The Netherlands is a great startup location, according to Forbes

American business magazine Forbes has published an article highlighting the Netherlands as a first-rate location for startup entrepreneurs.

The article considers several legal, cultural and economic factors, along with recent non-profit initiatives, which make the country especially attractive to foreigners interested in setting up new businesses.

An open, inclusive society

The Dutch reputation for modern, liberal attitudes, tolerance and progressive legislation is attractive to many potential immigrants not only from a lifestyle perspective, notes Forbes, but from a business perspective as well.

The Netherlands’ "openness" has historically been linked to the development of its commercial trade. During the country’s Golden Age, economic activity became oriented towards the outside world, and many Dutch grew accustomed to contact with foreigners and exotic goods.

Today, international companies face notably few bureaucratic obstacles when incorporating in the Netherlands. And, as several recent initiatives show, the Netherlands remains interested in an outwardly-focused approach to growth.

Startup initiatives

Recently, both public and private organisations in the Netherlands have launched projects designed to maximise the growth potential of startups - operating from the perspective that entrepreneurs are, and have historically been, integral to the economic success of the Netherlands.

The project StartupDelta, a non-profit public-private initiative, is based on the idea that the Netherlands should become a top European "ecosystem" for startups. With a focus on the technology industry, it aims to help new businesses and talent connect with large companies, investors and potential collaborators.

This involves developing the domestic labour pool - for example, by pushing for coding to become a core subject in Dutch elementary schools - and linking up industry hubs around the country.

However, the initiative also prioritises global connectivity: attracting foreign talent and expertise, and building working relationships between companies and organisations across continents.

Adapting immigration legislation

Noting that Europe does not yet enjoy a reputation as a startup haven in the sense that areas like California’s Silicon Valley do, the leaders of StartupDelta are liaising with the government to adapt existing laws for the benefit of startups.

A priority has been finding more efficient ways to bring new talent into the country.  The existing regulations surrounding immigration and work permits often left entrepreneurs out in the cold.

The startup residence permit

Last year, StartupDelta efforts culminated in new legislation allowing foreigners with entrepreneurial ambitions to apply for a one-year startup residence permit in the Netherlands.

A previous article in Forbes called the initiative "the smartest tactic yet" to be employed by European countries pursuing entrepreneurial growth.

To qualify for the permit, applicants must show that their product, service or method is innovative, demonstrate a clear business plan, and have the support of a Netherlands-based mentor experienced in working with startups.

StartupDelta leaders expect that the new opportunity, since it is unique in Europe, will attract entrepreneurs looking not only for a healthy start in the Netherlands, but also for a "gateway" into the larger European business world.

A promising climate for startups

According to Forbes, the StartupDelta initiatives show potential given that the Netherlands, and the Amsterdam region in particular, already have a lot to offer foreign entrepreneurs.

The recent article notes Amsterdam’s top ranking in the EU’s Knowledge Economy Index for availability of qualified labour, its technical infrastructure and status as a key centre for business and beta scientific research, and its first-place ranking for intellectual property protection.


Emily McCallum


Emily McCallum

Emily grew up in a small coastal town in western Canada and moved to Utrecht in 2014, after completing her studies in Vancouver and Germany. So far, she has been...

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