Ernst Hoestra manages the Commerce acceleration program of the Dutch branch of Startupbootcamp, a network of industry-focused innovation programs. Hoestra is a talented entrepreneur himself, having helped build up the logistics company Cycleon from zero to 60 million euros in enterprise value and having expanded their customer base to the likes ofAmazon, Nike, HP, Canon, and Sony PlayStation. While he’s worked in approximately 30+countries, the bulk of his career has been spent working in and around Amsterdam. So who better to ask for a more intimate look at the Dutch capital’s startup ecosystem?
“What’s special about Amsterdam’s startup scene? It’s very dense — Amsterdam has lots ofmultinational companies like Unilever, Shell, AkzoNobel, Ahold, Heineken, FrieslandCampina, Philips, and major financial institutions. They’re all in a radius of 50 kilometres of our office over here which makes it easier to connect those companiesbut also their entire support and supplier base, connecting them with our startups.
It’s also international in how Dutch people speak good English which makes it easy to communicate and people like the newest gadgets not just on a personal level, but they also like the startup companies. It’s one of the most innovative countries in the world, has a great infrastructure, plus it’s easy to adapt. In my team, I work with international founders from Pakistan, from the UAE and Turkey and they buy a bike in the first week, it gets stolen in the second week. Then they buy a bigger lock in the third week, and by the fourth week, they’re moving very easily round the city as if they’d lived here all of their lives. Holland in general is a very easy country in which to do business.
We also have a system in the Netherlands which supports startups by giving the founders a one year visa — it’s all done in a founder-friendly way. Effectively, we as the accelerator apply for a visa on behalf of the founder because we want to have them on the program, we’re the designated provider of the visa and the only thing the Dutch government does is to approve what we send them. This reduces the level of red tape and it’s much easier to get a visa wherever you’re from in the world.
Startupbootcamp itself is also a pretty special part of the startup ecosystem here. We identify where the potential is for digitalisation and for disrupting the existing market. We are the largest accelerator outside of the US, and we’re currently operating in 18 countries and run 20+ programs a year, so we accelerate 150+ companies annually. We also have a corporate arm, Innoleaps, where we accelerate corporate ventures from the likes of Unilever, Heineken, Rabobank, FrieslandCampina, JDE Coffee, and a number of other companies. We also accelerate talent in top digital skills. Everything centres around the digitalisation theme so Young Digital Innovators is one of our programmes, where we retrain graduates in the latest technology in growth hacking, UX and experimental design, etc and making sure that we create a pool of professionals in a domain that didn’t exist five years ago.
There’s plenty of startups that Amsterdam should be proud of. Adyen, the payment factory which is successful in the e-commerce space. We have [the internationally successful startup] Takeaway.com which started out here. Besides which, we have a number of startups which have grown into multinational companies quickly, like Booking.com, for example.”
See Ernst speak on ‘Leveraging the startup ecosystem around you to develop your business goals’ alongside Picnic CEO Daniel Gebler and Labfresh founder Kasper Brandi Petersen at Savant eCommerce Amsterdam. Click here for tickets.
As told to Savant Events.