The Netherlands is one of the hottest start-up hubs in Europe and hosts the continent’s largest ecosystem for early-stage companies.

A thriving innovation centre, the country is the birthplace of many goods and services we use every day. Firms like Booking.com and WeTransfer build on the proud legacy of Dutch innovation taking on the world, from Philips to Unilever. Australia too has a proud history of leading innovation, from the black box flight recorder to Wi-Fi – actually an interesting but littleknown example of Dutch-Australia collaboration. Never short of innovative ideas, achieving scale is one of the biggest challenges facing Australian entrepreneurs and start-ups.

This is an area where the Netherlands and its world-class startup ecosystem can help. The country provides an ideal place for Australian entrepreneurs and start-ups to begin their international journey.

Why the Netherlands StartupDelta, an independent public-private partnership, lists
three “unfair advantages” of the Netherlands as a start-up hub:

▶▶ As a gateway to Europe and the rest of the world, the country is home to leading multinationals and presents an easy way to validate ideas across the rest of Europe

▶▶ With more than ten start-up and tech clusters within 90 minutes
of each other (see image insert), innovation can easily find a home for growth and commercialisation

▶▶ With an abundance of lead partners, launch customers and early adaptors in a tech-savvy country, the Netherlands offers a complete start-up ecosystem.

A healthy funding environment for start-ups and early-stage companies adds to these advantages.

In 2015, over 150 Dutch start-ups raised €430 million (AUD 610 million) in private equity and venture capital investment. The median investment was €650,000 (AUD 922,740) and the largest investment round was €75 million (AUD 106 million), for online auction house Catawiki.

Those in the digital space also enjoy the infrastructure necessary to nurture their growth.

“Our physical infrastructure is conducive to the IT sector,” Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA)’s Commissioner Mr Jeroen Nijland says. “We have excellent fibre connections, allowing some of the highest internet speeds in the world, and add to that the techsavvy attitude of the Dutch people.”

Recognising this, 60% of all Forbes 2000 companies active in the IT industry have already established operations in the country. Global giants like Microsoft, Cisco and Infosys are tapping the Netherlands’ competitive tax climate and a techsavvy English-speaking workforce, among the country’s other benefits.

“We also have the largest security cluster and one of the most advanced data centre markets in Europe, not to mention world-class R&D facilities and logistics infrastructure, making the Netherlands a smart choice for any IT business operation,” Mr Nijland adds.

Together with Switzerland, the Netherlands in fact offers the fastest download speed in Europe and the highest number of broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“Many tech companies use our country as a test-bed for new innovations,” he notes. “These factors are what make the country interesting for them.”

What next In addition to those listed above, all the advantages of the Netherlands as a gateway to Europe discussed in this issue apply to start-ups and  entrepreneurs as well: the country’s strategic location, the quality of its physical and digital infrastructure, and its well-educated multilingual workforce.

There is plenty of scope for innovative Australian start-ups and entrepreneurs to leverage such benefits and make the Netherlands the first stop on their international journey.

“Both our countries rank very highly on innovation scoreboards, which I think is a known and appreciated in both Australia and the Netherlands, but I think there is potential to do more,” Mr Nijland notes.

“You have companies in Australia that are very active in IT-related activities, whether e-commerce, fintech, data security – you name it and there is potential where we can work together,” he says.

Australian companies like Huddle are already taking advantage of the benefits the Netherlands can offer.

Read more about their experience below, and contact Adeline Tan, Country Manager at the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency at tan@nfia-singapore.com for more information on how the Netherlands can be a launchpad for your international journey.

Innovation pic1

Author: Niels Strazdins, Head of Research at the Export Council of Australia on pages 16-17 of Autumn 2017 International Business Today. 

Download Autumn 2017 International Business Today e-magazine

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