Things are already kicking off with The Next Web conference only three weeks out. Together with partners, TNW hosts two get-togethers to warm up for the main event. The first one was this week and included a discerning look at the Dutch startup ecosystem; the government should step up its game.
‘One thing to change’
For Yeni Joseph , this becomes apparent after a visa is granted. That’s when founders run into a wall of Dutch bureaucracy, she says. “That is one thing I’d like to change. The practicalities for foreign talent, like obtaining a social security number.” Joseph is SoftLanding Expert at The Next Web, tasked with getting ambitious entrepreneurs a Startup Visa to build their business in The Netherlands.
In partnership with StartupAmsterdam, TNW organised a meetup, including a panel discussion in their own TNW City right in the heart of Amsterdam. The first question for the panellists, posed by TNW events director Zack Butler, immediately brought forth the struggles for foreign talent to get settled in The Netherlands.
Get married or start a company
Panellist Nishant Noah Diwakar is the founder of Enter , a cloud-based graphics rendering system for filmmakers. When he wanted to stay in The Netherlands, he heard of two options: go to a bar and find someone to marry or start a company. Diwakar chose the latter. While he recognises the struggles with obtaining a social security number, the Startup Visa proved very helpful. “When I started, I didn’t have a clear picture yet. So for eight months, it was just me, validating my idea and iterating the model. Now the company is ten people.”
The Startup Visa is essential for a robust ecosystem, acknowledges Joseph. “They look at talent and an idea. The goal is to have people build their company here, have their IP here and hire her. And the majority of those companies then stay here.”
‘Great companies will still be built’
Building a company requires money, which is another bottleneck for many Dutch startups. Especially now that dark clouds seem to pack on the horizon when it comes to the availability of VC money. “The Dutch are known to squeeze a penny”, says Sebastian Peck on the stage. “That will come in handy”. Peck is a partner at Amsterdam-based Kompas VC .
No matter the possible upcoming downturn, Peck is optimistic about how Duch startups will fair. Fundamentally, nothing is changing, he says. “Technology has been transforming at a pace we haven’t seen before. So there is still a lot of investment opportunity. Great companies will still be built.” A crisis also offers opportunity, Peck sees, pointing to innovations in battling climate change that are accelerating.
One Dutch ecosystem
Besides money, Peck does see a fragmented ecosystem in The Netherlands. Even when it comes to politics, it’s dispersed, where it is not always clear if issues are an issue for local municipalities or the national government. If he could change one thing, Peck would stop talking about different ecosystems altogether. “Amsterdam should be part of one ecosystem with Rotterdam, Eindhoven and all those hubs”.
“We’re lucky to have StartupAmsterdam here”, says Joseph about the city’s initiative to boost the startup ecosystem. However, she’d like to see more national efforts to make it easier for startups to flourish. Joseph says that the Dutch government is not nearly as involved compared to countries like France or Germany.
Coming up: Road to TNW Rotterdam
To underline that the Dutch startup ecosystem is one, the pre-conference Road to TNW meetup will also take place in Rotterdam. Founders or anyone else interested can join on May 31st in 42workspace for a panel discussion, drinks and networking opportunities to warm up for the actual conference in June.