Behind London and Berlin, the Dutch startup scene is already considered to be one of the most prominent in Europe. (If it feels unfair to weigh an entire country against individual cities, consider that the Netherlands has 17 million people crammed into an area half the size of South Carolina.)
Startup Juncture reported 75 major deals in 2014, for a total of roughly US$560m in investment. Ten companies raised over $9 million. In the past few years, especially, each successive quarter has seemingly brought a new standard for sheer volume of activity. The road to this point has been long and deliberate, and Dutch entrepreneurs deserve credit for what they’ve managed to achieve thus far. And yet, to herald Dutch innovation as it currently stands is to unveil a project that’s still only just underway.
The Dutch, on the whole, speak better English than probably any non-native population in continental Europe, one of the hallmarks of a consistently excellent education system that also scores among the highest worldwide in math and science metrics. Strong economic foundations in industry and commerce offer a dependable framework for continued growth. And under the proven leadership of Neelie Kroes, the so-called “Internet-Tsar” of Europe, the government’s recent commitments to tech entrepreneurship may mark a bellwether of a new era in startup proliferation.
The early strengths of the Netherlands’ budding startup scene — software, space, smart energy, financial tech, digital health, sharing technology and 3D printing, among others — coincide with the overall direction of global innovation. And the Dutch prowess for high-tech hardware, in particular, has drawn investment interest not just from the United States and Europe, but also from China.