Amsterdam Circular debuts to set an example for circular financing; aims to support 20 circular startups this year

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Circularity has emerged as a clear path to tackle global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.

Amsterdam has positioned itself as the leader in circular innovation. It is home to a number of circular startups that are in effect helping the Dutch capital become a circular city by 2050.

While circular startups are driving a major economic change, they are not necessarily able to raise funds at the same pace as other traditional businesses.

In order to support these circular startups, Rockstart, AMS Institute, and the City of Amsterdam have joined hands to launch the Amsterdam Circular investor readiness programme.

Amsterdam Circular: what you need to know

AMS_Instititute Cinderela_Living_Lab
CINDERELA is a demonstration plant at AMS Institute that transforms urine into nutrient-rich fertilizer | Image Credit: AMS Institute

Guy Vincent, Program Lead for Amsterdam Circular, says there is a shortage of private capital at the pre-seed and seed stages in Amsterdam but abundance of public capital.

He adds, “Startups typically require a minimum amount of private capital committed (e.g. 25 per cent of their round) before they are eligible to receive public funding (known as co-financing).”

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With the Amsterdam Circular, Vincent proposes a goal of helping circular startups connect with both private and public capital.

“We want to set an example of circular financing in Amsterdam for the rest of Europe to model and develop within their own ecosystems,” he adds.

In order to make this a reality, the Amsterdam Circular is debuting as a two-month, cost-free programme designed to support early stage circular startups.

Startups from the Amsterdam metropolitan area developing circular solutions in food, energy, mobility, digitisation, biobased and circular construction, and climate resilience, will be selected for this programme.

Through this programme, the early stage VC accelerator Rockstart, the Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, and the City of Amsterdam aim to strengthen Amsterdam’s early stage circular economy startups and their funding efforts.

Rune Theill, CEO and Co-Founder, Rockstart, says, “Amsterdam’s ongoing transformation into a regenerative city requires collaboration across institutions. Dutch startups need more support to further develop the circular economic model, and we’re confident that the Amsterdam Circular programme will play a major role in driving progress within the sector.”

A spokesperson for Rockstart adds that there will be two editions of the programme, one in spring and one in autumn.

Each programme will be tailored for ten startups and aims to support 20 circular startups each year.

How will the Amsterdam Circular work?

Rune Theill Rockstart
Rune Theill is the CEO and Co-founder of Rockstart | Image Credit: Rockstart

The Amsterdam Circular investor readiness programme will be held in a hybrid format to support circular startups from the Amsterdam metropolitan area.

There will be both in-person and online events where founders will spend four to eight hours per week participating in workshops, training sessions and other deep dives into building a lasting business.

Amsterdam-based circular startups interested in the programme can apply here until March 8. The programme runs from mid-April until the end of June.

The goal of this programme is to support 20 circular startups per year and Vincent confirms that “each batch will receive two months of aftercare to help founders close their financing round.”

“We have great interest so far and have a good number of applications already. We hope many more continue to come in as startups are playing a crucial role in making the city more circular,” the spokesperson for Rockstart adds.

Since there is no cost or equity to join, the Amsterdam Circular will serve as a clever experiment on bringing circular economy enthusiasts together.

“Capital is needed to help startups grow into scaleups, and to scale their solutions to metropolitan regions worldwide. The Amsterdam Circular program supports founders in raising the funding they need to develop solutions to our most pressing urban challenges,” says Stephan van Dijk, Director of Innovation at AMS Institute.

The founders participating in this programme will get access to AMS Institute and its network of international researchers.

Vincent further adds that participating startups will also get to test their solution in the real world at the Marineterrein Living Lab.

Bas Beekman, Program Director at StartupAmsterdam, comments, “Innovation happens when research, industry, and government collaborate, so we are teaming up with AMS Institute and Rockstart to support our most impactful circular startups. Amsterdam Circular helps founders connect with local and international investors to scale their impact in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and beyond.”

The Amsterdam Circular: Criteria for startups

The programme is currently open for circular startups with headquarters in Amsterdam, Delft, or Wageningen, and a plan to expand internationally.

Startups applying for this programme must be post-revenue and within the seed to Series B funding stages. The startups must also have at least 3 members and actively seek funding to become eligible.

“The focus of Amsterdam Circular is on fundraising,” says Vincent. The website notes that it has worked on circular financing with founders from Aectual, African Clean Energy, Agurotech, Cargoroo, Foodlogica, MX3D, Quicargo, Roboat, and others.

The programme is clearly aimed at circular startups with a product and able to generate sales.

The product can be software or hardware but seems inclined towards supporting hardware technology delivering a measurable impact.

In addition to circularity, startups with technology that enables achieving sustainability can also apply for this programme.

“This program exists to help founders fund their vision for a circular future,” says Vincent.

A circular accelerator

Marineterrein Living Lab Amsterdam Circular
Circular startups selected will get access to the Marineterrein Living Lab | Image Credit: AMS Institute

The Amsterdam Circular is an attempt to help create a circular accelerator that can be argued as the need of the hour.

While there are a number of circular and sustainable startups in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, raising funds has not been smooth sailing for them.

Ard van de Kreeke, the founder of Growy, a vertical farming startup, told Silicon Canals last year that technological progress has not led to an easier environment for raising funds.

Through the Amsterdam Circular, at least 20 circular startups will overcome this initial challenge.

Vincent tells us that beyond funding, the programme will also offer mentorship to the startups from circularity experts.

“Product stewardship is an important part of circularity, and we want to educate founders about opportunities in circular that can support their growth and adapt to emerging business models,” he explains.

The names of 10 successful startups joining the first batch of this programme will be announced on April 5. Their journey could be the stepping stone for more entrepreneurs to dream and build circular startups.

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Karthek Iyer

Karthek Iyer is the Senior Editor and Content Marketing Lead at Silicon Canals, covering news and partner content. He leads our collaboration with clients like AWS, Remote, Flippa, Techleap, Startup Amsterdam, etc. Previously he was a personal technology writer reviewing consumer products at leading Indian newspaper and digital media outlets such as Indian Express, Digit, BGR India, and Pricebaba. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Engineering and lives in Mumbai.

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