Three keys to the Netherlands’ rise as a European startup hub

The Netherlands’ rise as a European startup hub

The Netherlands may be a small country, with a population of approximately 17 million, but in the last few years its managed to win accolades in the startup ecosystem – especially in Amsterdam.

Daniel Horn

Manager, Assets & Investments

KPMG in the Netherlands


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The Netherlands is on a mission to develop a startup ecosystem that rivals those in other parts of Europe, including London and Berlin.

The country may be small, with a population of approximately 17 million, but it has managed in a few short years to win accolades for its business development efforts – especially in Amsterdam. Over the last year alone, the city has been recognized as the second best startup city and third best scale up city by the European Digital City Index (EDCi); seventh in the world by the Innovation Cities Index; and fifth out of forty cities in the CITIE ranking – which focuses particularly on entrepreneurship, innovation and technology.

On the global innovation stage, the Netherlands is definitely gaining attention. But what is prompting the Netherlands’ rise as a startup hub? It’s not that startup success in the Netherlands is new. Companies like and WeTransfer were founded in the country, while several US-based innovation leaders have set up development teams here. In December 2014, fintech company Adyen even became the country’s first unicorn – reaching $1 billion in VC investment.

Looking at the VC investment climate in the country, the real changes appear to be on the support side. Over the past few years, the Netherlands has made a real push to promote its value as a location for startups and to coordinate its innovations efforts across government, the private sector, academia and startup incubators and accelerators like Rockstart and Startupbootcamp.

Three key activities that are helping the Netherlands rapidly grow its innovation and startup ecosystem include:

  1. Marketing. The country has made a large-scale marketing push to bring startups to the Netherlands – particularly Amsterdam. Organizations like StartupAmsterdam, a collaboration between entrepreneurs and government, are changing the way the world thinks about the city and its innovation culture. From workforce talent and capabilities to the cost of living and centrality to other places in Europe, Amsterdam offers startups and entrepreneurs a strong platform for growth.
  2. Connecting the dots. A small but mighty multidisciplinary government team has been tasked with implementing an initiative called StartupDelta, led by Neelie Kroes – a former EU Commissioner and considered one of the most respected champions of technology and innovation in Europe. The goal of StartupDelta is to quickly connect all the tech hubs in the country, change the system by breaking down barriers and tackling challenges associated with making the country the largest startup ecosystem in Europe and create positive impacts across the startup ecosystem within 18 months.
  3. Driving collaboration. With numerous startups and a strong seed-funding environment, the Netherlands is now looking to enhance collaboration between startups and corporates in order to foster innovation across the business spectrum.

While the Netherlands still has room to grow in terms of fostering an innovation ecosystem, its efforts over the past year have helped transform the world’s perception of the country and the city of Amsterdam. As collaborative innovation initiatives continue to expand, the country will definitely be a tech hub to watch during 2016.


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About the author

Daniël founded the Innovative Startup Group in the Netherlands and is responsible for setting up collaborations with technology startups for KPMG. In his work he helps corporate clients around the world identify and work with the right startups. He and his team also help organizations setup an innovation function and drive technological change.

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