Every day we keep reading about the astounding progress happening in the world’s high-tech leader – San Francisco’s Silicon Valley. Yet, there is something we are missing. A rather small country geographically is gradually transforming into the new power in tech innovations. With its everyday top-notch scientific and technological advancements and highly qualified workforce, the Netherlands is steadily becoming the new Silicon Valley.
With a # 1 startup business climate in the European Union, with its highly educated pool of tech-savvy experts, and its open corporate business culture, the homeland of Philips has shaped a rare startup ecosystem on the continent.
Although comparing a whole country with an individual city might seem groundless, I will tell you something – it is not! Simply because it is not about comparing. The new Silicon Valley is bigger in terms of geographical size and population and bigger in terms disruptive innovation and entrepreneurship.
Moreover, unlike the other two major European leaders in science and technology – UK and Germany, the Dutch technological prowess is not concentrated mainly in its capital city. Numerous booming tech hubs can be found all over the country. The Dutch startup ecosystem spreads out from the south to its very north and its scientific and tech achievements can undoubtedly surpass those of the current high-tech backbone – San Francisco’s Silicon Valley.
Amsterdam, or the startup capital of Europe and city #3 of start-ups and scale-ups for 2016, is a magnet for tech-savvy talent and growth. The city’s programmes StartupAmsterdam and StartupDelta help start-ups strengthen, connect and grow. Amsterdam also houses Amsterdam Science Park – a juncture of high-quality technical facilities, research institutes, Science and Business Database, and Start-Up Village – a co-working space for innovative high-tech and science based start-ups.
What is more, it was in Amsterdam’s startup ecosystem where the unicorn FinTech company Adyen was born. Adyen is now evaluated at $2.3 billion and it provides payment solutions for Netflix, Uber, Spotify, and Airbnb. Besides, many Silicon Valley companies themselves have headquarters in the city, including Google, Uber, and Cisco.
Eindhoven, the birthplace of Philips electronics, is also home to “the smartest square kilometre in Europe” – High Tech Campus. The business park was originally the place where Philips Research (the NatLab) was located. Now, it is a melting pot of tech-savvy talent where more than 140 high-tech companies and institutes are located, such as ASML, IBM, Philips, NXP, and Intel, to name but a few.
Besides, the city has a vast network of academic and R&D facilities including the Eindhoven University of Technology. Thanks to its exceptional high-tech and design climate, the city has also attracted the Silicon Valley-based Singularity University to open an innovation hub there. The mission of the innovation hub is to bring together industry leaders from start-ups, research institutions, businesses, and government to create and apply technology “to address humanity’s grand challenges”.
Groningen, famously known as “the city of talent”, has the largest number of successful start-ups after Amsterdam, according to Deloitte Fast50. The ranking lists the 50 fastest growing Dutch technology companies. For 2016, twelve companies were based in Amsterdam, followed by seven in Groningen. Moreover, last year, the Internet giant Google opened its second data centre in Eemschaven in North Groningen.
Groningen also houses “the most ambitious business accelerator for startups and existing companies in the Northern Netherlands” – VentureLab North. At the same time, the portal Founded in Groningen connects, supports and promotes start-ups, companies and initiatives with the impressive background of 435 companies Founded in Groningen.
Delft, the manufacturing base for the famous Delft pottery, is home to the country’s largest tech university – Delft University of Technology. It is also one of the most student cities in the Netherlands, with students comprising 10%-15% of its roughly 100,000 inhabitants. This vibrant city is all about high-tech innovation. Engineering and hardware are among the strongest focuses in the city.
The city’s high-tech ecosystem is also where the startup incubator YES!Delft was born. With already 12 years of experience the YES!Delft ecosystem has supported more than 200 technology companies – “from inkless printing to cutting edge laser technology.”
Utrecht is not only home to cutting-edge innovations but also to one of the healthiest and most sustainable living environments in the world. The city houses Utrecht Science park which is the country’s heart of regenerative medicine, 3D-bioprinting, stem cells and organoids, cancer research and cure, and smart sustainable cities. The Utrecht Science park has over 80 organizations and businesses with a workforce of 22,000 employees, which is roughly 21% of the entire population of the city.
In addition, Utrecht’s ecosystem conceived one of the 10 best incubators in Europe – UtrechtInc. Last year, the incubator officially opened its UtrechtInc Garage, which is a creative hotspot for sustainable start-ups.
Last, but definitely not least, The Hague, the International City of Peace and Justice, is the backbone of security businesses in the Netherlands. The city houses “the leading security cluster in Europe” – The Hague Security Delta Campus. It supports cyber security start-ups and together with businesses, governments, and knowledge institutions work on innovations in the field of cyber security, national and urban security, protection of critical infrastructure, and forensics. The HSD Campus is also one of the 10 places in the Netherlands that have been appointed by StartupDelta as a major hotspot for start-ups.
Among many of the city’s successful security start-ups is the US-Dutch start-up HackerOne. It is an ethical hackers platform where businesses can hire hackers and pay them for finding bugs and security issues. It received $25 million in funding in 2015 and has so far worked with Uber, Slack, and Twitter.
The Netherlands – the new Silicon Valley
It will be unfair not to mention some of the other booming tech hubs in the Netherlands:
- Rotterdam and its Startup Foundation and Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC);
- Leiden and its Bio Science Park;
- Wageningen and its StartLife, fostering entrepreneurship in Food and Agri, and the student incubator StartHub Wageningen;
- Twente and its Novel-T Accelerator Programme.
To sum it up, in my opinion, the Netherlands has cultivated an exceptional ecosystem for disruptive innovation and development in high-tech and science, talented information technology workers, and aspiring entrepreneurship which makes the country a worthy bearer of the name “the new Silicon Valley”.
Should we start calling the Netherlands the new Silicon Valley? Please, do share your opinion in the comments.
Featured image: Eindhoven by romagazine.nl