With two more months left until the applications for its next program close, Techstars London held an informal meetup event for Dutch founders in Amsterdam on January 30. Marko Sršan, the program manager, shared with Silicon Canals some details on how the local startup ecosystem is seen from across the channel and what benefits Dutch startups could get from participating in the summer program of Techstars London.
What startups would fit the program?
Only 10 to 11 startups will be admitted to this year’s TechStars London summer program, which will be held from July 17th to October 10th, 2017. “City programming itself is quite general, so we don’t have a specific niche that we’re definitely going to take,” Sršan said. “We look at everyone. What we are looking for more is potentially cyber security, logistics, retail, Internet of Things, some healthcare stuff—those things that are obviously getting more interesting.”
Could Amsterdam potentially be home to a Techstars program?
“Techstars has 26 organizations around the world,” Sršan said. “There’s a couple of them in Europe. There are a couple more coming in Europe for sure. Whether or not Amsterdam will be one of those, I do not know. I’m not a part of the team that is building and developing the new programs. As a location, Amsterdam is on par with Dublin and getting closer to Berlin and Paris in terms of capital, the numbers of startups, the creativity and sheer community that’s here. I’ve heard from everyone that everyone’s lovely and everyone’s nice to one another [here] and want to help one another, which is something that we as an organization are quite fond of.”
What would be your sales pitch for Dutch startups?
“Two years ago Techstars London was voted the number one accelerator in Europe at The Europas conference, and I would say the quality is still there,” Sršan started his pitch. “The hands-on approach of the program is something that’s really valuable, so [the startups would be] able to determine and iterate their businesses and product, as well as to tap into the network. Throughout the program you meet some 100—150 people that can really help your business, including mentors that are tailored to your needs and to your sector and domain, and also just the network in itself.”
The community helps
“There are currently 50 companies that have gone through our program and a hundred companies in London that have gone through Techstars programs. In total, 900 companies have gone through Techstars programs across the world. When you get in, you get access to all [mentioned benefits], and you get access to [these companies’] experiences, their expertise. One of the values that we have is give first, so a lot of companies, when going through the program, experience that and they then go on to help other similar companies. The factor that people help one another is quite strong. It’s not just a cliche, I do believe strongly that our companies help one another quite a lot and that can be very valuable.”
No cure—no pay
“I would argue that three to four years ago Amsterdam and the whole local startup ecosystem was not as strong as London, and therefore it made sense for [any startup] to go to London then,” Sršan said. “It doesn’t make sense for [any] company at the moment go to London. Maybe yes, maybe no-it’s down to the individual. Can we help any company? I would say, definitely. One of the things that we have is an equity back guarantee. Even though we invest in a company and take 6%, at the end of the program if the company is not satisfied with what they got out of the program, they can say ‘Hey, excuse me, Mr Techstars, we would like our 6%, or 3%, or 1% back. We feel you did not deliver what we thought you would,’ and we would say ‘Yeah okay, that’s fair enough. Just let us know what you thought and what your expectation was, and what we can actually improve on.’ I think out of 900 companies that have gone through the programs, there’s been about 10 to 15 companies that asked for that.”