Not even in power for three weeks, Donald Trump is causing chaos in the United States with rapid changes. Changes that are directly affecting the US tech industry. Google saw almost 200 of its employees falling under the immigration ban that was declared for a number of Muslim countries. Other companies like Apple, Microsoft and Uber also feel the impact of this discriminating new policy.
US tech executives are raising their voices to express their concerns about where America is heading and they have every reason to do so. After all, the US tech industry wouldn’t exist without foreign workers. Silicon Valley is one of the most diverse working environments in the United States, with talented people from all over the world contributing to the development of technologies which disrupt industries. Tech companies in the Valley are now fearing that the struggle for qualified workers will become tougher and tougher.
Here or there?
So how is this affecting the Amsterdam tech environment? For Hippo, as we continue to scale globally and expand our Amsterdam roots, it’s an issue we’ll have to deal with – not matter if we want it or not. Not only is the US-market crucial to our business success, we also were acquired by Silicon Valley’s BloomReach this past November. BloomReach managed to grow from a two man startup to a company of 200 in 9 years, recruiting the top minds in machine learning and raising nearly $100 Million in funding. Like so many other tech companies in the Valley, they did this by gathering a very talented international employee base. As a matter of fact, same goes for our Amsterdam office, where we employ over 100 people with over 20 different nationalities. In the process of merging the two companies and combining our technical offerings, we will need to hire up to 50 additional employees within the coming months. The big questions of course is: are we going to hire them here or in Silicon Valley?
Penguin in the desert
When you’re a tech entrepreneur in Amsterdam, you might think that hiring qualified tech people among the Silicon Canals is almost as hard as finding a penguin in the desert, especially compared to Silicon Valley. But in fact Amsterdam tech companies still have a relatively big pond to fish in, not to mention the lower cost of living that can entice top talent to choose canals over valleys. This availability of talent is one the drivers behind BloomReach’s decision to expand in Amsterdam, even before Trump was voted into the White House. Considering the latest developments, this decision has already proved to be the right one. Of course leading talent is hard to find, regardless of location, but that is exactly what is so great about opening our search worldwide – you get to employ the most innovative minds, no matter where they are from. Luckily, being a known innovative company allows us to obtain knowledge visa to help bring global talent into Amsterdam – and we do, often, because we know that diverse talent and culture only makes us stronger.
And that’s exactly where our local and national governments come in. If they facilitate immigration – especially from countries that Trump has given a ban – and make it as easy as possible for skilled workers to get employed in the Netherlands, they could give our local tech ecosystem a serious boost. Amsterdam is already a very attractive place for foreign talent: almost everybody speaks English, there’s a thriving cultural scene and we have some very interesting and innovative companies to work for. Given the right conditions, we could attract even more of these companies to settle in Amsterdam and profit from our local tech & startup ecosystem. With companies like BloomReach investing largely in our city, we can even offer a direct, valuable link to Silicon Valley.
Team up and take action
So, City of Amsterdam, Dutch Government (whomever that may be 2 months from now), local tech companies, startups, business organizations: team up and take action to promote Amsterdam as the European Silicon Valley. We already have great assets to start with and have an incredibly opportunity to grow. Let’s show Donald Trump just how important immigration is for innovation, and that companies putting in the effort to make a more connected world will continue to charge forward – with or without his support.
Written by Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer, co-founder of Hippo, a BloomReach company