The Netherlands launches a programme to position itself as the top choice for startups.
In December 2014, Dutch diplomat and former EU commissioner Neelie Kroes became the Netherlands’ Special Envoy for Startups.
Kroes now heads Startup Delta, a public private organisation that will promote the Netherlands among innovators, investors and industries abroad.
Rick Janse Kok, the communications manager for Startup Delta, explained that they have a three-pronged focus; network, talent and capital. The network will bring together the vast hubs of innovation and research spread out over the country, and also reach out to global influencers. With incentives such as a Startup Visa and startup incubators they hope to draw top talent. As for capital, they aim to create a network of venture capitalists, investors and make it easier to access funding. “Together we can attract the best minds in the world in these fields and put Netherlands on the map as a great country for startups,” said Janse Kok.
There are over ten hubs in the ecosystem, including cities such as Delft, The Hague, Leiden, Rotterdam and Groningen. “We looked at places already known for their startup climate and with expertise in certain areas of research.” For instance,Leiden is the hub for Biotech while Groningen covers Healthy Aging among other topics. Delft has a host of tech fields - Industrial Solutions, CleanTech, MedTech and IT.
In Delft, Startup Delta will be joining hands with startup incubator YesDelft. On May 18, YesDelft will host a networking event and Neelie Kroes will take the stage. “We are actively involved in the Startup Delta plans; the network they open up is impressive and will be helpful for our mission. As a hub, Delft is proving to be the tech entrepreneurial centre of the Netherlands,” says Bjorn Bolderdijk, marketing coordinator, YesDelft.
Delft-based entrepreneurs agree with that assessment. “For technical companies, the Netherlands is an excellent place. Not just in terms of the support offered by incubators, but network-wise too. One of the most important things for a technical company is access to tech, for instance, if I need carbon-fibre, I can get it the next day. ” said Gaurav Genani, CEO of Skel-Exo, a Delft-based tech-startup with a five member team.
However, he does have a few suggestions for the startup vision. “The entrepreneurial visa is issued only for one year and one has to pay each time it needs to be renewed. Most high-tech companies take at least three years to break even, why not make it easier for entrepreneurs by issuing visas in accordance with their business plan?” His other suggestion is to create more funding opportunities, “perhaps along the lines of a scholarship, where multiple startups can apply for funding and go through various stages to qualify for it.”
Startup Delta does have some plans in keeping with the latter. They not only hope to bring in more investments, by June 2015 they plan to create a web portal with an overview of the venture capitalists and subsidies available. Furthermore, they plan to expand the network to include big international names, host a Startup Fest in 2016 and create a Schengen Area for startups. “For now, we will be visiting all the hubs. We want to understand better what they need and how we can improve,” said Janse Kok.