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Amsterdam one of Europe’s hottest start-up capitals16 October 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
In Wired magazine’s third survey of Europe’s "tech cities" Amsterdam was identified as one of the continent’s best places to start a company.
The magazine called the Dutch capital a "true port city," meaning it was international, tolerant and adaptable. Along with the Netherland’s liberal tax laws, these qualities make it an attractive place to set up a business or expand into Europe.
Amsterdam is also ranked as the fourth most creative global city and the Netherlands is the most entrepreneurial country in the EU, with 7,2 per cent of Dutch adults owning or planning their own start-up. The Amsterdam region also has the world’s largest, most stable digital exchange platform, which has been a major draw for ICT companies from around the world as well as for start-ups.
Don Ritzen of Rockstart Accelerator, an Amsterdam-based company that offers support and mentoring for start-ups, explained that it’s the people more than the structure that supports start-ups here.
"It starts with our history: being a small country with a wacky language forces many Dutch entrepreneurs to be fluent in English and look beyond our borders to create a business of meaningful size," he said. "But it's the people who built the buzz with a lot of fantastic bottom-up initiatives. Start-ups here still face many regulatory and visa barriers. In short, the scene today has been created by the entrepreneurs."
Two clear trends in Dutch start-ups are 3D printing and fintech (financial technology).
Success stories in 3D printing include Shapeways, a world-leading 3D Printing marketplace and community that came out of the lifestyle incubator of Royal Philips Electronics, and desk-top 3D printers manufacturer Ultimaker, which started up and remains headquartered in the Netherlands.
The magazine highlighted some newer start-ups as ones to keep an eye on, including 3D Hubs, a platform connecting 3D-printer owners (hubs) with people who need something printed, and Peecho, which connects websites to a network of 2D print facilities (their 3D is in the pipeline).
Photo by Flickr user Vasilis
A successful fintech start-up is Adyen, which offers "payment solutions for international merchants," meaning it handles transactions for companies who want to take payments in international currencies. In 2012, Adyen processed more than 7,4 billion euros in payment transactions worldwide.
While Amsterdam is a great place to start a tech company, the magazine says it is not so great at keeping them, losing the more transient start-ups. Pressure, it says, is mounting for government initiatives to retain start-ups.
There have been initiatives by the government and various authorities directed at entrepreneurs, although not specifically in the tech industry. Last year, start-up companies in The Hague were given a tax boost, while changes in the law made starting a private limited (BV) company in the Netherlands easier.
That change, removing the 18.000 euro capital requirement, has seen an increase in 55 per cent in the number of BVs founded in the last year, with a matching drop in the number of cooperatives and VOFs.
Whether changes like these are having an impact on a company’s decision to stay in the Netherlands is unlikely, they certainly aren’t harming anyone who is thinking of starting up their own.