Building businesses and nurturing the next generation of founders can be a daunting task. Especially, when you consider the challenges brought about by the global pandemic and shifting market trends.
Fortunately, programmes from Antler have emerged, offering a new way of creating a supportive startup ecosystem that helps founders overcome the many obstacles of building a business.
To redefine the dynamics of tech entrepreneurship, Antler announced a significant change to its Founder-in-Residence Programme, combining its residency programme across Amsterdam, Berlin, and Munich.
This new approach aims to bring synergy to the programme, enhancing collaboration among startup founders and expanding the Antler’s programme’s reach across the Netherlands and Germany.
To explore the benefits of this combined residency programme and dive deep into the insights, Silicon Canals reached out to Ronald Jan Schuurs, Alan Poensgen, and Dr. Christoph Klink, the key partners leading this initiative.
Their insights shed light on the motivations, benefits, and prospects of this combined residency initiative.
Empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs
Ronald Jan Schuurs says the programme is “designed to harness connectivity and encourage collaboration across the exciting founder ecosystems of Berlin, Amsterdam, and Munich.”
The primary focus of the Antler’s programme is to serve a record number of new entrepreneurs in these markets.
Schuurs emphasises that founders in the Benelux and Central Europe regions now have immediate access to a larger network of outstanding founders in the three cities, greatly enhancing their chances of success.
“This way, we can more easily leverage the expertise of the Antler team across industries and business models, ultimately leading to a higher value add,” he adds.
Schuurs addresses the challenge of encouraging early-stage startup founders to collaborate across borders.
As a result, Antler has introduced a series of networking sessions, both physical and virtual, to break the restrictions of individual cities. This change not only fosters more efficient operations but also promises a richer experience for founders.
Schuurs says, “Founders will experience the same programme that has produced some of the most exciting early-stage tech companies, but with a higher chance of success due to the expanded network and tailored support.”
Addressing the inherently secretive nature of startup founders in the early stages, Schuurs notes, “Antler’s founder residency cultivates a culture of transparency.”
The programme, refined over five years, emphasises intense collaboration from day zero, where founders exchange ideas and seek inspiration from their peers. As startups progress, measures are implemented to protect their intellectual property.
Schuurs also underlines the shift towards a unified European startup ecosystem, noting that the combined ecosystem can easily compete with leading global tech hubs.
“Across Europe, we are seeing innovations in sectors like AI, healthtech, and climate tech that are set to define the future. European tech founders are addressing the world’s biggest challenges, and they will find answers that could transform the planet,” he explains.
Dutch startups’ benefit in the residency
With this move, Amsterdam emerges as a significant pillar alongside Berlin and Munich in the European startup ecosystem.
The combined residency programme allows Dutch startups to connect with the best founder talent in Germany, collaborate with Munich’s technical expertise, and immerse themselves in Berlin’s vibrant startup culture.
“We believe that this melting pot of talent will accelerate the growth of founders in all three cities,” he adds.
Powering “founders first” strategy
Alan Poensgen provides insights into the motivation behind the combined residency programme, emphasising the firm’s commitment to putting founders first.
Poensgen says, “The programme expands the pool of potential co-founders and offers access to a more extensive ecosystem, aligning with the reality that many founders are not tied to a specific city for their ventures.”
Poensgen discusses the difference in early-stage funding between Berlin and Amsterdam, and highlights the complementary strengths of Berlin, Amsterdam, and Munich.
“Berlin is one of the most mature VC ecosystems in Europe. However, Amsterdam attracts international tech talent and has produced some of Europe’s most successful tech companies – Adyen, Mollie, MessageBird, to name just a few,” says Poensgen.
As a result, this combined residency programme aims to bring these founder ecosystems closer together, increasing the quality of founders and startups across all three cities, he explains.
EU collaborative ecosystems
Poensgen also touches upon the role of policymakers in advocating for startup ecosystems to collaborate and build for the EU, emphasising Antler’s global outlook.
“We believe that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. We are actively removing barriers to entrepreneurship to ensure that founders can build great tech startups globally,” he says.
“It applies too in Europe. Our founders don’t think of cities and countries – they think of regions and global markets. Talent in Europe should be working together and leveraging the world-class academic institutions, research facilities, tech unicorns, and investors across the continent,” he adds.
Addressing the concern of startup residency post-programme, Poensgen assures that founders have the flexibility to build their startups anywhere globally. Leveraging Antler’s extensive global network, founders can receive support in any ecosystem they choose.
Advantages of a combined residency
Dr. Christoph Klink, another key partner leading the combined residency programme, discusses the advantages of having Berlin, Munich, and Amsterdam as a combined residency.
“The new format offers founders access to three of the most exciting founder ecosystems in Europe, with the potential to form connections that would have taken years to establish through traditional networking methods,” says Klink.
“Our new residency across Central Europe and Benelux gives founders access to three of the most exciting founder ecosystems in Europe. We launched our first residency in the new format a few weeks ago and we’ve already seen founders come together from different cities to start building new companies,” he further reveals.
Efficiency and streamlined operations
Discussing the operational aspect, Dr. Klink pointed out the efficiencies gained by running the programme across multiple locations.
“Combining several administrative functions means that we can spend more time on the value-adding activities with founders and portfolio companies,” he underlines.
This approach has already proven successful in the Nordics, where combining residencies across multiple cities showed increased benefits. Dr. Klink expressed confidence in replicating this success in Benelux and Central Europe.
In response to matters about founders’ reservations, Klink shares that Antler’s combined approach has been met with positive feedback.
Currently, 168 founders are participating in the first residency across Berlin, Amsterdam, and Munich, and thousands of aspiring founders have applied.
“Founders seem to instinctively understand the benefits of working alongside founders in other cities, so we haven’t had to convince anyone about our new combined approach,” he highlights.
Klink anticipates a bright future for Antler in Europe, with the potential for Benelux and Central Europe to become tech powerhouses.
“Berlin has remained remarkably resilient during the downturn, and when you consider the calibre of unicorns, founders, academic institutions, and investors operating in Benelux and Central Europe, there is no reason why this region of Europe couldn’t become a tech powerhouse in its own right,” he says.
“We expect to continue backing a new generation of diverse tech founders in the coming years. We would expect our rate of investments to increase in Berlin, Amsterdam, and Munich and beyond, and we hope to help stimulate the growth of tech startups that will define the future success of these cities,” concludes Dr. Klink.
Antler: What you need to know
Founded in 2017 by Magnus Grimeland and a team of entrepreneurs, investors, and company builders, Antler is a seed investment firm that supports founders from the pre-idea stage with coaching and the opportunity to meet co-founders during a residency programme. It can invest up to Series C.
The VC firm provides founders with a platform to build their co-founding teams, get better access to venture capital funding and scale their businesses faster.
Antler has invested in and helped build over 800 companies across a wide range of industries and technologies, and plans to back over 6,000 by 2030.
The firm has offices globally across most major entrepreneurial hubs, including London, Berlin, Stockholm, New York, Singapore, and Sydney.