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What’s the Capital of Europe’s Startup Scene?

Neelie Kroes, Spaces Vijzelstraat

becoming a home for startups.

Neelie Kroes, special envoy for StartupDelta and former European Commissioner, says the Netherlands is doing a good job in attracting and aiding startups.

CNBC interviewed Ms Kroes during Startup Fest Europe, the week long event for startups, venture capitalists and investors.

CNBC: By the government’s own admission, 18 months ago the Netherlands wasn’t even on the map. Where are we today? 

Neelie Kroes: In some statistics we are number one in the startup monitoring and ecosystem. We are in the top ranking figures.

What initiatives have you undertaken in order to attract startups?

It’s not only about attracting startups, but improving the ecosystem, making the ecosystem more attractive than it was. So, discussing with the government tax proposals, discussing with the Minister for Education coding for kids to be put in the curriculum. But also making it work in the Netherlands where all the hubs, and there are a lot of great places, where initiatives for startups are taken.

They are opening the window and sharing and joining. All in all I think that is really clear to everybody now, and that we are recognised as the capital on the West Coast of Europe for the startup scene.

Adding to that, also the investment climate is getting more and more important. With the business angels and investors from abroad being interested. They are attracted by this new situation of the ecosystem.

The UK and Ireland would argue that they are the established hubs in Europe. So you’ve got fierce competition already. As you mentioned, it’s tough in terms of venture capital out there. The pool of available resources is contracting, so how do you differentiate yourself?

Number one, I love competition, and with my former portfolio as Commissioner of Competition, it’s not a surprise. I think competition is keeping everyone awake. We need more centres of excellence. So yes, it is London, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm… but now we’re climbing to the top and that is what’s giving a big boost to the ecosystem in the Netherlands.

Of course, we have a lot of talented people, housing is still affordable and available, and we’re also quite positive about Startup Visa, the Dutch residency pushed it through in the European Council, that those startups outside the EU can come over and establish themselves here. They can also go over to the other member states. Then you are taking advantage of the single market. That is the biggest economic force on earth.

What are the economic benefits of startups coming to the Netherlands specifically instead of going to Ireland and the UK? Is it also about the standard of living and economic environment?

Absolutely. If we’re just talking about the Netherlands, and Amsterdam itself, it is multilingual, there are lots of international communities that are active with their startups, if you have recognised that and taking into account that there is a lot of talent, but that there is also an open market where a lot of people are interested in joining the Amsterdam startup scene.

Watch the interview with Neelie in full here.

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