Different approaches to fuel growth in the Dutch Tech Scene
The Netherlands has an incredibly vibrant tech scene: it is ranked No. 4 on the European Innovation Scoreboard, boasts more than 10 innovation hubs, and benefits from a number of other advantages – from a ‘start-up visa’ and tax incentives to and a low language barrier (90% of Dutch residents speak English) – that make it a good destination for start-ups. The Dutch tech scene also has a plethora of players helping to grow start-ups from a broad range of sectors and industries. These organizations include venture builders, incubators, accelerators, and capital providers (e.g. Venture Capital, Angels…) and vary not only in the services and support they provide but also in their internal “business models,” (e.g. some take fees, others equity, etc.).
Examples of such leading innovation boosters are Rockstart, Startup Bootcamp, Startup Delta, Yes!Delft, Holland Fintech, as well as newcomer, Antler. Last week, pirate equity visited Antler, Holland Fintech, and Yes!Delft to pick their brains on their role in the ecosystem, how they add-value for start-ups, and plans are for the future. We uncover what makes them unique in the ecosystem.
Antler, originally founded in Singapore, aims to invest in 150-200 Dutch-based companies in the next four years. Their core business and differentiating approach is in selecting the right people, as opposed to selecting interesting ideas or products. This start-up generator model serves two sides of the same coin: to help entrepreneurs get going (and get funded!) and enable investors to find high-quality targets.
Antler Amsterdam’s first intake consists of 70 entrepreneurs, who they will help to find a co-founder and develop an idea. Of these, 60% are serial entrepreneurs and have, on average, 15 years of experience. After the 2-month ideation and team-building phase, during which Antler provides a monthly stipend of €2,500 to each participant, an investment committee decides which ideas will get an additional 105K funding against 10% equity. This standardized format creates a clear, upfront process and helps to eliminate ‘guestimate’ discussions between start-ups and VC’s about the start-up valuation. Antler also provides more typical services typically found in an accelerator or incubator, e.g. mentoring/coaching, matchmaking, connections to network, etc. Talking to some of the entrepreneurs, we discovered that it is not uncommon to go through several founder breakups (2.5 on average in the first two months) and multiple pivots. This may be confrontational at times but will increase the possibility to connect to other potential co-founders and create investible start-ups.
We also spoke to Don Ginsel, the founder of Holland Fintech, about the transformation of the financial industry and his company’s role in the local fintech ecosystem. Holland Fintech is an independent platform, which welcomes all actors in the financial value chain. With 507 member companies and over 22.000 people in their international network, it is an increasingly important player in Europe’s fintech community. With services ranging from finding startups, talent, and investors to acting as a catalyst to help connect all sorts of contributors and stakeholders in the broad fintech ecosystem. Holland Fintech always tries “to transform a question of one member into something valuable for all members” to overcome the risk of serving single member requests. The goal is to empower everyone to make use of the financial solutions we have available on our platform to enhance economic empowerment & financial inclusion globally. A solid footprint has been built in the Netherlands, and international expansion is ongoing: 30% of their members are international. This expansion will help to make it easier for people to connect and cooperate across borders. The different players in the Fintech ecosystem can be viewed as a box of lego, and Holland Fintech helps its members find the right blocks to build the right solutions.
Yes!Delft, which currently hosts over 80 (mostly hardware and “deep tech”) start-ups, is one of the leading tech incubators in Europe. The organization helps entrepreneurs to accelerate their business, recruit their dream team, and get funded through (typically) Series A. Closely linked to the University of Technology in Delft, Yes!Delft operates in the center of Holland’s Deep Tech scene. We spoke with Ruben Kranendonk, start-up trainer and coach, about the program and the latest developments and challenges at Yes!Delft. Ruben explained that they help start-ups to grow through offering services and access to their network. Yes!Delft takes 0% equity in start-ups and mainly gets their revenues from corporate partners. According to Ruben, there is still not enough collaboration between incubators in the Netherlands: “We can learn from each other and increase cooperation, which will be beneficial for the ecosystem as a whole”, Ruben says. As we get a tour through the old factory in which Yes!Delft incubates start-ups, we can literally touch innovation. We speak with Nowi Energy – an efficient power harvesting technology and VSparticle – a nanotechnology that enables material scientists to reduce the development of new materials from 2 years to 2 hours. It makes us feel both impressed and inspired to see all these (deep) tech solutions in the Yes!Delft incubator.
The Dutch ecosystem has many interesting players—way too many to discover in the few days we spent travelling around. The remarkable thing is that there are multiple ways to help innovation to be successful and this can take place in many different forms, hence on the ecosystem level it seems there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to success.