When considering a base to launch a Tech start-up in Europe, many people would weigh up the benefits between Silicon Valley, Bangalore, London or Berlin, long considered to be the most attractive start-up hubs in the world. However, the NXT Foundation’s Dave Pearce argues that being based in Amsterdam brings a number of advantages and benefits that are all too often overlooked. The Dutch have a very long history of entrepreneurship and outward trade and this continues today with a flourishing start-up scene. Amsterdam’s success as a start-up centre is shown with the sheer volume of deals that have been recorded in recent years, through the first quarter of 2015, 33 Dutch companies had raised more than $88 million — with the median deal standing at almost $1.15 million — making it the most prolific quarter on record in terms of sheer volume, according to Start-up Juncture.
This is probably due to a number of overlapping factors: the Netherlands boasts an excellent education system that scores amongst the highest in the world for STEM subjects and a population that in general, and particualrly in Amsterdam, speaks better English than any other continental country. Its universities, particularly Delft and Eindhoven produce a critical mass of people with the skills and ambition to create new enterprises. According to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Eindhoven produces 22.6 patents per 100,000 residents. San Diego, the next closest, produces 8.9, making Eindhoven officially the most innovative city in the world, and a mere 100 km from Amsterdam.
There’s not only a huge wealth of technical talent to be drawn on in Amsterdam, the city’s financial centre, now based in the recently constructed Zuid-As area, is one of the most advanced in Europe, there’s a strong and receptive community willing to hear potential investment pitches.
As if the wealth of available talent and investment capital isn’t enough, the government’s commitment to encouraging entrepreneurship has created an excellent framework for technology companies to work from. Further government support is offered with its technology ecosystems that offer tax incentives to start-ups and ensures that start-up talent can focus on innovation.
This commitment from the government is possibly a factor in Netflix and Uber’s decisions to establish their European headquarters in Amsterdam, along with a wide selection of other international players: organisations like Nike, Adidas, Tesla, ABN Amro, Cisco, IKEA, and AKZo Nobel are all based in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam’s attractions don’t just lie in the regulatory framework and skills base, the city itself is one of the best in Europe for quality of living. Accommodation is affordable for young entrepreneurs put off by London rents and expensive transport system. The city has excellent conference centres, and a strong international travel infrastructure (Schipol airport is one of the best in the world and only six minutes from the business district).
On 2nd March I will be giving a talk at on the Nieuwe Achtergracht in Amsterdam to discuss second generation Blockchain technology in a warehouse that dates from the 17th century. It’s a perfect metaphor for a commercial city that has over the centuries been at the cutting edge of commerce in Europe, and has gone in that time from from trading physical commodities to encouraging innovation in high tech services.
Despite a difficult macro-economic environment, Amsterdam has harnessed its intellectual capital and had huge success developing successful industries of the future, at NXT we’re excited to be a part of that and see where the city will be in five years’ time.