10 Reasons the Netherlands is a Great Destination for Startups
Is “Silicon Canals” the next Silicon Valley?
The Netherlands is famous for a great many things: bicycles, equal rights, electronic music, cheese, windmills, pancakes, rain, Heineken, weed… (I could go on). It’s a great place to be, but few know that the country doubles as a popular hub for startups. There are numerous accelerators, incubators, and co-working spaces — all providing a welcoming environment to international businesses and citizens alike.
In my 15 years of traveling the world as an expat, I’ve returned to the Netherlands at least six times. Allow me to share with you what makes this country a competitive destination for global businesses, entrepreneurs, and skilled workers.
Why Is the Netherlands So Attractive for Businesses and Startups?
The Netherlands consistently ranks high on many global indices — from the fastest internet speeds to quality of life, safety, and overall happiness. It’s a pleasant place to live regardless, but there are a few factors that specifically attract international tech startups and companies. These have helped it earn the rank of №1 in the European Union for its startup business climate.
Diverse, Global Population
The Netherlands is an open, progressive society with a diverse workforce, supporting creativity and innovation. One in five in Dutch society has a parent who was born abroad. The city of Amsterdam celebrates and recognizes residents of 180 different nationalities and counting.
90% of Dutch residents speak English, and many are multilingual.
Netherlands Startup Visa
The government created the Netherlands Startup Visa for non-EU/EEA citizens who want to start a business in the Netherlands. It gives budding entrepreneurs one year to launch their business idea with an option to extend for another year. The Ambitious Entrepreneurship Action Plan also supports startups.
Skilled Migrant Visa
This fast-track immigration process for highly-skilled, non-EU immigrants is of benefit to workers and employers alike.
Startup Delta Mission
Founded by former politician Neelie Kroes, the Startup Delta aims to “merge the Dutch startup ecosystem into one single connected hub, remove barriers, and improve access to talent, capital, networks, knowledge, and markets.”
What does this mean in layman’s terms? They want to “pave the way” for startups in the Netherlands. According to my research at some of the over 60 co-working spaces throughout Amsterdam, Startup Delta initiatives are directly responsible for supporting and growing the startup culture throughout the country.
Besides providing a level of clarity and certainty that companies can rely on long-term, the Dutch government also offers competitive tax deductions, reimbursements, and allowances. Perks include an effective corporate tax rate as low as 5% for R&D and innovation.
Infrastructure & Connectivity
Anyone who has engaged in international business knows that the low labor and operating costs in developing countries frequently come with trade-offs — especially when it comes to a reliable infrastructure. Conversely, the Netherlands is known for its excellent transportation and telecommunications network, which makes doing business that much faster and easier. The country boasts some of the highest broadband speeds in Europe and is even the birthplace of Bluetooth and WiFi.
The Netherlands is in the top 5 of the most competitive economies in the world, which speaks for itself.
Stable Political Situation
The Netherlands is a functional, democratic, law-abiding society, which tends to create a secure climate for business operations. The Dutch are known to strive for consensus on important issues and have robust social services for their citizens, fostering added security.
Located between Germany, Belgium, and the North Sea, the Netherlands is ideal for reaching any part of Europe and the globe. The Port of Rotterdam is also the largest in the world.
The Netherlands has an Internet penetration rate of 95.5%. The country ranks in the top of the European Digital Startup scale over all the indicators required from a policy standpoint for improving and developing ecosystems for entrepreneurs. — Coworker.com
How Many Startups are There in Holland?
The Angel.co website currently lists a $3.6M average valuation and $66k average salary, with 3,325 companies, 3,098 investors, and 818 jobs available.
Browse 3,325 Netherlands startups, 3,098 Netherlands angel investors, and 818 startup jobs in Netherlands.
For comparison, France shows a $3.3M average valuation, $60k average salary, 5,826 companies, 3,149 investors, and 1,428 jobs.
What About Funding?
Because the Netherlands is such a small country, access to sufficient funding has historically been a hurdle. Since options are somewhat limited, crowd-funding or going to individual investors are two primary ways of raising capital. Although this can be detrimental to a startup economy, there are now plenty of ways for entrepreneurs and indie makers worldwide to raise seed capital in 2018 and beyond. Overall, Holland is still a great place for small companies to launch before relocating to hubs such as London for the next step in their growth model.
Notably, the Netherlands is also attractive to companies on the other end of the spectrum, such as Google, Uber, and Amazon. Brexit has further enhanced the country’s appeal to companies of all scales looking to relocate from the UK.
What Does it Mean for You?
Paris and London still receive the majority of VC funding in Europe, but the Netherlands’ business-friendly tax policies, English-speaking population, startup initiatives, and high quality of life are compelling for companies, entrepreneurs, and digital nomads looking for a home.
Emerging economies like China and India are already in-the-know, with hundreds of companies recently setting up shop in Holland.
“The Netherlands has a number of strengths, including its central geographic location, excellent infrastructure and strong workforce. The personnel are very competitive within a Western European context.” — Roel Spee, IBM Business Services
Interested in moving yourself or your operations to the Netherlands? Find more info at I Amsterdam — “the European centre point for startups and tech.”
Have you ever lived or worked in the Netherlands? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments.
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Now also a writer and speaker, she teaches individuals how to succeed in the digital nomad lifestyle and helps companies prepare their employees for remote work assignments. Find out more here.