businesses to be disrupted.
This article lists three factors why Amsterdam is on par with London and Berlin if it comes to the startup seen. Firstly, the Dutch embrace innovation. Secondly, the location of Amsterdam is perfect to move into European markets – this is supported by the ability of the Dutch to speak multiple languages. Thirdly, the support of local and national government and policy makers is mentioned as an important factor fostering the startup ecosystem. The main challenge mentioned is the ability of Dutch startups to raise capital.
IAmsterdam published a nice list of the 10 reasons startups love Amsterdam 🙂