4 experts predict what 2021 might hold for the startup ecosystem of Amsterdam

amsterdam startups in 2021

In the startup-world, we love to talk about disruption and never has there been more disruption than in the year 2020. Needless to say, not all of it came from startups and not all of it was the good kind. So what about the next year? What does the year hold for the ecosystem, as predicted by the experts?

The Amsterdam startup-scene in 2021

Four people with deep knowledge and insights in the Amsterdam startup-ecosystem tell us about what they expect to happen in the coming year: Jan Andriessen, a partner at Amsterdam-based VC-fund HenQ; Bas Beekman, program director of StartupAmsterdam; Myrthe Hooijman, Director of Policy and Governmental Affairs at Techleap.nl and Kauan Von Novack, the Managing Director at Startupbootcamp.

Growth sectors in the Amsterdam startup-scene

I believe clean energy is going to be huge in the coming months”, says Startupbootcamp’s Von Novack. “The tide is turning politically and funding-wise, there’s mature technologies and experienced players by now, not to mention real impact in people’s lives.” He also predicts a strong recovery in ridesharing and massive growth in startups working on electric mobility solutions. “Last, but not least: I think there is a lot of space for micro-financing, micro-credit and any-time of fintech initiatives to support SMB’s and SME’s to recover from the COVID crisis.”

Fintech is also where Techleap’s Hooijman sees a lot of potential. And that means jobs, she says: “eCommerce, FinTech, and Food have already shown resilient growth during the first months of the Corona crisis. Overall, startups continue to be the number one job growth engine in the Netherlands. Startup jobs are growing faster than any individual sector. Even in 2020, there was a resilient growth despite Covid-19. “

StartupAmsterdam’s Beekman sees similar sectors grow rapidly in the coming year: “It will not be an easy year from an economic point of view, that’s for sure, but Amsterdam has a very diverse economy. If you zoom in on the tech sector, I think that companies in Healthtech, Biotech, Cleantech (climate economy), food, mobility and logistics have a chance to show growth in 2021.”

‘It’s usually a surprise’

For HenQs Andriessen, growth is not limited to a sector. It’s about the people: “One clear factor in Amsterdam is the maturity of several high growth companies such as Adyen and Thuisbezorgd, Backbase and Mollie. So I would look for people who played a role in building these companies and ran into problems or challenges that they think they can solve better when running their own company. Which sector that will be? That’s usually quite a surprise.” 

For instance, Andriessen explains that smart employees in a disruptive B2C food company can run into problems with invoicing, which leads to a brand new B2B fintech. “But these people have been exposed to the right way of building a company and they are aware of what is state of the art in the tech industry. This combination has created many successful companies before.”

The year of a new cloud-generation

With those growing areas of the ecosystem in mind, how will Amsterdam’s ecosystem evolve in 2021? 

Andriessen believes, “that the cloud market is maturing. Most enterprises have made the switch from on-premise to cloud software. However, a lot of ‘first generation’ cloud software is high on functionality but was never really built for your employees who are the actual target user. We love companies that address this opportunity and are part of the second generation of cloud providers that do not just provide functionality on paper, but know how to build a great product that will be used.”

Hooijman is looking at the broader picture when it comes to startup trends in Amsterdam: “Startups and tech trends don’t limit themselves to a city. When we talk about technology that will change the future and impact the economy, we are talking about deep-tech, where technologies like AI, blockchain, and data science meet physical components, such as robotics and sensors, to provide solutions for the major problems we face. Whether that be climate change, healthcare or mobility, and transport. One of the biggest challenges is how to attract and retain the right talent, and organise a quantitative and qualitative talent pool that matches the needs of scaleups. 

Digitisation and the return of tourism

Beekman focuses on the digitisation of businesses, to make sure they are future-proof: “Not so much a new trend, but very important in times like these: in recent months we have been working on setting up a major program to help SMEs with the necessary digitization they have to make, the so-called MKB Digitaliseringsoffensief (SME Digitization Offensive), which will start at the beginning of 2021. We are looking for startups that can help with that important task, whether it concerns remote working, or digital security, payment methods, use of AI and so on.”

At Startupbootcamp, Von Novack is pretty clear about what he considers the most important trend: “Sustainability, for sure. Building back but in a better way is key. I think governments, corporations, investors, SMEs, everybody will be very critical of consumption choices.” He also predicts another trend, that many Amsterdammers will probably not like. Tourism will come back, big time. “All that locked up energy will come in full force during summer or winter breaks. Startups building value props now for the Tourism 2.0, can reap the benefits.”

Diversity and inclusiveness in 2021: serious business

Part of the growing consciousness in the businessworld is an increased focus on diversity and inclusiveness. StartupAmsterdam is launching RISE Female Hub to take action, says Beekman: “The aim of this action program, which will start at the beginning of this year, is to stimulate more attention for female entrepreneurship and women in tech, in the city and ultimately to get more diversity, including more women with an ethnic background, into the start-ups.”

Von Novack says there is no other way, “And not only from the social angle of diversity and inclusion, but from the top-line angle as well. If Amsterdam companies want to grow exponentially in other markets and countries, they must include different points of view and cultures into their decision making, otherwise they run the risk of making cultural and market assumptions which are very dangerous.”

Read also: With female founders receiving hardly any funding, Amsterdam’s push for diversity continues

For Techleap, diversity and inclusion is a key focus area, partly proven by their work with Fundright, says Hooijman: “The technology sector is predominantly male, and that causes limitations in the innovative ability of the ecosystem. Research shows that a more diverse ecosystem is a more productive ecosystem, so we must work to promote balance, diversity, and inclusivity. As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam can take a lead on some of the best practices.”

Andriessen would like to see these topics go beyond mere talk: “Rather than making this a mission statement item and sticking to words only, I hope diversity and inclusiveness will be put into action and be part of hiring and performance management of all VC’s and startups.”

Connection within the city and beyond

Besides making new years’ resolutions, the beginning of a new year is also a good moment to make a wish. What Hooijman would like to see change in Amsterdam is a more connected ecosystem in 2021: “It is essential to flourish. As Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, ànd a best practice example on building a vibrant startup ecosystem, it would be great if Amsterdam reaches out even more to other regions in the Netherlands and they act as one ecosystem together.”

Von Novack hopes for something similar too: “A broader and more united network of founders and support organizations. For a city of its size, Amsterdam is quite fragmented so you encounter founders in the same sub-industry that have never even heard of each other. Some level of coordination would help the players be more connected and competitive in the global market.”

Remember in-person meetings?

Meanwhile, Beekman hopes the city and its people come out of the crisis all right: “The current crisis will cause more and more people to lose their jobs in sectors that will be hit hard. I think that after retraining and upskilling, many of these people can work for the fast-growing tech companies in the city. We are busy setting up a talent ecosystem guide that will connect tech companies, knowledge institutions and start-up academies and make it easier for people without a job to get started in the start-up ecosystem.

Finally, Andriessen articulates what everyone in the pandemic-weary world is currently craving for: “Even though we do just as many deals remotely as in person, I miss the face-to-face meetings with portfolio and prospect investments. I hope we can meet again in person!”

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4 Startup Myths That Hold Innovation Back (and How to Overcome Them)

We live in a world with a stereotypical representation of what a startup founder looks like, so it’s no wonder that a large portion of the population feels underrepresented. According to the EEOC, 83 percent of tech executives are white. A Gender Gap Grader study shows that women represent 9 percent of developers in the startup ecosystem. A 2020 article from the Next Web noted that almost half of Indian startups don’t hire women to save on maternity costs.

So, why should startup founders care about attracting and retaining a diverse workforce? Why should investors fund diverse startups and even encourage startup founders to diversify their workforce?

The benefits of building a diverse startup team are overwhelming; from increased creativity and faster problem solving, to a greater diversity of thought opening up new market opportunities and more revenue streams, to better understanding the customer base and building better products… the list goes on.


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Here are four startup myths that hold innovation back

Myth 1: Startup founders are young 

The myth of the young startup founder who built his app in his parent’s garage is everywhere. Although it’s a fascinating story, a 2019 influential academic study by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University shows just how misguided this popular narrative is.

The economists who conducted the study analyzed administrative government data on the founders of all U.S. businesses that were started during a recent eight-year period (2007 to 2014). The authors calculated the average founder age at the time of founding, along with key startup characteristics (i.e. industry, financing, patenting, location) and outcomes (i.e. hyper-growth, acquisition, or IPO).

Below are the findings related to average founder age:

  • All companies (with at least one employee): 42 years
  • Fastest growing 0.1 percent of companies: 45 years
  • High-tech industry: 43 years
  • Venture-backed: 42 years
  • Filed patents: 45 years
  • Successfully exited (acquisition or IPO): 47 years
  • Located in Silicon Valley: 42 years
  • Located in an entrepreneurial hub: 41 years

According to this academic research, founders in their 20s and 30s are less likely to start high-growth companies. Conversely, founders aged 40 years and above are more likely to start high-growth businesses relative to their contribution of total companies founded.

The average age of startup founders is more or less around 40 years of age—far greater than the popular narrative of the mid-20s college dropout. Finally, the study shows that conditional on starting a company, the probability of achieving “high-success” (fastest growing 0.1 percent of firms or successful exit) is lowest for founders in their early-20s and increases in a linear fashion along with founder age up to the late 50s.


Related: A Practical Guide to Diversity for Startups and Entrepreneurs

Myth 2: Startups founders are men

What are the first names that come to mind when thinking about startup founders? Mark Zuckerberg? Steve Jobs? Bill Gates?

According to a recent Crunchbase study, the number of companies founded by women doubled from 10 percent of global startups in 2009 to 20 percent in 2019. There’s also been tremendous growth when it comes to dollars invested in female-founded companies. At the same time, according to research by All Raise, only 15 percent of all venture capital funding is allocated to female founders.

A lot of this gender imbalance is due to unconscious bias at the funding stage. One 2018 study found that, during investment pitches, female entrepreneurs are more likely to be asked “prevention” questions, or those related to safety and potential risks and losses. In contrast, male entrepreneurs are more likely to be asked “promotion” questions, or those related to their hopes, ambitions and achievements.

However, the business case for female funded startups is clear: a Boston Consulting Group study revealed that for every dollar of investment raised, female-run startups generated 78 cents in revenue, whereas male-run startups generated only 31 cents. Women outperformed their male counterparts despite raising less money ($ 935K versus $ 2.12M).

Additionally, research from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that women-led teams generate a 35 percent higher return on investment than all-male teams. This research clearly shows that women outperformed their male counterparts despite raising less money.

Myth 3: Startup founders don’t have kids

According to the aforementioned popular narrative of the young male startup founder in his garage, startup founders simply don’t have kids. This narrative clearly disregards some great examples of successful mom entrepreneurs and startup founders.

The Baby Einstein Company was founded by stay-at-home mom Julie Aigner-Clark at her home in Georgia. Aigner-Clark and her husband invested $ 18,000 of their savings to produce the initial product, a VHS entitled “Baby Einstein,” later sold as Language Nursery.

They saw the opportunity to develop products that assist in the intellectual development of a child from a very early age. Baby Einstein grew revenues from $ 1 million in 1998 to over $ 10 million just a few years later in 2000. This growth, rapid brand recognition, and the quality of the products caught the eye of The Walt Disney Company, which acquired the business for an undisclosed amount the following year in 2001. For about eight years following the acquisition, the value of the brand continued to multiply and was rumored to be valued at $ 400 million at one point.

While this is just one example, there are countless other mom (and dad!) entrepreneurs who bust this myth. The transferable skills from parenthood to entrepreneurship are many: the ability to multitask, to prioritize, and to be efficient with a limited amount of time are all critical skills for entrepreneurs that should not be underestimated by investors.


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Myth 4: Startup founders are white

The current conversation around systematic racism is especially relevant in the startup ecosystem where non-white founders have long been ignored, under-represented and overlooked. The reality is that non-white startup founders not only exist but are extremely successful and should be highlighted more in the media, in the movies, in books and podcasts to share their success stories.

Take, for example, Emilia Makosa, a London-based entrepreneur who has answered the call of Black women struggling with hyperpigmentation. Her complete cosmeceutical skincare collection caters exclusively to Black skin, and Makosa founded her company to solve a problem she experienced with her own skin.

In summary

Entrepreneurs come in all colors, shapes and forms, and from different backgrounds. These underrepresented entrepreneurs often bring fresh perspective, open up interesting new markets and represent a unique untapped potential for the global economy and for their potential investors.

On the other hand, startup founders who fall into the majority can increase creativity and innovation by diversifying their workforce, and doing so as early as possible. Diversify as soon as you start building your team, because doing so will provide a unique competitive edge, increase innovation, open up new markets and set you up for success.

Investors and venture capital firms should prioritize funding startups founded by diverse funders, while also encouraging majority founders to diversify their teams in order to get better returns on investment. Diverse startups are the key to innovation, creative thinking and growth, which is now more critical than ever before.

The post 4 Startup Myths That Hold Innovation Back (and How to Overcome Them) appeared first on StartupNation.

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Web Summit will hold RISE 2022 in Kuala Lumpur, launch a new event in Tokyo

Web Summit announced today that it will revive RISE, one of Asia’s largest tech conferences, in March 2022, moving it to Kuala Lumpur after five years in Hong Kong. It also announced a new event, called Web Summit Tokyo, that will launch in 2022, too.

The flagship Web Summit event is currently taking place as an online conference.

In November 2019, Web Summit announced it was postponing RISE to 2021 amid the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. Of course, this year has seen a series of other major event cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Web Summit is planning for the 2022 edition of RISE to be in-person, and has signed a new partnership with Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation. In a press statement, Web Summit and RISE co-founder and chief executive officer Paddy Cosgrave said, “This is not a goodbye to Hong Kong. We hope to return to the city in the future with a brand new event.”

Web Summit Tokyo, which will take place in September 2022, as part of its global expansion, which will also include an event in Brazil Rio de Janeiro or Porto Alegre are currently being considered as the location.

Web Summit has already announced plans to hold its flagship event as an in-person conference in November 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal.

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