As an early-stage startup, it might be challenging to get your foot through the door at local governments. At the same time, governments might find it tricky to connect to innovators to test solutions. To streamline this process, the city of Amsterdam developed its Startup in Residence programme. Does your city need a similar initiative to boost innovative ideas? A new toolkit details exactly how to build your city’s own Startup in Residence programme.
Startup in Residence toolkit
The toolkit is released by the City of Amsterdam’s Startup in Residence programme. The initiative started in 2015 to connect early-stage startups with the local government in the Dutch capital. Selected startups enrol in a six-month programme in which they receive guidance and training by mentors and experts and can use the network of partners of the local government. The city meanwhile gets to test-drive new products or services to improve the quality of life in the city. If all goes well, the startup and government might engage in cooperation for the longer term.
The Startup in Residence programme offers multiple challenges the city can’t solve alone. After Amsterdam, several other cities, provinces and national governmental bodies followed suit with their own Startup in Residence. A recent success story is that of Local Heroes. The e-commerce platform for entrepreneurs secured €1 million in funding after being selected in Startup in Residence Amsterdam, earlier this year.
Sharing is caring. To expand the programme and encourage other cities or governments to start their Startup in Residence programme, Amsterdam shares its wisdom in an extensive manual. Here are the main steps to get your very own Startup in Residence up and running.
1. Shape: form a team, create a budget
Three criteria are essential to run a Startup in Residence programme. According to the toolkit, it starts with committing to three criteria. The first is following a European tender process, allowing startups to participate. Second, it aims for innovative solutions to social problems and, third, try to establish a long term collaboration between civil servants and startups.
To do so, one needs a team. The toolkit describes an ideal team consisting of a programme lead, lead mentor, intern and an optional legal expert. All roles can be done part-time, though the role of programme lead might be more taxing and require full-time attention. The base budget should cover expenses for salaries as well as running the programme, including marketing, events, training and compensation for mentors.
2. Get ready: define the challenges, write the tender
Once the general programme is taking shape, it’s time to get ready. Startup in Residence is based on several challenges, put forth by the government. Find people in the organisation who have a problem and are looking for startups to solve it. These become sponsors for the challenge. Work with these clients to shape the challenge into something startups can work on to solve.
Once the challenges are defined, it is time to write a tender. This should include the programme description, formal challenges, selection and evaluation criteria of startups and the process with all dates and communication. Make sure the tender is approved by the team and legal staff before submitting it. To make this step easier, Startup in Residence Amsterdam includes an example tender in the toolkit so you can hit the ground running.
Once the tender is submitted, it’s time to get loud and create awareness about the programme. Start your marketing machine and spread the word. This is also the time to recruit and onboard experienced entrepreneurs and innovators who will take the role of mentor and organise the training. Topics of training can include anything about sales, customer discovery and working with the governments. Don’t forget to set up training for clients as well to prepare them for working with startups.
3. Run: recruit, select and let them shine
Once you’re set-up, time to get to the exciting part. It’s time to recruit startups. Market your challenges so that you get as many top-quality applications as possible. Make sure to inform them about all details of the programme, so the tender is transparent and fair.
Out of all registrations, you can make a pre-selection to see which startups meet your requirements and which ideas seem viable. Then it’s onwards to the actual selection days, where startups get to pitch their ideas. The SiR toolkit provides a handy evaluation form to score ideas and startups. Besides being a thorough selection process, it’s also a great chance to build commitment and enthusiasm among all involved.
Finally, the programme can start. After matching mentors with startups, providing deep-dives and starting the training, the pilots can be launched. Startups create a plan of action with milestones and KPIs in agreement with their client. Once approved, startups can start to test their solution. This is their time to shine.
4. Continue: demo-day and onwards
The end of the programme is not the end of the road. After a successful pilot, it’s time to define the next steps in the collaboration between the government and the startup. The highlight of the process is demo-day, where startups share their accomplishments and the progress they made. A thorough evaluation allows sharing the accomplishments of the programme to be shared with the world as well.
Free toolkit for your own Startup in Residence
And after that? Well, rinse, repeat and get ready for an entirely new programme with new challenges and fresh innovation in the upcoming year. Setting up a Startup in Residence programme in a new city can easily take more than a year. But seeing several startups landing their first contract after a successful pilot will make it all worth it.
To read a detailed description of all the steps needed to start a programme, check out the SiR toolkit which will guide you to the whole process and provide plenty of background information. Download the toolkit here, for free, and start organising.