A strong ecosystem benefits all startups. But that is easy to say, harder to actually accomplish. Because what is the ecosystem and what does it need to be strong? To find out, StartupAmsterdam has joined forces with Dutch Startup Association (DSA). Their survey asks for input from founders, so now’s the chance to voice your opinion.
‘Keep a finger on the pulse’
The survey focuses on what founders and entrepreneurs think is lacking in their local ecosystem of startups and companies. Questions range from how it is to find the right talent, to support structures for founders that failed. It’s country-wide, but StartupAmsterdam is one of the initiators of the survey. Together with the startup and scaleup representative Dutch Startup Association, they are trying to find out what’s going on in the Dutch startup world.
“As part of the municipality, we always need to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the startup world”, says Bas Beekman, director of StartupAmsterdam. “It’s great to team up with DSA this time, as they also want to know what’s happening in the ecosystem.”
Keeping tabs on what startups need is an ongoing process for StartupAmsterdam. Beekman admits there are some assumptions in the questions of the survey. “We’re trying to validate those.”
Talent and funding
As such, Beekman is aware of some of the biggest challenges startups face: getting talent and funding. “In Amsterdam, you see a lot of talent ends up with the big tech companies like Adyen, Uber or Messagebird. That makes it harder for startups to grow. There is also a lack in growth capital in the range of 1 till 4 million.”
“We want to know our role when those challenges arise. We’re currently enhancing the talent pipeline with a new initiative called TOMAS, which lets scaleups cooperate with educators to create a constant talent funnel. As for financing, that is not something we can do as a government. But we can introduce startups to investors. We can play a role as a connector in the ecosystem.”
Boiler: looking for an ecosystem guide
Having someone serving as a guide through the ecosystem is pretty much what Jeroen Koomen, co-founder of Boiler, is missing. The Amsterdam-based start-up offers a platform for incubators, accelerators or events to organise, make connections and foster innovation.
Koomen filled in the survey so more data could be gathered on when the ecosystem is hardest for startups to navigate. “One idea that came up was something they have in the Brainport area in Eindhoven, called The Gate. It functions as a ‘VVV’ [Tourist information centre] for startups and helps them navigate the system. Perhaps the DSA could develop a serious game for future founders so they can experience the type of interactions they might expect.”
Koomen is somewhat of an expert. “Coincidentally, I am currently finishing an IDEO course about Human-Centered Systems Thinking. I picked the startup ecosystem of The Netherlands as my case study, also because my own startup is trying to play a role within this system.” As such, he has mapped out the way the ecosystem works, and where possible leverage points might be for change. It shows a complex network with many parties involved, and navigating that in a meaningful effective way can be tricky for a startup.
Koomen also knows that from his own background as co-founder: “My experience is that the more senior or experienced the person in the ecosystem, the more willing they were to help. One example was that we were talking terms with an investor, and I could reach out to investors I met at the Capital on Stage event some years ago just for advice. They gave it freely and willingly. This shows there is a lot of goodwill in the system.”
WeMeet: lacking support during COVID
René Bakker also filled in the survey. One important thing he found lacking, is support for startups during COVID. Bakker co-founded WeMeet in 2018. It is an Amsterdam-based platform to find and book meeting locations, specifically at local and responsible venues like monuments, churches, community centres or museums.
Just as they built their product, COVID hit and meetings – the core of their business model – were suddenly off the table. It put them in a tough spot, as the available government support hardly applied to them. The amount of financial support was based on employee headcount, and WeMeet hadn’t reached that stage quite yet.
“Nobody is representing us in The Hague”, Bakker says, referencing the Dutch national government. “For instance, when the hospitality sector had to shut down, they had interest groups making a lot of noise about it. We could indeed have benefitted from a platform like DSA.”
‘Depends on what your needs are’
Now that an in-person meeting is possible again, Bakker can finally focus on gaining traction. “Until we have that, we don’t even need to think about funding yet. And we’re not eligible for subsidies, since we’re not operating in the focus areas of the government, like medtech, AI or mobility.” As such, WeMeet doesn’t really consider itself part of the Amsterdam startup ecosystem. “But for many other startups, I know it can be very useful to dive into that. It depends on what your needs are.”
“It’s always good to fill in a survey, to supply organisations like DSA with input for their market research. And since you could fill in some open answers, I was left feeling that people will actually read it.”
Fill in the survey, win TNW ticket
“There are several topics the government can move the needle in”, says StartupAmsterdam’s Beekman. “So let’s hear from startups about what they need. We need first-hand knowledge from them to start the conversation on what is needed. And for DSA, this will be very valuable information. They really want to help the ecosystem forward, so please feed them with your experiences.”
The survey can be found here and will take approximately 8 minutes. It can be largely anonymous, but you’ll get invited to DSA’s oncoming deep dive session for founders ánd may just win a free ticket for The Next Web if you leave your contact details